Innovative attitude: the 7 keys to becoming an innovative entrepreneur

Take your business venture to the next level by embracing the innovative attitude and becoming a successful, innovative entrepreneur.  

In the 21st century we live in an increasingly competitive and constantly moving market; the challenge of any successful venture is to be able to position itself in that context. As consumers we are more demanding, we want the best, in the shortest possible time, and at the lowest possible price. Technology and social media have determined new work standards and those who cannot rise to those standards run the risk of being left out of the competition.

innovative entrepreneur

Daniela De Lucia, Certified Strategic Coach, entrepreneur in personal and professional development, and personal branding specialist. 

Today, as much as it hurts us to say it: entrepreneurs who do a bad job will not even be able to start; entrepreneurs who do a good job will go out of business; entrepreneurs who do a very good job will get mediocre results; entrepreneurs who do excellent work will get very good results. Only entrepreneurs who do extraordinary work will obtain excellent results that will lead to success.

How does one become an extraordinary entrepreneur? The answer is innovation. Innovation results in extraordinary products or services that enable us to achieve success in the market today.

In the 21st century, resistance to change is not an option, every entrepreneur must develop their attitude and innovative capacity to meet the demands and changes of the market.

We could say then that innovation is one of the consequences of raising work standards towards the extraordinary, which implies finding and offering solutions out of the ordinary.

Just as there is the entrepreneurial attitude as a great umbrella that frames the skills of an entrepreneur, within it there is the innovative attitude. The innovative attitude is a basic characteristic of every entrepreneur, but the degree of intensity varies in each case.

There are no innovative ventures, only innovative people. If you want to take the next step in your business by innovating or want to create an innovative business, stop focusing on market opportunities and begin to focus on developing the skills to be ready to detect the needs in a new reality and have the ability to create something to satisfy them.

Innovative people take the pre-existing and redesign it with the goal of improving it, or in some cases create something entirely new. Innovation results in tools created by human ingenuity to improve the quality of life for millions of people.

There would be no Apple without Steve Jobs; there wouldn’t be a Tesla without Elon Musk; There would be no Amazon without Jeff Bezos. But what is even more important is that not all these companies would exist without customers who love their products and services. So these innovative geniuses understood the needs of their customers and offered innovative solutions. The key then is not only innovation, but finding and offering an innovative solution aimed at meeting the needs of people–of many, many people.

The 7 keys to becoming an innovative entrepreneur

Always look forward and up

Innovation is highly related to continuous improvement. Innovative people don’t settle for what’s out there, they always want to go for a little more.

Constant fighters of “It was always done like this” seek change to improve standards in their results, and thus deliver more efficient solutions to the market. Innovators are fine, but they want MORE, and move up and forward. That is why innovators are often portrayed as positive and somewhat restless people. Having a positive attitude is essential for any area of ​​life and any business. In order to innovate, it is necessary to not only have a positive attitude, but a constant attitude of personal and professional improvement that spreads to the business. Wanting to grow and improve is then almost more important than having a positive attitude to innovate.

Innovators are Mad Hatters

Most people do not even dare to dream something if they do not know how to achieve it. In many of my inquiries I ask questions such as: Would you like your business to expand throughout the country? And the most common answer is “I don’t know, I can’t even imagine it, I wouldn’t know HOW to do it.” I call this “the tyranny of the HOW”. It happens when we let not knowing how to do something limit our creative capacity. We let uncertainty and the lack of concrete answers limit our ability to dream and create a new reality from it. Innovative people ask the HOW at the end of the process and not at the beginning. When we really want something, we find all the Hows along the way, when we walk.

The right questions to foster our innovative spirit are: Why? Why not? What if …? What would happen if…?

Every great invention was first a great dream of someone who dared to dream and fantasize big.

The mad hatter in the book Alice in Wonderland says, “Sometimes I think six impossible things before breakfast”, this is an exercise that encourages our creativity, awakens our dreaming spirit and leads us to start the day thinking differently.

