Latina Entrepreneurs are Business and Community Leaders in Chicago.
By Christine Bolaños
As one of the fastest growing segments of the population, Latinas are opening businesses at equally quick rates in an array of industries and fields. Their impact is palpable in Chicago, Illinois, where Latinas own firms in the family and personal care services as well as in industries traditionally dominated by men such as energy, construction and insurance.
“We expect to continue to see growth in Latina business ownership, and from that, continued economic benefits for Illinois,” says Andrea Roebker, the Regional Communications Director for the Small Business Administration.
She points to Edith De La Cruz as a prime example of the staying power of Latina entrepreneurs in Chicago. De La Cruz started Antigua Construction in 2005 after a career as a teacher. The company currently employs 14 people but is growing thanks to government contracts and private sector work.
“She recently graduated from SBA’s Emerging Leaders program, a seven-month executive education series for businesses poised for growth that prepares entrepreneurs to get to the next level and helps them craft a realistic, precise three-year growth plan,” Roebker explains.
De La Cruz aims to grow her business to $10 million in sales by 2020.
“Edith is just one small business owner and in her story, you can see so much of the impact Latina entrepreneurs are having on our city—-namely, fulfilling the public’s need for high demand services and products and employment opportunities for others,” Roebker shares.
The SBA offers loans and resources such as the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, which oversees the Women’s Development Center in downtown Chicago. Latinas have access to free and low-cost training and mentoring to start or grow their businesses. They learn to compete globally and access bilingual business training tools such as the DreamBuilder online learning program.
LATINA Style recently named Delia Gutierrez McLaughlin, president and CEO of Coda Consulting Group (soon AzTech Innovation), its Entrepreneur of the Year. McLaughlin states recognitions such as hers allows Latinas to showcase their business accomplishments to colleagues while encouraging others to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
Latinas re-invent themselves and use their unique perspectives, practicality and intelligence to come up with innovative business ideas, she adds.
“I spent 20 years in the corporate sector and after that decided to go out on my own and become an entrepreneur,” McLaughlin shares.
She is a Latina entrepreneur in the technology industry, which along with the energy sector, is in dire need of more Hispanic representation in Chicago. In her business, McLaughlin partners with Fortune 500 clients, manages relationships and identifies ways for clients to reach new clients through technology.
McLaughlin recently participated in the Stanford Graduate School of Business Latino Entrepreneurial Program and the Women’s Business Development Center “Scale Up” program in Chicago.
The IRS offers tax information and resources to financially empower Latina entrepreneurs. This includes the Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center, virtual workshops at irsvideo.org, and, an electronic newsletter detailing tax credits and incentives to expand businesses.
“Entrepreneurship is an exciting endeavor, but it comes with great responsibility,” says Yolanda Ruiz, a stakeholder liaison at the IRS. “Business owners should hire an attorney to help set up their business and choose the best business structure. An accountant can help them with tax planning and obligations.”
According to Ruiz, the Mujeres Latinas en Acción, a Chicago-based organization, offers the Empreserias del Futuro education training to women who want to launch or expand their business.
Patricia Mota is president of the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, a Chicago-based national nonprofit dedicated to the employment, development and advancement of current and aspiring Latino professionals. Mujeres de HACE targets high-potential Latinas and provides them with insight, access and professional development.According to Mota, at least 15 percent of participants in Mujeres de HACE are entrepreneurs. Another 15 percent left their corporate jobs in favor of pursuing entrepreneurship.
“Latina entrepreneurs … are also more likely to tie their entrepreneurial efforts to social causes and efforts that contribute back to the Latino community,” Mota shares.
Janice Lopez serves as Managing Director of Entrepreneurial Services at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). For Lopez, the Center offers a wide range of services in every stage of the business life cycle, including entrepreneur training classes, one-on-one counseling sessions and access to capital to individuals who may not otherwise qualify due to credit issues or lack of collateral. WBDC sometimes helps businesswomen considering corporate or government contracting.
The Latina Entrepreneurial Accelerated Development Program (LEAD) helps Latina entrepreneurs by focusing on leadership, strategic planning and advocacy. The three-day intensive leadership summit caters to owners seeking guidance or companies wanting to take their business to the next level.
“The advocacy side is to make sure more Latinas are present at the table and have their voices heard if they want change, and so, they can speak on behalf of the community,” Lopez shares.
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