Entrepreneurship: Resources, best business practices & networking opportunities for minority women entrepreneurs leading their own companies or startups in all industries.

5 Latina LGBTQ businesses to support this Pride Month! 

June is Pride Month, a time to both celebrate the LGBTQ community and an opportunity to peacefully protest and raise political awareness of current issues facing the community. 

This Pride Month we’re shining a spotlight on a few Latina LGBTQ businesses and brands that are creating inclusive products and raising awareness for important social issues. 

Latina LGBTQ businesses and brands to support!

Kalani + Wolf 

 

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Founded by Dominican-born Afro-Latina entrepreneur, Joanis Duran, Kalani + Wolf is  a sustainable clothing and accessories brand that’s 100% vegan. As a brand, Kalani + Wolf is dedicated to changing the narrative to end systemic racism and disenfranchisement. 

The brand actively volunteers in community cleans ups, signs petitions, participates in peaceful protest, organizes discussion panels, makes calls and writes to local senators, and donate money to animal sanctuaries 

“Kalani + Wolf is for the non-conformist who can’t keep their mouths shut, aren’t afraid to mobilize their community, demand social justice and human rights. We welcome all body types and complexions- one which mirrors our BIPOC + Queer communities.” 

Moon Mother Apothecary 

Founded by herbalist, Suhaly Bautista-Carolina, Moon Mother Apothecary creates herbal medicinal products derived from AfroCaribbean and AfroDominican healing practices. In addition to selling plant-based medicines, Bautista-Carolina provides virtual consultations and herbalism lessons. 

Moon Mother Apothecary is also deeply involved in activism and social issues. Plant Power x People Power is a project by the brand focused on producing and distributing herbal medicines for “BIPOC protestors, activists, and community members mobilizing for justice and directly affected by police violence.” 

Founder Suhlay is deeply committed to decolonizing medicine and re-introducing her community to the traditional, ancestral wisdom that many have been ripped away from as a result of migration, erasure, colonialism, and other oppressive and violent systems. 

“This too, is a form of activism: returning to ourselves, creating spaces of agency for folks to enter into their own healing, so that when clients/participants/spirits who open themselves to my offerings walk away, they leave with much more than the plant medicine,” she says.

Pa’Lante Para

 

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Pa’Lante Para is a clothing brand founded by Julia Pacheco Cole, a member of the Lambda Pi Chi sorority. The brand creates affordable and trendy clothing for Latina and multicultural-based sororities.

Motivated by her own frustration at the lack of multicultural sorority clothing options, Julia decided to create her own brand as a fun side project. 

“I found that it was easy to buy things that had my letters on them, but what was lacking was the true spirit of my organization (and many others I saw). So I decided to take matters into my own hands and create the styles that I was looking for myself. What started as a fun side project has turned into so much more, taking inspiration from Latina clothing brand favorites to come up with creative, forward-thinking, and more affordable options,” Julia shares. 

Today, she is one of a few queer Latina-owned businesses serving these sororities and the only Latina/Multicultural-focused Greek paraphernalia shop in the Pacific Northwest.

Shop your PRIDE today! 

Photo source: Freepik

Bianca Designs 

 

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Founded by Bianca Negron, Bianca Designs is a small accessory shop run out of Queens, NY, creating inclusive pins and fun accessories. 

Bianca is a queer gender-fluid Latinx designer and artist who enjoys creating inclusive pride art that provides representation and visibility. Their style is minimal yet playful and often uses lines, geometric shapes & custom typography. Bianca uses their business to support various foundations, organizations, and mutual aid funds with the proceeds from some products. 

“I created Bianca’s Design Shop as a reflection of my passion of design meshed with who I am as a person which is essentially a Queer human,” says Bianca. “I always wanted to find a way to give back to our community, so with having my background in design I’m able to create inclusive products that provide visibility.” 

High Hemp 

 

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Founded by Paola Fernandez, High Hemp is a Florida-based company offering an alternative to tobacco-based rolling papers and a variety of CBD products including gummies and tinctures to keep you feeling your best. High Hemp also sells merch including Pride merch and accessories.

“High Hemp Co. is one of the first all organic herbal wrap companies who pride themselves on a cleaner, more flavorful smoke. We’re breaking the trend of tobacco based products and creating better alternatives. We are High Hemp.” 

Be sure to check out these Latina LGBTQ businesses and brands this Pride Month and beyond!

You might be interested: 6 Books by Latina authors to add to your 2022 summer reading list! 


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Getting fired was “the biggest blessing of all” says Legalpreneur founder Andrea Sager

Andrea Sager is a lawyer, legal expert and serial entrepreneur. Currently, she is the CEO and Founder of Legalpreneur Inc, a company that combines legaltech with fintech for small businesses and small firm attorneys. Leaglpreneur provides business owners all-access to an attorney at every stage of business through its Legalpreneur Membership. Additionally, they offer a number of educational and DIY products to help business owners legally protect their business. 

Andrea started her career in “BigLaw” in October 2017 but quickly shifted gears into entrepreneurship after getting fired from the firm she worked for at the time. For many, something like this would be a huge setback, but Andrea turned it into a positive and made the best of the situation. 

Being fired became “the biggest blessing of all” because it helped her start her own law firm when she was too scared to do it on her own. This was the first step in Andrea completely reshaping her career and life. 

She started her firm Andrea Sager Law PLLC in April 2018 and quickly grew her business to hit 7 figures by her second full year of business. 