Innovative entrepreneurs are futuristic

Creative personalities are often confused with innovative ones. Creative people have the ability to create new realities, they have many ideas, flexibility in their approach; but an innovative person has something else, which is that they are seekers of change whose gaze is oriented to the future with the aim of finding and providing solutions to society. While the creative person may be left alone in the present and create a wonderful piece of art or isolated idea, the innovator goes much further. The innovator has a vision and purpose for change; and seeks to disrupt entire industries and its creations can impact future generations. Sustainability and innovation are highly related.

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Innovators play devil’s advocates

Innovative entrepreneurs often have the attitude of “Devil’s Advocate.” They go against the established and always look at a reality from different perspectives. “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect,” says Mark Twain. If we want to innovate, if we want to achieve something different, we must lead ourselves to think differently and question what is established. It is useless to see reality and think like most when we want to create something new. It is for this reason that the most diverse work teams are the most effective when it comes to innovating. We are not used to dissent, they taught us that good work teams are those in which the members are all the same and agree on everything. In the twentieth century school, few were the brave who dared to raise their hands to say that they did not agree with the teacher or that they had not understood the explanation. The reality is that it was not well seen to interrupt and much less to disagree on something. Some of us have even been punished for it. 

We are trained to think and work in “series” in the Fordist style, it is up to us to promote our innovative attitude because perhaps it does not come naturally to us. To foster an innovative spirit then we must take ourselves to different places, talk with people who think differently from us, and above all, question what is established. The status quo is what we must challenge to innovate. Highly innovative people are curious, dreamy, and tend to question what other people accept without even thinking that there may be the possibility of change.

Innovative entrepreneurs are attentive servers

Innovation is not fun, it is not creativity, it is having an eye on today’s society to understand it better than anyone else and create solutions that increase their well-being, comfort, or even happiness.

Far from being scientists locked up in their offices, innovators have to go out into the world in order to innovate. The first mistake an entrepreneur who wants to innovate makes is to focus on their own needs instead of paying attention to the needs of others. The second mistake is paying attention to the needs of a small group of people, generally loved ones, family & friends; which is almost the same as looking at your own needs. The successful innovative entrepreneur focuses on the macro, on society and the plurality of needs, and above all, on the contribution that their product / service will make in their lives.

Innovative people are very observant and attentive to details and how others behave: from their emotions and motivations, to their most basic needs. Empathy is a fundamental tool to understand how to devise solutions to improve the quality of life. This ability is achieved by observing and listening to the client, or future client, putting their needs above ours first.

Innovators are gurus

They say that the guru is that person who makes us see simple truths that we could not see for ourselves. Innovators do something similar, in general, when we see something innovative that improves our life we ​​think: Why didn’t I think of it? The simpler and user-friendly a product is, the more innovative it is. One of the world’s leading innovators Elon Musk says, “If you need an instruction manual, it’s already broken.”

The innovative attitude is characterized by the simplicity in the search for solutions that is reflected in the final product or service. Innovation simplifies life, never complicates it. To innovate, the key is to stop thinking about “twisted” ideas and start looking for obvious solutions that until now seemed impossible to satisfy.

Humility is another of the characteristics of great innovators, it allows them to have an attitude of eternal learners where they always find the place to improve and learn something new. Who doubts nothing, knows nothing and does not allow themselves to grow. The flexibility, simplicity and humility of the innovative entrepreneur gives them the necessary openness to discover new opportunities, receive constructive opinions about their work and as a consequence grow a little more every day.

Innovators just do it

Many people have ideas, but there are few who bring those ideas to the plane of reality. What differentiates innovative entrepreneurs is that they make, prototype, and test their ideas in the marketplace. Doing, learning, and redoing is part of the innovation implementation process. The innovative attitude is a constant exploration of opportunities in thinking, and above all, in doing. The innovator makes his way by walking and builds his new reality at each step. Opportunities and inspiration arise from doing, and not from waiting for it to happen.

