A Growing Latina Entrepreneur Base.
By Christine Bolaños.
Georgia, fondly called the ‘Peach State,’ is home to much more than the delicious, plump fruit. It boasts a growing number of Latina entrepreneurs who have left the traditional corporate environment in favor of self-owned businesses, helping grow their economy and employ others, while doing so. From restaurants to retail to law practices and medical clinics to public relations and trucking companies, there is a Latina business owner in virtually every industry, most prominently in the capitol city of Atlanta.
“I see this being a continued trend,” says Terri L. Denison, District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration Georgia District Office. “But what’s also interesting is the variety in terms of the types of businesses. You have your traditional businesses, personal care-related business, childcare, etc., but what I also see is the emergence of non-traditional businesses such as construction, engineering, trucking, scientific and technical.”
From 2008 to 2016, thus far, the Georgia-based SBA office has offered 100 loans worth $27.1 million to Latina-owned businesses. This means a Latina owns at least a 50 percent share of the firm.
“They’re pursuing it for more control over their own destiny, wealth for themselves, and to benefit their communities,” she believes. “Business ownership is a way to do what would not be as readily available working for someone else.”
She advises entrepreneurs to have a business plan in place, research how their market would be expected to respond to their type of business and to be bold in marketing and promoting their business.
“We are to stay, to grow and to show the way to future generations,” shares Rocio D. Woody, a licensed psychotherapist, and president and CEO of The Road to Recovery, Inc.
The LATINA Style Advocate of the Year began her practice to fill a void.
“There were hardly any mental health professional services who were truly bicultural and bilingual,” Woody explains. “The legal and judicial community took notice of what I did and I received their support.”
Woody remains one of the few Latinas in her field she knows.
“…The ones I know have most, nearly every one of them, come after me,” Woody says, “except for the few experts from Florida, Texas and California who are years ahead of us in Georgia in terms of nurturing professionals in our field.”
Andrea Rivera, CEO and founder H3Media, believes the rise in Latina entrepreneurs produces a domino effect, wherein other women follow suit.
“They’re a voice for Latina business women in the economy and the public eye,” she says.
Rivera pursued entrepreneurship after she realized that the outlook in corporate America had changed and there was no longer company loyalty.
“The only way to ensure stability for myself, economic growth for my family and development and leadership, was to venture out on my own and call my own shots,” she explains.
Her media company is heading to four years, but after 20 years in the business, and a self-defined pioneer in social media science, it is a prime example of a success story.
“I think the biggest hurdle to making the transition from an employee to business owner is really overcoming the fear of not being successful,” she shares. “You just have to get out there and do it.”
Carmen L. Coya, president of Effective Media, believes Latinas are taking Atlanta by storm.
To her knowledge, her colleague has the first Latina-owned-and-operated print firm in Atlanta, while she runs the first Latina-owned-and-operated public relations firm.
“More and more Latinas are taking their financial wealth and financial savvy to the next level,” Coya says. “I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity because in a lot of ways it’s unchartered territory.”
She believes sharp business acumen coupled with Latinas’ focus on customer service is a recipe for success. Coya says Latinas are destined for success because resilience is in their DNA.
“The fact that most of us come from immigrant families, we don’t look at it as an obstacle, but motivation to do even better,” she shares.
After well over 10 years in the business, Coya has given other women the chance to be entrepreneurs by working for her and then moving on to pursue their own paths.
“I think it’s important that we understand we can impact the world,” she says, “no matter how small we think we are.”
Latina-owned businesses are not only powerful but creative, says Mercedes Guzman, speaker, coach and author. Originally from El Salvador, Guzman created the Inner Child Love Process, or ICLP, a powerful technique that teaches people to love themselves unconditionally.
She’s been in the business since 2004 but has had a formal company, Inner Child Wellness, since 2014.
Guzman believes the most critical step toward success is for the individual, particularly Latinas, to believe whole-heartedly that they deserve the best.
“Don’t compromise,” she advises. “You are enough to be a successful woman. You are enough to be a winner. Many times, we don’t think we’re enough to have a successful company but you have to discover your talents, connect with yourself, love yourself, and the rest will take place.”
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