Then, in 2019 Andrea launched the Legalpreneur Membership. After working in BigLaw she realized she wanted to help small businesses legally protect their businesses and thrive. As an entrepreneur herself, she knew first-hand how helpful it can be to have legal expertise when starting a new venture.  

Being fired was “the biggest blessing of all” because it pushed her to start her own business. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Sager.)

“When I was in BigLaw, I saw how small businesses got the short end of the stick,” says Andrea. “They needed help, but there wasn’t anyone serving them. Since my time in BigLaw, it has been my goal to bridge the gap between business owners and affordable legal services.”

In late 2020, Andrea realized how much potential the membership had and decided to go all-in with the Legalpreneur brand. She is now in the process of shutting down her law firm in order to solely focus on Legalpreneur. 

In addition to her membership services, Andrea also hosts the Legalpreneur podcast where every Tuesday, and some Thursdays, Andrea offers key insights and expertise explaining the legal necessities for small business owners. 

Andrea Sager

Listen to the latest episode of Legalpreneur 

Whether you want to start a business, just launched a business, or have been in business for years, you will learn from Andrea and the world’s most elite entrepreneurs on how to legally protect your business; and just how simple it can be.

Start your own podcast here

“My biggest strength: finding motivation in the toughest of situations”

Throughout her journey as an entrepreneur, Andrea has not let challenges or roadblocks hinder her path toward success. She has not been afraid to take big leaps to change her life for the better. 

I didn’t grow up with money or even examples of a business mindset. It was something I learned.” (Photo courtesy of Andrea Sager)

After being fired and starting her own business, Andrea decided it was time for another big transition in her life. 

“In September 2020, I decided to transition out of my marriage. After 7 years being married and 2 kids, it impacted me a lot more than I thought it would. My business took a toll, and I was no longer motivated to grow my law firm. Luckily, that turned into motivation for going all-in with Legalpreneur,” she says. 

While making these big changes, Andrea leaned on one of her biggest strengths: finding motivation in the toughest of situations. 

“My parents are retired postal workers, so I didn’t grow up with money or even examples of a business mindset. It was something I learned.” 

And today her journey is far from over! Andrea continues to learn, break through barriers, and help others along their own journeys as entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

She tells aspiring Latina and minority women entrepreneurs to never let ‘no’ stop you. 

“We have many subconscious hurdles to overcome from ourselves and others. Quitting doesn’t help the next generation, and now my mission is to overcome as many barriers as possible to make things easier for the next generation, my daughter included.”

You might be interested: Latinas are underrepresented in law, says attorney Anna María Tejada

Bibi Hidalgo

“We don’t need to do it alone” says SBA’s Bibi Hidalgo, to aspiring Latina entrepreneurs 

Bibi Hidalgo is the Associate Administrator for Government Contracting & Business Development at the SBA and is the first ever woman appointed by the President for this role. 

In this role, Bibi Hidalgo oversees and reviews procurement policies for small businesses hoping to work with the Federal Government. This includes for Small Disadvantaged Businesses, Veteran-owned firms, HUBZone firms, Woman-owned small businesses, and firms in the 8(a) Minority Business Development Program.

In her prior role, she was the SBA Government Contracting Policy Lead for the Biden-Harris Transition Team, developing policies that President Biden could execute in the first 100 days, with an emphasis on underserved communities. In 2014, Bibi and her brother Patrick Hidalgo co-founded Future Partners, LLC, which advised Fortune 500 corporate executives on procurement and minority business strategy, and created a model for how to facilitate significant opportunities for both.   

Bibi Hidalgo is dedicating her work to the memory of her brother Patrick who passed away suddenly at the age of 41 in March of 2020.

“We don’t need to do it alone” 

Working closely with Latinas and other women entrepreneurs, Bibi knows it can be easy to think we must do it all on our own in order to be seen as successful or capable, but that is not the case. 

“We don’t need to do it alone. And that’s really important for us to remember that we don’t need to do it alone. Because every day, we’re asking ourselves, is this the right thing? Am I doing the right thing? Am I alienating myself, or am I ingratiating myself, and you need to kind of touch base with someone to get a temperature check,” says Bibi. 

As women, having a supportive circle is crucial, especially in male-dominated industries where support may be hard to come by. 

“Whether you want to be an economist, finance expert, astronaut, or the best app developer, there is very much your place in your world to be there. And to and to be sure to lean on other women for support. Be sure to create that circle of support, that really wants to see you rise, and that you help each other do that. I have such a strong support system that I’m so grateful for.”

For Bibi, her support system helped her stay strong in the face of challenges and adversity. She advises women to seek out those mentors in their industry, lean into support, and also stay strong and believe in your knowledge and technical capabilities. Don’t question yourself. 

“I am the first woman appointed by the President to be an Associate Administrator of Government Contracting and Business Development. And if I have caved into some of my self-doubt, I would never be here because it’s very much a man’s world. And yet, I set that aside in my brain, and knew that I could tackle this issue, and hang with the guys on such a complicated topic. And now I’m able to lead and we’re effecting change together.” 

Jumpstart your entrepreneurial journey with inspirational titles on Audible today!

“Keep driving it home and pushing hard” 

As a woman in a male-dominated field you may not always be the most popular. You might be the first ever woman in your role, and that can be tough. 

“I very much learned in business, that you have to make tough decisions that not everyone’s going to agree with. And those are sometimes the loneliest moments, as I’ve heard other leaders say, leadership is lonely,” says Bibi. “And so that’s why you have to make sure you have that network of support, where you can get a pulse check every once in a while, and where you can continue to believe in yourself. Because as long as you do that, you’re going to be able to affect change, and then you get to look back on your career and say, ‘Yeah, I did that. It was tough. I have the battle scars to prove it. But I did it.’”