This article was originally written in Spanish by Daniela De Lucia. Translated for Latinas in Business by Victoria Arena. 

About the author: Daniela De Lucia holds a Cum Laudae Degree in Public and Institutional Relations and Postgraduate Degree in Neuro Linguistic Programming and Coaching from Austral University. She is a Certified Strategic Coach with Tony Robbins (Robbins Madanes Trained Coach), entrepreneur in personal and professional development, personal branding specialist, and communicator on Instagram with a community of more than 100k followers.

How Chavez Web Design is helping to grow small businesses

Chavez Web Design, LLC is a one-stop-shop for all your digital marketing needs. They help small businesses create their logo, videos, business cards, website, Google Ads, Search Engine Optimization, and social media marketing. They understand that every business is different and are committed to helping small businesses grow and accomplish their goals.

Noemi Chavez, owner and founder of Chavez Web Design. (Photo courtesy Noemi Chavez)

As “Growth With Google” partners and SBDC (Small Business Development Center) consultants, they also work to educate the small business community on how to promote their business with Google, and run their business more efficiently. 

Their goal and mission is to help organizations reach their growth goals through effective digital marketing strategies.

Chavez Web Design’s small business roots 

Chavez Web Design was founded by Noemi Chavez in 2008 when she became pregnant with her first child. What began as a small side business to earn some extra money has now become a successful full-time family business that she runs with her husband, Luis. 

“I was excited about the idea of spending more time with my son and making some extra money to support our little family at the same time,” says Noemi. “I quickly discovered that owning a business was pushing me to grow and to create new opportunities to help other small businesses. My passion for helping others allowed us to help over 600 businesses with their website and digital marketing.” 

Noemi is driven by her clients’ success and she truly understands the struggles of starting a small business because she’s been there herself. 

“Opening a new business is hard,” she says, reflecting back on her own struggles.

When she first began, finding clients was not easy, especially being a Latina woman entering a male dominated field.  

“At first, every prospect I visited asked me for work samples, and at that time, I didn’t have any,” says Noemi. “In 2008, I was knocking on doors every day of every week, but still no clients. Keeping myself motivated was not easy after getting that much rejection.”

However, these setbacks did not stop her and finally, after many months, she got her first client and doors began to open. 

“He introduced me to his friends and I started getting some momentum. But the biggest breakthrough was when I got introduced to the local chamber. It was perfect for me because all of the small business owners were there! They had the opportunity to learn about what I do, and I was going to help them with their business.”

Luis and Noemi Chavez, accepting award. (Photo courtesy Noemi Chavez)

Since then, Chavez Web Design has grown and helped hundreds of businesses reach their goals and succeed. The success stories are what motivate and inspire Noemi. 

“Nothing is more satisfying than hearing our client’s success stories after helping them with their marketing strategies,” she says. “We love what we do and we bring the result to our clients. What makes our company unique is that I have a sincere interest in having your business excel.” 

You might be interested: 3 Marketing challenges Latina-owned businesses face

Grow your business: Plan your work and work your plan 

For Noemi, success is helping others succeed. She strives to make her business a warm and welcoming place for clients and takes the time to really get to know them and understand their needs so that she can help them create strong businesses that can survive any situation. She is also committed to promoting education in the small business community by providing them with access to one-on-one training and tools to grow their businesses.

Chavez Web Design, digital marketing

Chavez Web Design, specializing in digital marketing and design for small businesses. (Photo courtesy Noemi Chavez)

One story Noemi shared with us was of one of her students named Olga, who Noemi helped launch her dream business.

“I met Olga Duran in one of my Google classes,” says Noemi. “She was super excited to be there! She was working at an orange packing house for the last 25+ years but her dream was to open a flower shop. She started to follow my classes at every place I had a teaching event, even though she had never been 25 miles away from her city!”

