Susana Marino is the founder and current President of the Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (NOVAHCC), an international business and trade association representing people of all entrepreneurial backgrounds and industries.
In 2019, Susana Marino was awarded by El Tiempo Latino with Power 100 Meter as one out of 100 most influential Latinos in the region, and August 2020, she was selected to receive the Women Who Mean Business 2020 Award by Washington Business Journal. In addition, she is the national recipient of the Brillante Award in Entrepreneurship Excellence 2020 by Prospanica.
As a first generation Latina and immigrant from Venezuela, Susana is committed to using her platforms to help elevate Latina entrepreneurs and business owners. In her role at NOVAHCC, Susana provides strategic direction for the programs and the Executive Advisory Committee for the chamber, NOVAHCC, delivering the oversight for all organizational operations supporting the growth and prosperity of large and small businesses in northern Virginia.
Susana decided to launch the NOVAHCC in 2018 to improve the level of access to diversity supplier opportunities for Latinos, and other multi-ethnic businesses in Northern Virginia.
“In 2017, I researched and discovered that there was not a chamber of commerce in place in the Northern Virginia region to represent the more than thirty-thousand Hispanic businesses. The Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber was born to attend to the needs of growing the revenue and valuation of our business community,” said Susana.
A strong pillar of NOVAHCC is to assist small business owners to scale-up their businesses, to make its members procurement ready to participate in the supplier chain ecosystem, and to provide strategic workforce development to people who are currently under-employed and to assist U.S. Veterans with career transition.
Susana’s oldest son is a former Sgt. in the US Marine Corps, and she understands first hand the challenges our military can face when they transition to the private sector.
“Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber is a hands-on Think Tank Business Solution Center that seeks to understand first-hand the many challenges our entrepreneurs face, and we strive to stay relevant providing solutions to those challenges with technical assistance, access to capital, relevant up to date training with specific revenue making models.
The future of minority owned small businesses beyond the pandemic
In Latinas in Business’ March 25 virtual panel, “Latinas & Success: What it takes to make it in America”, Susana spoke a bit about the future of small businesses since the pandemic.
“The world is divided these days by regions, every region is doing things differently, some regions are doing better than others and because of this I always tell my members don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Meaning that, if you’re able to expand overseas, that’s an opportunity. The United States has a lot of grants and resources and funding to do so,” Susana said.
Moving forward, one of the biggest advantages business owners will have during the rebuilding season is their ability to pivot and adapt, and also solidifying a niche to stand out among others.
“This is going to be a new skillset to win in 2022 and beyond. You must know what your uniqueness is. What is your niche? And what problem are you solving with your product, faster, better, and less expensive than your competitors. Ask yourself, what is your business doing that is impressive?”
Watch the full panel below!
“The biggest plus of being a minority business owner is the ability and the great opportunity we have to apply to all the certifications applicable and available as a Minority business with the purpose of having a better shot in procurement transactions with the local and federal government, as well as the private sector,” said Susana.
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3 key business tips for aspiring Latina entrepreneurs
“One of the positive outcomes of 2020 is that with the use of technology, we managed to stay connected, and at the Chamber we were able to reach many entrepreneurs beyond our state, region, and country. This is the time for wise decisions. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, and starting a business is tough, not just on the practical grind, but also financially and mentally. Building a business is grueling work, but also exciting, and inspirational, at the same time.”
To other aspiring Latina entrepreneurs and minority business owners, Susana offers three key tips from lessons learned during the pandemic.
- Finding your passion is not enough these days to keep you afloat. For this reason, finding and communicating your WHY is key. Otherwise, your business stops growing.
- Don’t fall in love with your product, but instead strive every day to know your customer’s fears, desires, needs, and wants. In the process expect to get it wrong but learn and try again. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Think long term but plan short term. 2020 taught us, one can have a futuristic vision, but make sure you always have a plan B revised. Ask yourself is there a void? and how can one fill it?