44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Photo credit: Pete Souza, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

For Bibi, there have been many challenges and wins. One story that always stands out is when she first joined President Obama’s Administration, in 2009. 

“Within a matter of weeks, my agency got a call from the White House saying that they were hit hard, they were getting hit hard on the issue of the recovery stimulus, and not enough contracts going to minority owned businesses. And so I was tasked with staffing our deputy, but what they asked us to do was do events around the country, which we did. And the challenge was that there were some folks who were not too excited about this issue…there was a lot of angst about it, and a lot of pushback.” 

Facing these pushbacks made it difficult for Bibi to do her work and as the struggles persisted she began to have doubts that she could get the job done and affect positive change. 

“I had to navigate a lot of complexities and really try to keep faith, which was hard, and it was getting harder day by day. But sometimes you don’t realize you’re at that point. At a tipping point, you don’t know until you’re there and sometimes it can get really, really hard, really tough until you get there and especially as a woman, in my case and Latina.”

However, Bibi persisted and really focused on driving home her key issues. This strategy was critical to her success. 

“If you try to be everywhere at once, you really have to pick one or two things and to drive it home. And so that’s what I did. I learned it really made all the difference to keep driving hard to keep pushing hard.” 

Her hard work was eventually recognized by higher up officials and Bibi was called to the White House to be acknowledged for her work.

“That’s what I mean by ‘don’t give up.’ Follow your instinct, follow your gut, know what’s most important. Because that changed my life permanently. I always go back to that day, that day that I got that request to go into his office, it was the last thing I could have ever imagined. And yet it affirmed the work I was doing and made me realize I was on the right track.” 

You might be interested: Latina career coach and author Cici Castelli shares key tips to unlock your success mindset in new book

Today, Bibi Hidalgo is grateful to be back and able to pick up her work where she left off. 

“So much has happened in the interim, and we have our work cut out for us in so many different ways. Businesses, minority women businesses were not always prioritized. And so we’re trying to get that back in a direction, where it is an important priority among all of our priorities in advancing socio economic groups,” says Bibi. 

She is excited to continue working to create opportunities for women and minority business owners across the country and continue working with and supporting women in business.


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Black and Latina moms are becoming entrepreneurs now more than ever 

Since the pandemic began, more Black and Latina moms have been turning to entrepreneurship as a way to balance both domestic responsibilities and work. 

Today, more minority women are finding freedom in running their own businesses, after struggling at low-wage, hourly jobs and job losses during the height of the pandemic. 

According to research conducted by online e-commerce platform, Shopify, the pandemic has inspired moms to explore alternative ways to work. The study surveyed 1,532 parents in the U.S., and found that 62 percent of mothers were interested in supplementing their income, with more than half of moms reporting at least some interest in starting their own business. 

Of these women, Black and Latina moms reported the highest levels of interest in entrepreneurship.

Image source: Shopify.

More than half of women with children are interested in entrepreneurship

  • 16% of women with children are “very interested” in starting a business.
  • 44% of women with children are “slightly/moderately interested” in starting a business.
  • 40% of women with children are “not interested” in starting a business.

Black and Latina moms are turning to entrepreneurship to regain control over their lives 

Women of color have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic, with Black and Latina women suffering the greatest job losses. Since then, many have been looking for alternative sources of income and other employment options. Entrepreneurship is one way for many Black and Latina moms to regain control, freedom, and balance over their lives. 

Image source: Shopify.

Black and Latina mothers were 2x as likely to report wanting to start their own business compared to White and Asian mothers.

  • 33% of Black women with children said they’re “very interested” in starting a business.
  • 29% of Latina women with children said they’re “very interested” in starting a business. 
  • 13% of Asian women with children said they’re “very interested” in starting a business. 
  • 13% of White women with children said they’re “very interested” in starting a business. 

Treat yourself this Mother’s Day!

Single moms and mothers with younger children also benefit from the freedoms of being your own boss. The Shopify survey found that:

  • 22% of single women with children said they are “very interested” in starting a business, compared to 14% of married women with children. 
  • Women with younger children (5 years old or younger) are more likely to want to start their own business compared to women with older children.

Part of this has to do with access to affordable childcare. For many working women, childcare is a struggle. During the pandemic, many moms were forced out of the workforce to take on caregiving responsibilities at home. For those with younger children and single parents, childcare is an ongoing issue that prevents many women from focusing on their career goals. 

Entrepreneurship allows women to balance their work and home life, and provides them with the flexibility to be both moms and business owners. With technology and the normalization of remote-work, working from home has never been easier! 

You might be interested: Meet Rosie, the Latina entrepreneur amplifying diverse voices with “Life 100” Podcast

These days, almost any business can be a home-business. The pandemic exposed many issues in the workforce and how these issues affect working moms. For Black and Latina moms disproportionately affected by pandemic layoffs and unemployment, entrepreneurship is a new horizon of opportunity and freedom. 

To all the moms out there who have been thinking of starting their own business, the time is now! 


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president joe biden

President Biden proclaims May 1-7 as National Small Business Week

SBA highlights National Small Business Week celebration “Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship” with remarks from President Biden.