“She finally found the courage to register her business and open the doors. In her first month, she doubled her salary by running a business that she loves! Stories like hers make us want to keep improving. We want to provide the best service to see dreams come true every day.”

Success stories like Olga’s remind us that our dreams are possible, we just need to take the leap and not be afraid to seek help.

Noemi says to any aspiring entrepreneurs, “Forget about the fear of starting a business and start getting educated. Find people and organizations that can guide you to make better decisions. Do not listen to people that have never run a business.” 

Too often we stop ourselves from making a move out of fear or lack of knowledge, but there are people out there like Noemi ready to help you navigate the world of business. Success is possible. Your dreams are possible.

“Start by creating a business plan. Remember to plan your work and work your plan,” Noemi says. “Set up the right expectation of what you are getting into and most important: Be flexible and adapt your strategies according to the results that you are getting. Don’t wait for the perfect moment because it will never arrive. Just work with what you have. And good luck! “

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strategic alliances

The Power of WE NYC and four Latina entrepreneurs building strategic alliances to succeed

The Power of WE NYC presented a panel “en español” leading to discuss the topic of “Building Strategic Alliances”(Construyendo Alianzas Estratégicas). WE NYC (Women Entrepreneurs NYC) is an initiative based out of the New York City Department of Small Business Servicesdedicated to helping women start and grow their businesses.

The Power of WE NYC Spanish Panel (L to R) Diana Franco, WE NYC; Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business Inc.; Juanita Galvis, The Assemblage; Bisila Bokoko, BBES International; Sarah Valdovinos, Walden Green Energy; and Rosario B. Casas, VR Americas.  (Photo Credit:

“While there are almost 359,000 women entrepreneurs in NYC and women contribute approximately $50 Billion annually in revenue,” says WE NYC,  “according to our research, men own 1.5 times the number of businesses, have 3.5 times the number of employees, and generate 4.5 times the amount of revenue.”

strategic alliances

Diana Franco, Director, WE NYC (Photo Credit:

I was grateful for the opportunity to be invited as a panel moderator for this event, and to be able to meet with the WE NYC team led by Diana Franco, Director, Women Entrepreneurs NYC. In her remarks, Diana prompted the audience -mostly Spanish speaking entrepreneurs or to-be entrepreneurs- to think of strategic alliances and partnerships as ways of building and expanding their businesses rapidly and more effectively.

strategic alliances

Susana G Baumann, Founder, President and CEO, Latinas in Business Inc.

As explained on their event’s brief, “The WE NYC research conducted in 2015, found that 75% of the WE cited the lack of business networks as a challenge. Creating these networks will be especially helpful to obtain clients and build partnerships. There is no better approach to solving challenges than the famous saying ‘two heads are better than one,’ harnessing the strengths and abilities of others from different corners of the ecosystem is one of the most strategic ways for businesses to scale.”

How hard is it to be a Latina entrepreneur?

We know how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur … Moreover, when you carry what I call “the triple qualifier”: being a woman, an immigrant –or a descendant of immigrant parents or grandparents– and a Latina … working and struggling to sustain and grow your business.

We had the opportunity to listen and interact with a panel of women entrepreneurs who benefited from different types of strategic alliances and collaborations and with them facilitated the success of their respective companies.

Juanita Galvis: An enterprise based on collaborations
strategic alliances

Juanita Galvis, co-founder and Chief of Social Impact, The Assemblage. (Photo Credit:

Juanita Galvis is Co-Founder and Head of Social Impact of The Assemblage, spaces of co-participation designed specially to promote growth, creativity, and personal and business well-being. These spaces can be used for work, community building and even flexible stays and event production and promotion.

The vision of Juanita’s company describes the values ​​that sustain their model as: collaboration, innovation, relaxation, growth, balance and impact. In the topic of collaboration, for example, they mention the assembly or connection with other creatives, leaders and entrepreneurs to develop projects that inspire social change and disrupt the established order.

