Latina entrepreneurs Stanford

Latino and Latina entrepreneurs continue to be the fastest growing demographics opening businesses in the United States. However, economic growth opportunities are missed somehow on the way compared to other small businesses’ development. The Latino Business Action Network has come to the rescue and is offering real opportunities for scaling. 

When Victoria Flores decided to leave corporate America and start her own small business, little she knew she would end up as one of the twenty-four Latina entrepreneurs that recently graduated –among 71 total participants– at the fourth cohort of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative – Education Scaling program (SLEI-Ed).

These seventy-one applicants were selected by The Latino Business Action Network (LBAN), a not-for-profit organization that aims at strengthening the American economy by empowering Latino and Latina entrepreneurs to substantially grow their firms, create jobs, develop leadership and spawn a new generation of companies.

Participants excange ideas with Mentors at SLEI-Ed program Latina entrepreneurs
Participants exchange ideas with Mentors at LBAN Closing Ceremony

LBAN complements the Stanford University Executive Education educational component with very valuable enhanced access to capital, personal business mentorship and access to an engaged alumni network which now includes several hundred Latino and Latina business owners.

Latino entrepreneurs fast to start but slow to grow

According to the 2016 SLEI report, Latino firms continue to be created at faster rates than the national average. The 3.3 million Latino firms reported by the Census 2012 represented 12 percent of all U.S. firms but projections show that, continuing at their faster than average creation rates, 4.23 million Latino firms were estimated to be up and running at the end of 2016.

The average Latino firm, however, made one-quarter of the non-Latino firms’ sales revenues in 2012, representing a missed opportunity gap of $1.38 trillion in the U.S. economy.

Mark L. Madrid Executive Director LBAN Latina entrepreneurs
Mark L. Madrid. Executive Director, LBAN

“The scaling of Latino businesses is an American economic imperative,” states Mark L. Madrid, LBAN Executive Director.  “The Latina and Latino businesses that we convene at Stanford embody the American dream and reinforce the critical role that Latino businesses play in our new American economy.”

The Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative – Education Scaling program

To be considered for this program, small businesses need to generate a minimum of $1 million in revenue and/or acquisition of $500K or more in external funding (companies that have received market and/or investor validation). They also need to be headquartered or have a strong U.S. presence.

“This year’s Latino entrepreneurs came from 20 different states,” Melody Estrada, LBAN Director of Marketing and Lead of Program Operations told

Dr Jerry Porras Professor Emeritus Stanford
Dr Jerry Porras. Professor Emeritus, Stanford University

After an initial meeting at Stanford Graduate School of Business with program faculty, mentors and other members of the program, the participants take a customized online course based on curriculum developed by Professor Huggy Rao, Stanford Graduate School of Business Faculty and Bob Sutton, Stanford School of Engineering Faculty, who are internationally recognized experts in scaling businesses.  “In addition to the cutting edge 7-week online Stanford Executive Education training, during their final weekend of the program, all Latino and Latina entrepreneurs meet at the Stanford Graduate School of Business  with potential capital providers and assigned business mentors.” Melody added.

The same weekend, family members were included at the participants’ graduation ceremony and mentors’ appreciation program that celebrated the success of this talented group of innovators and business leaders. Stanford alumni were also welcomed as part of the celebration.

“One of the key elements of the program is to keep the graduates learning and benefiting afterwards through an active alumni network that already includes hundreds of fast-growing business” Eutiquio “Tiq” Chapa, Director of External Relations, explained to “It is imperative that they find and share opportunities and resources amongst each other and also, provide our research team with information about their progress,” he said.

The research , conducted by research analyst Marlene Orozco, tracks alumni of the program. Additionally,  the initiative leads the largest national survey of Latino business owners.

Mentors, the lens that keep Latino and Latina entrepreneurs on focus

Lili Gil Valletta Stanford Mentor Latina entrepreneurs
SLEI-Ed Mentor Lili Gil Valletta

This year, the program gathered 43 mentors from several states around the country. Some of these mentors are also successful business owners and/or national leaders in their fields.

Mentors included Rakia Reynolds, Founder and CEO, Skai Blue Media, a sought-out communications professional that provides expertise in creative development, branding, marketing, and business communications;  and Noreen Gillen, CFP, CRPC, CPWA, Wealth Management Advisor, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, a SLEI-Ed Mentor Alumna who has participated since program inception. Prior to Merrill Lynch, Ms. Gillen worked at Sony BMG Entertainment with artists like Christina Aguilera/RCA Records and The Dave Matthews Band/RCA Records.

Also, Lili Gangas, Chief Technology Community Officer, Kapor Center for Social Impact, a SLEI-Ed Mentor Alumna  who is currently leading Kapor Center’s efforts to activate the inclusive tech entrepreneurship ecosystem;  and Lili Gil Valletta,  President/CEO & Co-founder, XL Alliance and SLEI-Ed Mentor Alumna, an award-winning entrepreneur, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and TV media contributor. She is the co-founder and President of XL Alliance, and the creator of Dreamers Ventures, an alliance of investors and business experts that select, mentor and launch products created by Latinos to sell on television in partnership with HSN.

“LBAN’s vision is to double the number of $10 million, $100 million and $1 billion+ Latino-owned businesses by 2025,” Melody explained.

Mentor Appreciation's Ceremony at Stanford
Mentors’ Appreciation Ceremony at the Stanford Graduate School of Business

Investors looking for opportunities

“Investors are an integral part of the program,” Melody explained, “as they provide potential access to capital for specific projects or businesses they might be interested in.” The program offered a one-on-one matching educational opportunity between entrepreneurs and investors, who might be able to offer their resources at a certain point of growth for these Latino and Latina entrepreneurs.

Some of the investors present at this last cohort were Maria Salamanca, Venture Capital, Unshackled Fund, which concentrate on early stage immigrant tech founders and is based in Silicon Valley;  Monika Mantilla, Private Equity at SBCC Fund, which offers funds for women and diverse-owned businesses with $10M+ in revenues;  Leticia Riquelme, from Inter-American Development Bank, who structures finances for organizations and firms internationally; Deldelp Medina, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at CODE2040; and Arlan Hamilton, Venture Capital & Managing Director of Backstage Capital, a firm that invests in women-owned early stage technology companies, among others.

“We encourage all Latino and Latina entrepreneurs with high growth-potential who meet our eligibility requirements to apply,” Melody said, “The application can be found at ,” she concluded.

Stanford leadership group Latina entrepreneurs
LBAN Leadership team (L to R) Eutiquio “Tiq” Chapa, Alice Rodriguez, Dr Jerry Porras, Mark L Madrid, and Melody Estrada.




  • Susana G Baumann

    Award-winning journalist, author, multicultural expert, public speaker, small business advocate and the Editor-in-Chief of Susana is an Argentinean immigrant who started her own small business over 20 years ago. Now, through her new digital platform and social media channels, she advocates for the economic empowerment of Latinas in the United States.

By Susana G Baumann

Award-winning journalist, author, multicultural expert, public speaker, small business advocate and the Editor-in-Chief of Susana is an Argentinean immigrant who started her own small business over 20 years ago. Now, through her new digital platform and social media channels, she advocates for the economic empowerment of Latinas in the United States.

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