SBA, Isabel Guzman

SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman. (Photo Source)

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)’s 2022 National Small Business Week celebrations will officially commence with a three-day virtual summit and an awards ceremony for honorees. SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman will kick off the national event on Monday, May 2, addressing registered participants during the educational, training, and networking event. To end the celebration, President Joe Biden will deliver pre-recorded remarks congratulating our National Small Business Week award winners and acknowledging the contributions of America’s 32.5 million small businesses to our Nation’s historic economic comeback.

President Biden, in his proclamation declaring May 1-7 as National Small Business Week, stated, “For generations, small businesses across America have shaped and embodied our Nation’s entrepreneurial spirit and driven our economy forward. Today, more than 32 million small businesses employ almost half of America’s workforce and represent the heart and soul of countless communities. During National Small Business Week, we celebrate America’s small businesses and their enormous contributions to American life and prosperity.

“When I first took office, the pandemic had devastated America’s small business community. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses had closed, main streets were shuttered, and millions more Americans were out of work through no fault of their own. Even with the creativity and resilience of small business owners and workers, COVID-19 took an incalculable toll on so many lives and livelihoods. That is why I made it a top priority to provide substantial, immediate relief to our Nation’s small businesses, giving them the tools, resources, and support they needed to reopen, rehire, and rebuild.

“My American Rescue Plan and other emergency relief programs distributed hundreds of billions of dollars to millions of small businesses to keep the lights on and keep workers on the payroll. My Administration also removed historic barriers to level the playing field for businesses across rural and urban America, especially businesses owned by veterans, women, and people of color. These efforts have helped millions of small businesses not only weather the pandemic but thrive.

President Biden and SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman. (Photo source)

“My Administration is committed to unlocking new opportunities to help small businesses grow and compete. Through the American Rescue Plan, our State Small Business Credit Initiative provides States, territories, and Tribal governments with resources to establish loan and equity capital programs to support entrepreneurs. In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has created unprecedented contracting opportunities for small businesses in every community. Already, more than 4,000 projects have been announced to upgrade America’s infrastructure, creating significant opportunities for small businesses to grow. The law is delivering affordable high-speed internet access to every community — urban, rural, suburban, and Tribal — so every small business can use digital technologies and gain new customers across the country and around the world. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes the Minority Business Development Agency within the United States Department of Commerce a permanent entity — seeded with a record amount of funding — so minority-owned businesses can receive tailored assistance for their unique challenges and access the capital they need to grow.

“I firmly believe that equal opportunity is the bedrock of our democracy. That is why my Administration is committed to using Federal procurement dollars to support firms owned by underrepresented people and to help small businesses build generational wealth. Last year, I announced a set of reforms to increase contracting opportunities for underserved businesses by up to 50 percent by 2025. We are also capitalizing on our historic investments in supply chain resilience and “Made in America” manufacturing so small businesses can innovate, compete, and build the products of tomorrow. To position small businesses for success in the long term, the United States Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot program is forging stronger partnerships with local organizations to get resources to underserved small businesses.

“Thanks to these initiatives and the resilience of the American people, America’s entrepreneurial spirit has never been stronger. New business applications grew by more than 30 percent over the course of the pandemic, with almost 5.4 million new applications in 2021 alone. More Americans than ever before — including more women and people of color — are following their dreams and starting new enterprises. My Administration will continue to support them, build upon this remarkable resurgence, and strengthen the foundation of our economy with America’s small businesses at the forefront.

You might be interested: Biden-Harris Administration expands SBA Pilot Program targeting access to capital for underserved entrepreneurs

“This National Small Business Week, let us renew our commitment to supporting our Nation’s small businesses. From local “mom and pop” shops to innovative start-ups, small businesses are pillars of our communities and the engine of our economy. By rebuilding our economy from the bottom up and middle out, we can maintain our global competitiveness and build a stronger Nation where everyone can succeed.

 

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The President’s proclamation closes with “NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 1 through May 7, 2022, as National Small Business Week. I call upon all Americans to recognize the contributions of small businesses to the American economy, continue supporting them, and honor the occasion with programs and activities that highlight these important businesses.”

This year’s National Small Business Week virtual conference will offer free educational webinars, free business advice, and an opportunity to network with fellow business owners.

Registration is required; individuals interested in the conference can register here.

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration helps power the American dream of business ownership. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov

Latina tech entrepreneur Paola Santana owns her CEO title in a male-dominated industry

Paola Santana is a lawyer, public procurement expert, and Latina tech entrepreneur, creating the next breakthrough in government systems. 

She’s the founder and CEO of Social Glass, a government software ecosystem using artificial intelligence and exponential technologies to digitize, streamline, and scale public procurement systems and processes, and enable better decision-making in the public sector across the United States and Latin America.

Best known for her ability to create things from scratch at the intersection of the public, private and regulatory domains, and for her track record of introducing cutting-edge technologies into highly-regulated markets, her most recent experience includes co-drafting the public-private partnership enabling the first multi-state Hyperloop system in the United States. 

Previously, she co-founded Matternet, a Silicon Valley company pioneering drone logistics networks. Under her leadership, Matternet engaged with The White House, US Congress, FAA, and NASA to enact the first drone regulation in the United States in 2016, and became the world’s first drone delivery platform authorized for permanent operations over a populated city in 2017.

In addition to her entrepreneurial ventures, Paola currently serves as Faculty at Singularity University and Mentor for the Social Entrepreneurship Labs Incubator at Stanford University and Google AI.

Latinas in Male-Dominated Industries: Who’s the Boss?

