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Vol. 17, No.3
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LATINA Style Business Series, Chicago
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Anna María Arias Memorial Business Fund
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LATINA Style Business Series, Chicago

By Jennifer Vera

The morning was buzzing with activity as Latina women headed into Macy’s on State Street in downtown Chicago for the Latina Style Business Series co-hosted by Chicago’s most powerful and impressive Latinas: Gloria Castillo, president of Chicago United and Diana Palomar, vice president of Community Affairs, ABC 7 Chicago (WLS-TV). The audience was greeted by welcome remarks from Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle. “The City of Chicago is very Latina-business friendly. In fact, it is one of the top places in the United States for Latina-owned businesses,” Preckwinkle said.

After the inspiring kick-off breakfast the panels began. The first panel: Building your Professional Profile was moderated by Laura Schwartz, former White House director of events and author of Eat, Drink and Succeed. The panelist, Pat Pulido Sanchez, president of Pulido Sanchez Communications, discussed the role of networking in her path to success. “There are generally three circles that surround a person in business,” she stated. “The first circle is the inner circle. These are the people you have a comfort level with, the ones that are easy to talk to. The second circle consists of business professionals that you would like to meet but aren’t incredibly inaccessible. The third and most impressive circle is the elite circle. This circle consists of high-powered individuals. It isn’t easy to break into this third circle. The key is authenticity; you must come from a genuine place. You must also engage these individuals very quickly.”

The second panel, Positioning your Business for Growth, was introduced by entrepreneur Letty Velez-Hudson, president of Chicago Minibus Travel. After introducing the panel and moderator, Hudson shared one of the many secrets to her success: “During the elevator pitch always mention your highly regarded customers to build your reputation. They may not know your business or recognize it, but they will recognize other businesses you work with. This will make your business more memorable in their minds.”

Speaking of memorable, perhaps one of the most unforgettable panelists from this panel was Yolanda Ruiz, Liaison & Disclosure Senior Stakeholder Liaison at the IRS. “I think this was one of my favorite panels because the tax information provisions from the IRS are so hard to keep up with,” said attendee Liz Tapia-Corona. “They constantly have new rules…”
Commissioner Norma Reyes, Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection during Opening Ceremony.
Pat Pulido Sanchez, president and CEO, Pulido Sanchez Communications, LLC; Elvia Torres, agent, State Farm Insurance, and Laura Schwartz, author, Eat, Drink & Succeed.
Perhaps one of the audience’s favorite panels of the day occurred right before lunch. The Latina Entrepreneur: Lessons Learned panel featured last year’s entrepreneur of the year award, Nancy C. Andrade, president of Mexifeast Foods, Inc., moderating over a powerhouse of panelists that included this year’s winner, Nancy Garcia-Sharpe, president & founder, Food For Thought Enterprise; Arabel Alva Rosales; J.D., president & CEO, AAR & Associates LTD; and Caroline Sanchez Crozier, founder and president, CSC Learning.

Many audience questions revolved around work-life balance as an entrepreneur. “The idea of perfection is not worth working for. You will never be the perfect CEO or the perfect mother,” said Garcia-Sharpe. “It’s not about balancing the roles so much as it is about integration. I don’t see a difference between my work life and family life because my son’s baseball game is just as important as my meeting with my CFO. They are both things I need to be completely present and engaged in.”

Many of the panelists agreed that you should set your list of priorities for the week first and cross them off the list as the week progresses, “You might not be able to accomplish everything, but you can accomplish a lot. Be in the moment 100 percent,” said Alva Rosales.

After a full morning, members of the audience migrated to the seventh floor of Macy’s and were greeted to an elegant meal and the hard climb up to success from Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez, the first woman and first Latina to assume her current role.

Alvarez’s story starts in a traditional Mexican community on the Southside of Chicago where her mother was a seamstress and her father was a waiter. Throughout her childhood her parents had stressed to her the importance of education. She finished her undergraduate degree at Loyola University Chicago in social work and somehow fell into the law side of things. She proceeded to Kent College of Law and was among 75 other students in her class. There was only one African American and one other Latina in her class. “That being the case, the professor would still mix me and the only other Latina in the class up;” Alvarez joked.

This would prove to be a pattern for Alvarez – finding herself positioned uniquely as the only woman or the only Latina in the room.

“When I ran for State’s Attorney, I was never very political. I ran against five other men including two others that came from a political background,” she said. “I remember after I won, I was interviewed by a reporter and he said ‘are you as surprised as I am that you won?’ I replied that I wasn’t and neither were the 1.3 million people that voted for me.”
Diana Pando, senior communications trainer, Community Media Workshop; Lourdes Gonzalez, director of Sustainability, sr. vice president, Primera Engineers; Cristina Grieco, instructor, Zumba Fitness; Laritza Lopez, CEO & founder, Lopez Martin and Associates; and Gina Santana, founder and director of Marketing and Communications, Café Media.
Diana Palomar, vice president of Community Affairs, ABC 7 Chicago; Gloria Castillo, president, Chicago United; LATINA Entrepreneur of the Year: Nancy Garcia Sharp, president & founder, Food For Thought Enterprise; Keynote Speaker: Hon. Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney; and Zoraida Sambolin, anchor, reporter, NBC5 News Today.
If all of that wisdom wasn’t enough for the attendees, there was a brief break before Macy’s Look Successful, Be Successful fashion show began. Women paraded the latest business styles appropriate for any business and or social occasion.

The final panel centered on such a hot topic: Marketing your Business via Social Media, moderated by Café Media founder, Gina Santana. Surprisingly enough the panelists believed that in some cases, it was better not to have a social media marketing plan, especially if you don’t have the staff or time to create consistency and strategy. The panelists stressed that social media marketing was cheap, effective, easy to use but demanding as well.

After, a full day of discourse, fashion shows and Q&As the audience chattered into the elevators of Macy’s, practicing their new networking skills in anticipation of the next LATINA Style Business Series to hit Chicago.
Diana Palomar during the Look Successful-Be Successful Fashion Show Sponsored by Macy’s.
This unique program could not have been made possible without the support and sponsorship from these following outstanding companies.

Title Sponsor: Macy’s, Inc. Sponsors includes: OfficeMax Incorporated, Verizon Wireless, State Farm Insurance, Hyatt, Hotels & Resorts, Kraft Foods, Inc., Chicago Mini Bus Travel, Inc., David Gomez & Associates, Inc., Wyndham Worldwide, Teleflora, Ana Miyares Photography, and Telemundo Chicago.

Special thanks to the Honorary Event Chairpersons: Ms. Gloria Castillo and Ms. Diana Palomar Scott. The Leadership Committee: Nancy C. Andrade, Philip Barreda, Olga Camargo, Ralph V. Hughes , Maria de J. Prado, Patricia Mota, Jessica Priego Lopez, Loida Rosario, Leticia Velez Hudson, and Jennifer Vera. Our warmest thanks to all our great community partners, as well as to the more than 20 speakers and panelists who generously provided their time—far too many to name here—and to all our attendees, who helped make the Chicago Business Series day a lively and productive one, and the conference a great success!
State Farm insurance booth.
Erica Sevilla (far right), Public Relations manager, Verizon Wireless interacting with exhibitors at the Verizon Wireless booth.
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