Abundance of Opportunity for Latina Entrepreneurs in Golden Gate City.
By Christine Bolaños.
San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gates are a welcoming symbol of opportunity for innovators, entrepreneurs and business-minded professionals across the world. Taking advantage of the abundance of opportunity in this California city, are Latinas with bright ideas and the grit to make them a reality.
“Latinas are touching the San Francisco economy in many different industries, so the impact is widespread,” says Nancy Marmolejo, who owns Talent and Genius, which works with entrepreneurs and organizations to bring out their unique “genius” and apply that to leadership, personal branding, positioning and marketing.
She has Latina friends who are launching startups and others who make hiring decisions at well-established companies.
“In my Latina entrepreneur circles, we make sure that we are buying from each other, referring business to each other and making key introductions. I see our economic impact through the lens of helping each other succeed and prosper,” Marmolejo adds.
That sense of solidarity is something Jolynn Vallejo, director of LatinSF, is trying to cultivate even further. LatinSF is a public-private partnership between the City of San Francisco’s Office of Economic Workforce Development and the nonprofit economic development agency GlobalSF. The organization aims to promote San Francisco as a top destination for Latin American businesses, bridging connections between the Bay Area and Latin America.
Vallejo has identified a segmentation among Latino and Latin American businesspeople and hopes to unite them through aligned business goals. She hopes that by uniting domestic-born and Latin American-born entrepreneurs, LatinSF can help businesses across the Americas prosper while staging San Francisco as a truly international business hub. LatinSF is to give all types of entrepreneurs a level-playing field.
Karla Garcia is founder and owner of Bris’s Creations, a bakery that also offers classes to customers who want to learn to make their own fine gourmet creations. Twenty-five percent of revenue goes toward supporting the nonprofit, Center for the Economic Independence of Women and Youth, to help support women and child survivors of violence. She aims to launch a new website that will include her nonprofit later this month.
But launching her business with her husband, Garcia managing the finances and her husband serving as chef, wasn’t a walk in the park. She says there wasn’t a whole lot of information available to Latina entrepreneurs planning on launching their own businesses at the time. She learned to cultivate connections and make the most of her already-established resources.
“I got connected with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — they opened so many doors for me,” Garcia explains. She got catering jobs and opportunities in consulting before landing on radio stations, where she had the chance to talk about how Latinos can overcome adversity.
She would advertise her company and nonprofit at the end of the segments, resulting in new customers. Despite any bumps on the road, Garcia is grateful for her success and gets teary-eyed as she shares how she realized the dream of her late grandmother who dreamed of having her own bakery.
“We’re like a melting pot and everybody has the same opportunities. There are a lot of government opportunities, for example, but we’re not really informed about it,” Garcia cautions. “I had to go through the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce or use my own political connections. That’s the only way to get informed. We have so many resources, but we don’t know about them. You have to make things happen for yourself.”
And whether it’s lack of knowledge of government-backed grants for entrepreneurs or a division among Latina entrepreneurs with different origins, experts agree there is still a need for higher Latino representation in the technology sector. However, that doesn’t take away from the pride they feel that Latinos are leading companies in a variety of sectors, from real estate to retail.
Among those entrepreneurs is Griselda Quezada-Chavez, president and CEO of GQC Global Group, a company that produces private label textiles, specifically men’s shirts, and showcases handmade items from local artisans and cooperatives in Mexico and Latin America through its online boutique and gallery.
Like many Latina entrepreneurs, Quezada-Chavez launched her business to fill a void in the market. She had a difficult time finding hand-embroidered ethnic textiles that her husband could wear representative of the Guayabera culture. Anything close in appearance was mass produced and usually made in China.
On a mission to offer quality products while accurately capturing the essence of their culture, Quezada-Chavez launched her business, bridging a connection among San Francisco and Latin America through worldboutiquegallery.com.
“I love living in the Bay Area because we have a lot of different cultures,” she says, adding that the possibilities are endless.
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