Last month, Paola shared her experience of being a Latina entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry during the 4th National Conversation with Latina Leaders: Latinas & Success

Latina tech entrepreneur

Paola Santana, Latina tech entrepreneur and CEO of Social Glass. (Photo courtesy of Paola Santana)

Traditionally, male-dominated industries and occupations are particularly vulnerable to reinforcing harmful stereotypes and creating unfavorable environments that make it even more difficult for women to excel. Despite these struggles, Paola was able to overcome those stereotypes and achieve success as a Latina entrepreneur in the tech industry. 

“It’s very hard to see where you can get when you don’t see someone like you doing those things,” Paola says. 

Paola began her career as a lawyer but branched off into the world of government and tech so she could pursue her desire of creating change and opportunities globally. 

In her twelve years within these male-dominated industries, Paola has seen and experienced firsthand the obstacles women face. 

One recurring struggle is that many women are not given credit for their work or given the appropriate titles. Many times women themselves will underplay their roles and their value in male-dominated industries. 

Other times, women are inventing new roles, navigating uncharted territories, and breaking barriers without owning their positions. 

“Every woman that is running anything from their little business in their brain, is just like, ‘Oh, this is my side business.’ Like, No, you’re the CEO of that business. That’s number one,” said Paola. “So to every woman out there that doesn’t feel like they’re running something, just own your title. You are the CEO of that thing that you’re running day to day, whether that’s a project internally in a big corporation, or that’s your own business.” 

This Latina tech entrepreneur recounted her early career in law in the Dominican Republic and how she learned to own her title as a founder and entrepreneur. 

“I used to work at the National Elections Court in the Dominican Republic. I co-created the first Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic from scratch.” Still, she struggled to own her title at the time. Once she gave a name to her position and realized she was creating something new, she began to really see the path of her career open up before her. 

It’s hard to see where you can go when you are the first one doing it in your industry or there aren’t others like you to look up to. 

“You’re going to be uncomfortable, but you’re creating a new vision for what that role can be for you and for many people behind you,” said Paola. 

“So I do believe that is important to yes, inspire others, but also to tell others, you know what you’re doing, nobody has done it. So you need to duel the pros and cons. You’re a little bit alone, but at the same time, that means you don’t have to fit into anybody’s mold because you’re a whole new category of something. And I feel like that’s how I’ve carved my way into what I’m doing right now.”

Watch the full panel below

We need to have diverse people at the table

Diversity and representation across all industries are important and crucial. Sometimes, you may not be working in a male-dominated industry but you could be in an industry that was shaped or designed by men. 

Paola touches on this issue as well. “You feel out of touch or out of many things because this industry was not created to embrace you or to even embrace who you are or how you think,” she said. 

“So my perception is that you would always feel uncomfortable. And being uncomfortable—while not something you should embrace all the time—is an outcome of growing and going into places where nobody has been there before you. And that means creating larger tables. I tell everybody, investors, and people that work with me, I tell them: What’s the point? How can you create global products, if you don’t have a global team? And a global team means that you need to have diverse people at the table.” 

Leaders and pioneers of the industry need to prioritize these issues and create those larger tables that give everyone a seat. 

As a leader, mentor, and Latina tech entrepreneur, Paola Santana is working to make room at the table for more women like her and others who have been overlooked before. Through conversation and action, we can bring together Latinas and minority women and open doors for greater opportunities across all industries. 

You might be interested: From backyard chef to restaurant owner, Chef Yala shares her entrepreneurial journey and rise to success

Biden-Harris Administration expands SBA Pilot Program targeting access to capital for underserved entrepreneurs

Vice President Kamala Harris unveils improvements to SBA Community Advantage Pilot Program at White House Event with SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman.

On Wednesday, March 30, Vice President Kamala Harris and Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the voice for America’s 32.5 million small businesses in President Biden’s Cabinet, announced impactful reforms to the agency’s Community Advantage (CA) loan program, a key SBA tool for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Community Development Companies (CDCs), microlenders and other critical mission-based lending partners, that prioritizes equitable access to capital for low-income borrowers and those from underserved communities.

SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. (Photo Source)

“America’s mission-driven lenders have been a critical partner to the SBA in getting much-needed financial relief to underserved businesses throughout the COVID pandemic. Scaling the SBA’s Community Advantage pilot program will help us build on that momentum, create a broader distribution network and better ensure the opportunities of our nation’s accelerating recovery are accessible to more entrepreneurs pursuing their American dreams of starting and growing a successful business,” said Administrator Guzman

“The Community Advantage pilot expansion and reforms reflect the central role that President Biden and Vice President Harris have given to building equity across this Administration and removing historic inequities and barriers that have limited economic growth for all. My thanks to Vice President Harris, a longtime champion for Community Development Financial Institutions and other mission-driven lenders, for supporting this important change and helping to improve access to capital for more American entrepreneurs.”

Among the reforms announced for the Community Advantage program, the SBA will: 

  • Extend the pilot program to September 30, 2024, providing more certainty for the Community Advantage program, which was set to end in September 2022.
  • Lift the four-year lender moratorium and enable the SBA to grow this important lender network, opening up a critical capital program to more mission-based lenders across the country.
  • Increase the maximum loan size, the new expanded number of lenders will be allowed to access the SBA’s 7(a) government-guaranteed loan program at lending levels up to $350,000, which represent an increase over the current levels of $250,000.
  • Remove the restrictions that can keep individuals with criminal backgrounds from accessing the Community Advantage program.
  • Simplify underwriting and collateral requirements for borrowers and lenders, including increasing the maximum unsecured loan size from $25,000 to $50,000, removing barriers that disproportionally impact underserved borrowers.
  • Introduce additional abilities for lenders to make revolvers and lines of credit, interest-only periods, and other loan modifications that meet borrowers where they are to best serve their capital needs.
  • Redefine packaging fee guidelines to better enable CDFIs, CDCs, and mission lenders participating in the Community Advantage program to scale and increase volume to underserved communities.

