Today is American Business Woman Day and we want to shine a spotlight on some first-generation immigrant entrepreneurs in our Latinas in Business circle.
According to data, first-generation immigrants are one of the economy’s leading groups of entrepreneurs. First-generation immigrant entrepreneurs make up 20% of all business owners in the United States, despite only 13% of the US population being made up of migrants who are foreign-born. Additionally, research shows that first generation immigrants are starting businesses at “nearly twice the rate of their children’s generation and a 27% higher rate than Americans who are not immigrants,” according to Forbes.
Latina-owned small businesses alone are playing a key role in fueling the nation’s economy, representing the fastest-growing segment of the small business community in the United States.
Currently, there are over two million Latina-owned businesses in the country, a growth of more than 87% since 2007, according to the National Women’s Business Council.
There’s no doubt that immigrant entrepreneurs play a huge role in our nation’s business community. These first-generation immigrant entrepreneurs share some advice and lessons learned to help and inspire future immigrant entrepreneurs like themselves.
3 First-generation immigrant entrepreneurs share advice and lessons learned
Rechelle Balanzat is the CEO & Founder of Juliette Technologies. Her story begins in the Philippines where she was born to teenage parents and later became the first in her family to attend university, graduating with honors from Fordham. Over the years she traveled and studied languages, worked in private equity and later digital marketing for brands like Max Mara, Pepsi, and Fresh. Then, in 2014, Rechelle set her sights on making a dream come true.
“Juliette Technologies is my third venture. It is a comprehensive software solution for laundry and dry cleaning. Through our app, clients can have their dirty clothes picked up, cleaned, and delivered within 24 hours at the tap of a button,” Rechelle explains.
Growing up, Rechelle wanted to accomplish great things, do good work, and give back to her community. She looked for role models and found them, but few looked like her or represented where she came from—her gender, socioeconomic background, or diaspora.
“It’s hard to be something you can’t see. But I didn’t let that stop me. I set out to become category leader in laundry and dry cleaning—a big dream, I know. But it’s my dream. Should who I am, or where I come from dictate how big I’m allowed to dream?”
To other minority women starting their own entrepreneurial journeys, Rechelle says, “It’s not about the challenges or the setbacks. It’s about never losing faith in yourself. It’s about believing in yourself when no one else will; believing in your dreams when no one else will. Standing up for those dreams. Standing up for yourself. That space of self-discovery can be intimidating. But I promise you, it’s the most powerful place you can be.”
Victoria Flores is a former Wall Street executive turned entrepreneur. She and her business partner, Leslie, founded Lux Beauty Club —a beauty and wellness brand specializing in hemp and botanical products.
Victoria is a first-generation Mexican-American daughter of immigrants. Both of her parents were born in Mexico and eventually naturalized in Texas. She has been the first to hit many milestones in her family and life: the first to go to college, the first to go to grad school, the first in herfamily to enter the world of finance, and even was one of the first Latinas in her group at a Wall Street bank.
As someone who is used to being the first, Victoria has learned many lessons along the way. She urges aspiring entrepreneurs to never give up and always keep working toward your goals and dreams.
“I would never pack up my toys because something got difficult or I didn’t get the answer I wanted. A NO now will eventually become a YES later. Your time is coming, keep at it. People want to see results and that you are growing in a meaningful way.”
She also encourages new entrepreneurs to count the little wins as building blocks to get you to where you are going.
“Be a doer! Visualizing is great but you have to execute that vision no matter what. Start it as a side hustle, don’t give up your paycheck or healthcare until you know you can live on what your business generates. Don’t be crazy and don’t use your 401K!”
As a first-generation Afro-Latina business owner, Mariel encountered many obstacles launching her business but the work has been worthwhile.
“My access to tools like capital and manufacturing resources has been quite limited which is why Pink Root Products is completely bootstrapped. But even without the hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a head start, we’ve managed to accomplish quite a lot,” she says.
“I would advise other minority women who are looking to start their own business to take their time in the planning phase. Do extensive market research, get to know your customer, identify your target audience and meet them where they are,” Mariel says.
Today, more than ever, customers really value an authentic founder especially on social media platforms.
“Show up as your authentic self when promoting your business as this will reflect well on your company because more than ever, today’s consumers are expecting us to show face. Worry less about spending ad dollars and focus more on creating meaningful relationships with your audience.”
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