Filling Gaps by Connecting Underserved Small Businesses to Capital

Designed to meet the credit, management, and technical assistance needs of small businesses in underserved markets, the SBA’s Community Advantage pilot loan program was launched during the Obama-Biden Administration and originally set to expire in September 2022. The program was intended to provide mission-oriented lenders, primarily nonprofit financial intermediaries focused on economic development, access to 7(a) loan guarantees previously for loans of only $250,000 or less. Community Advantage continues to be the best avenue to allow mission-driven lenders to access SBA 7(a) loans. The SBA’s goals for the Community Advantage program include:

  • Increasing access to credit for small businesses located in underserved areas;
  • Expanding points of access to the SBA 7(a) loan program by allowing participation of non-traditional, mission-oriented lenders; and 
  • Providing Management and Technical Assistance (M&TA) to small businesses, as needed.

You might be interested: SBA Women’s Business Ownership Assistant Administrator Natalie Madeira Cofield shares resources for women entrepreneurs to grow and thrive

Allies Praise Biden-Harris Administration Expansion of SBA’s Community Advantage Pilot Program 

Marla Bilonick, President and CEO, NALCAB of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders: “The Community Advantage Pilot Program (CA) is a lifeline for Latino small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs in underserved markets. Through nonprofit financial intermediaries that have deep knowledge of their communities, CA provides the tools and support needed to be successful. NALCAB has been closely engaged with the SBA on changes to the CA program that will help even more of our nation’s innovators start a business, grow and create new jobs. We applaud these reforms and urge swift adoption.”

Ron Busby Sr., President and CEO, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc: “The US Black Chambers is proud to support the changes to the Community Advantage program, understanding that the program plays a critical role in connecting Black businesses to capital in their communities. CDFIs ensure that Black firms can access capital from institutions that look like them, live in their communities, and understand their local economies. Underscoring that access to capital is the primary barrier for Black businesses to grow and scale, we applaud the SBA and the White House for working with stakeholders to ensure that programs like Community Advantage can continue to adapt to meet the needs of today’s economy.

Hilda Kennedy, Founder and President, AmPac Business Capital: “I have been involved on a number of committees, but I have never seen a regulatory body so committed to hearing the voices of the constituents with a timebound commitment to execute on what they heard.  I am utterly confident that these reforms in Community Advantage will have a game-changing impact on loans to underserved communities and specifically those communities that have had a 30-40% drop in SBA Lending – Black and Latino communities. The SBA Administrator came to Washington DC, not for pomp and circumstance, but to roll up her sleeves and work for small businesses, and she has delivered in just one year!”  

To learn more about Community Advantage and additional small business financial assistance programs, visit your local SBA office at www.sba.gov.

Valonne Smith

Natural Do founder and CEO Valonne Smith is giving back in a big way with new apprenticeship program

Natural Do, a black and woman owned natural hair care salon, is giving back in a big way.

Before Women’s History Month ends, we want to spotlight another incredible women founder who is paying it forward and creating opportunities for other women. 

Valonne Smith is the owner and founder of Natural Do, a membership salon and retail store offering natural hair care products specifically formulated for people with kinky, curly, wavy hair. 

As a woman of color with natural hair, Valonne thought, wouldn’t it be great to go to a salon and get the products and services I need? After searching for salons that catered to natural hair, she soon found that there was not much out there for this niche and decided to start her own salon with this vision in mind. 

Valonne Smith, founder and CEO of Natural Do. (Photo courtesy of Valonne Smith)

Leaning on her strength to put herself out there and engage with all kinds of people, Valonne began taking steps to build her dream business. Her vision finally came to fruition in 2016 when the first Natural Do location opened in Stockton, California. 

However, while building her business, Valonne encountered some struggles, as many entrepreneurs do. Unlike many businesses, though, the main struggle she faced over and over again was rooted in a lack of understanding from vendors and banks who did not understand her business’ niche and what they do. 

“They think we are just a regular hair salon, but because we are niche and cater to a specific client they don’t understand it,” said Valonne. “They don’t see how a natural hair salon is actually very different from the traditional salon.” 

It’s this specific client niche that makes Natural Do so unique and distinguishes them from other salons. 

Natural Do’s core mission is to educate “Curlfriends” on how to properly care for their hair and get the positive results they want, and embrace their natural hair texture using natural and organic-based products designed to nourish, strengthen, and maintain healthy hair growth.

 “My favorite part of my business that I love to see is when the stylist turns the client around in the chair and they see their hair. They look so happy and surprised that it’s their own natural hair that looks beautiful. There was no need to add chemicals or extensions. Just their beautiful natural curls.” 

Valonne is passionate about spreading that love for natural hair and continuing to educate individuals on how to care for their hair and embrace their natural look. 

Continuing her mission, Valonne is now expanding her reach with two new locations in the works in San Jose and Sacramento, along with introducing an exciting new opportunity for aspiring cosmetologists. 

With education at the center of Natural Do’s mission, the salon is now launching the Natural Do Apprenticeship Apprentice Academy, a training program approved by the Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) and the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology that allows people who have a talent in doing hair but may not have the resources to pay for cosmetology school, to be able to work in the salon and get on-the-job training all while getting paid. Under the guidance and supervision of a trainer, apprentices will hone their skills and after two years, they can then apply for the state board to get their cosmetology/barber license.

This incredible opportunity will help train more cosmetologists and barbers in the art of natural hair care and continue the salon’s mission while giving back. 

“Do what you love and have a strong interest in,” Valonne encourages aspiring entrepreneurs. (Photo courtesy of Valonne Smith)

Valonne encourages women entrepreneurs and professionals to focus on their passions. Her own business was founded on her passion for hair care and a desire to educate. Through her business she has also been able to help others follow their passions by providing education and apprenticeship opportunities. 

“Do what you love and have a strong interest in,” she said. “The business or your career will have ups and downs. There would be good days and amazing days,” she continued. “And the only thing that will keep you grounded is the love and passion you have for your business or career.” 

Valonne has faced her share of challenges throughout her journey, but ultimately it has all been worth it. She hopes to continue to reach more “Curlfriends” as Natural Do expands its reach with new locations and opportunities this year, and continue to educate and spread the love for natural hair. 

You might be interested: Meet the Frías sisters founders of Afro-Latina beauty brand LUNA MAGIC 

Announcing Panel Speakers for Latinas & Success at the 4th National Conversation with Latina Leaders

“Latinas & Success: What It Takes to Make It in America” will explore if the American Dream is still possible for Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs, with national speakers and influencers sharing the obstacles and barriers they overcame to get to the top.

The virtual event will be held on Friday, March 25 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm EST – 9:00 am to 11:00 am PST on Zoom and live-streamed on Facebook. For free registration to this event visit https://latinas-success.eventbrite.com. The event is open to all entrepreneurs regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. 

PANEL 1. Latinas & Success: How to Overcome Being a Latina, a Woman and [an Immigrant] to Achieve Success

These female founders had to struggle with all odds to become who they are today. Learn from their experience of discrimination, language barriers or lack of networks how they prevailed to succeed.

PANEL SPEAKER: Sandy Tejada, Actor

Sandy Tejada is one of the brightest up and coming young stars. While attracting a lot of attention from directors who often compare her to J. Lo, Sandy is still very much her own flavor. Proud of her Dominican heritage, Sandy was born in Manhattan, New York and raised by a single mother.

Her mother was a huge influence in her life, bestowing upon her the wisdom to achieve the American dream, and to seize control of her own destiny. A performer since the age of six, Sandy excelled in everything she set her mind to. Modeling, dancing, swimming, basketball, and softball were some of the ways that Sandy got to show off her natural talents. 

As a Latina in Hollywood today, Sandy says, “My greatest wish is to pave the way for greater representation of Latinxs in film and television.”

PANEL SPEAKER: Carmen Mercedes Baez (Chef Yala)

Chef Yala, is a private and executive chef, born in San Cristóbal, a small city in the south of the Dominican Republic, the daughter of Dominican parents and raised in New York City. Growing up she  always had a curious and restless mind, which eventually motivated her to start her own business. 

With more than nine years in the culinary field, she launched “El Patio de Yala” out of a passion, and years later, founded her restaurant “La Cocina de Yala” located in Bronx, NY. She is also the author of the book “Becoming Chef Yala: From A Backyard To A Kitchen.” 

PANEL MODERATOR: Moderator: Dr. Ginny Baro, Thought Leader and Founder of Executive Bound

Dr. Ginny Baro develops senior leaders to create business growth, high-performing teams, and personal well-being. She spent over 20 years in various leadership roles in financial services and technology, and today Ginny is an international transformational speaker, leadership coach, career strategist, and #1 bestselling author. 

Named one of the Top 100 Global Thought Leaders, Ginny created the Fearless Leadership Mastermind™ training to help leaders gain critical leadership skills to lead, engage, and influence their teams to surpass business goals and thrive together with purpose. She has successfully delivered leadership training and coaching programs for organizations, individuals, and Fortune 500 partners, impacting global audiences. To learn more, please visit www.executivebound.com.

Panel 2. Latinas in Male-Dominated Industries: Who’s the Boss?

Male-dominated industries and occupations are particularly vulnerable to reinforcing harmful stereotypes and creating unfavorable environments that make it even more difficult for women to excel. These successful Latinas can tell how to overcome those stereotypes and who is really the boss in their own businesses. 

PANEL SPEAKER: Paola Santana, Founder and CEO of Social Glass

Paola Santana is a lawyer, public procurement expert and tech entrepreneur, creating the next breakthrough in government systems. She’s the founder and CEO of Social Glass, a software ecosystem using Artificial Intelligence to power high-performing governments.

She co-established the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court, and worked at the National Elections Court coordinating the Elections Litigation Chamber. She has also collaborated with the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the OECD, developing striking public infrastructure projects and strategic partnerships integrating exponential technologies.

She’s best known for her ability to create things from scratch at the intersection of the public, private and regulatory domains, and for her track record introducing cutting-edge technologies into highly-regulated markets. Her most recent experience includes co-drafting the public-private partnership enabling the first multi-state Hyperloop system in the United States.

PANEL SPEAKER: Brittney Castro, Brand ambassador, Founder of Financially Wise Inc.

Brittney is a leading speaker, host, and brand ambassador and has worked alongside top brands like Chase, Mint, ETrade, CNBC, Gemini, AirBnB, Zoom, Altruist, Refinery29, and more to promote financial literacy via media interviews, video content, celebrity, and expert interviews, TV appearances and more.

At the age of 22, Brittney began her career as a financial advisor and at 28 launched her own Registered Investment Advisory, Financially Wise Inc. Over those 15 years, she worked with thousands of clients on their financial journeys. In 2020, she sold her private practice to focus all her time on speaking, content creation, and brand partnerships.

In 2021, Brittney co-hosted and produced “Chantel’s Money Moves” a show backed by Facebook to teach Gen Z’s personal finance and investing.

PANEL MODERATOR: Rosario B Casas, Co-founder, VR Americas and Brooklyn2Bogota Incubator

Award-winning Colombian-born entrepreneur with more than 7 years of practical experience in data and technology platforms and more than 20 years in executive roles. Spatial Computing expert and developer. She is obsessed with having more women prepared to solve problems with technology.

Co-founder of XR Americas, a software company that uses spatial computing systems (AR + VR + AI) focused on improving workforce learning. Co-founder of BCPartners Tech, a consulting firm specializing in digital adoption and transformation. Co-creator of the 4 Dimensional Quotient guide. Co-founder member of Dreamers & Doers. Co-Founder at #Brooklyn2Bogota, digital transformation incubator for Hispanic small business owners.

Rosario is a member of the Big Data Advisory Board of Rutgers University, SXSW Pitch, XR In Learning, The World Innovation Network – TWIN Tech, and a member of the Board of Directors of Kaleidoscope Premium VR Grant. 

PANEL 3. Funding Strategies to Achieve your Dream Business – Grants, Angel Investors and Venture Capital 

These successful female founders are now leaning in and giving back! How they found purpose in helping fund other women’s businesses in a formerly male-dominated field. 

PANEL SPEAKER: Monika Mantilla, Co-founder of Altura Capital and Small Business Community Capital 

Monika co-founded Altura Capital in 2005 to allow institutional investors and strategic partners to invest in high-performing small and diverse businesses that supply value-added goods and services to corporate America. In her 30-plus year career, Monika has focused on offering significant returns to investors while delivering valuable economic impact to communities. 

In 2012, Monika co-founded Small Business Community Capital, one of the few Latina-led SBIC funds in the United States. SBCC and Altura are playing a pivotal role in developing an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, advisors and corporations working together to harness opportunities.

Monika sits on the board of directors for various companies and organizations including Cidrines, Coastal Painting, 9th Wonder, the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI), the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) She is a fellow member of the Aspen Latinos in Society program and the author of a chapter in the book “Advancing U.S. Latino Entrepreneurship.”

PANEL SPEAKER: Betty Francisco, CEO, Boston Impact Initiative

Betty Francisco is a seasoned business executive, board director, angel investor, and community leader. She is known as a powerful convener and changemaker, unapologetic about creating visibility for Latinx and people of color.

Betty is currently the CEO of Boston Impact Initiative, a social impact investment fund that invests integrated capital in regenerative local enterprises in Eastern Massachusetts that are owned and controlled by entrepreneurs of color or are serving communities of color. She is the co-founder of Amplify Latinx, a social venture that is building Latinx economic and political power by significantly increasing Latino civic engagement, economic opportunity and leadership representation in Massachusetts. Betty is also co-founder of the Investors of Color Network, a consortium of Black and Latinx accredited investors working to close the racial funding gap in startup capital.

She serves on the Boards of Directors of The Boston Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Beth Israel Lahey Health, and Roxbury Community College. She is also a founding member of the Coalition for an Equitable Economy which is building an equitable small business ecosystem for entrepreneurs of color in Massachusetts.

PANEL SPEAKER: Susana Marino, founder and President, Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 

Susana Marino is the founder and current President of the Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – NOVAHCC. Susana is a first generation Latina and immigrant from Venezuela, South America. 

Susana decided to launch the Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2018 to improve the level of access to diversity supplier opportunities for Latinos, and other multi-ethnic businesses in Northern Virginia.  NOVAHCC is an international business and trade association representing people of all entrepreneurial backgrounds and industries.

The goal of the chamber is to focus on delivering bottom-line results with B2B/B2G matchmaking, creating opportunities for economic growth for small business through contracting opportunities with the private and public sector, access to capital, revenue accelerator training and career opportunities.   

Susana also serves in the Board of Directors for Virginia Career Works. As part of the board, Susana and a team oversees how the organization partners effectively with programs to assist job seekers in the Northern Virginia region.   

PANEL MODERATOR: Maria del Pilar Avila, founder and CEO, InterDUCTUS/Renovad

Maria del Pilar Avila, founder of interDUCTUS, is an organizational change management consulting practice with clients including impact & ESG focused investment funds, foundations and nonprofits. Through our Renovad executive development and wellness programs, she aims to elevate the impact of global leaders.

She began her career in hospitality with Hilton & Puerto Rico Convention Bureau and eventually was transferred from San Juan to Washington DC, where she was immersed in the burgeoning Hispanic market as a VP of Marketing & Events of U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Previously as CEO of New America Alliance, she led implementation of the NAA mission focused on building on American Latino success while bringing diverse leaders and communities together to forge a stronger America. Under her leadership, NAA opened access to billions of dollars for diverse asset managers, enabling members to expand aggregate assets under management (AUM) to almost $80 Billion. Pilar led public advocacy focused on The White House, US Congress, Federal & State agencies which resulted in the first-ever US House Financial Services Comm hearing on diversity in finance; advancing support for diversity in corporate boards and the initial version of the DREAM Act; and launching state hearings & legislation aiming to diversify management of public pension assets.

You might be interested: Women’s History Month celebration gathers nationally recognized speakers and influencers to discuss Latinas & Success at the 4th National Conversation with Latina Leaders