Juanita spoke about her biggest challenge, which is a to be part of a family business with her ex-husband. “We have created a different type of relationship between us,” she said, “personal and professional. We established certain rules and we defined our areas of expertise so decisions are made that way. It is not impossible,” she explained.

Rosario B. Casas: Technology and strategic alliances
strategic alliances

Rosario B. Casas, Co-founder, VR Americas.  (Photo Credit:

Rosario B. Casas is Co-Founder and CEO of  VR Americas, a company dedicated to expanding the borders of immersive technologies –Virtual Reality, Augmented, Mixed– in industrial applications. Rosario is a Colombian entrepreneur based now in New York with more than 7 years of practical experience in data and technology platforms and management roles.

She is also an enthusiastic advocate for growth of Women in Technology (STEM), co-founder of several strategic partnership models, member of the Big Data Advisory Board at Rutgers University, and has been a lecturer at TEDx, The World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship , and The World Innovation Network TWIN Global, among others.

In addition to its virtual reality products, perhaps the most well-known project of VR Americas was the Telemundo AR campaign for the 2018 World Cup. Through an application, fans of the world could follow and support their favorite teams and players, witness crucial moments of the championship, share it in networks and even play with their favorite effects.

Rosario explained how she started her virtual reality company with two partners that understood their roles. “One is a nerd like me,” she said,” the other one is our out-and-about person, who finds clients partners.”

As a company that needs to develop a portfolio of present customers and at the same time increase the capacity of their company with a vision to the future, they are constantly looking at who their potential clients are and who can benefit from the technology they offer. “Remember that you need to solve a problem, a ‘pain’ that your customers cannot resolve by themselves,” Rosario said.

strategic alliances

Sarah Valdovinos, Co-Founder, Walden Green Energy.  (Photo Credit:

Sarah Valdovinos: Access to strategic capital

Sarah Valdovinos is Co-Founder of Walden Green Energy, a company focused on renewable energy projects. In addition to her work at Walden, Sarah makes investments in companies that fight climate change, including solar energy distribution companies in Latin America, charging station networks for electric vehicles, and other sustainable technology companies.

Previously, Sarah worked 10 years in investment banking. She entered the field of energy over twenty years ago at Southern California Edison. Sarah is first generation of a Mexican family, and she has also been the first of her family to graduate from college.

Getting capital from investors is one of the most important obstacles for all small businesses, especially for minority-owned companies. Many do not have the family network and social relationships that can become initial or angel investors.

Sarah defined early on that she was interested in sustainable energy but saw that money was an issue to achieve her goals. “I decided to pursue an MBA and work for a few years in the financial industry, where I not only acquired the knowledge to build my own business with two partners, but also the contacts and relationships I needed to fund my projects,” she explained.

Most impressive is Walden Green Energy’s rapid growth. In just 7 years, they started the construction of two projects that produce 150 MW of solar energy. “To give you an idea, it powers about 50,000 to 60,000 families,” Sarah explained.

Bisila Bokoko: Alliances for international expansion
strategic alliances

Bisila Bokoko, Founder, BBES International. (Photo Credit:

Bisila Bokoko is an award-winning bilingual speaker, television personality and advisor to world leaders. Bisila is the founder of BBES International,a business development agency based in New York that represents, promotes and markets brands to reach the global market. She also serves as an advisor to emerging leaders, providing guidance on personal branding and leadership that prepares them to move to the world stage and share their experience at a global market.

Bisila has shared her professional experience and her inspiring journey with audiences around the world during her 18-year career, and has been a presenter in diverse places such as the United Nations Organization in Switzerland, a keynote speaker in the Dominican Republic and in South Africa.

Bisila presents her company as a passport to other markets and she introduces herself as the “ambassador” of the brands she represents. “An Ambassador, like in real life, is someone who represents your brand with total knowledge and expertise about your company and is completely embedded in your company’s vision and goals. It is someone who can speak intelligently and convincingly to global strategic partners and get them interested in your product,” she explained.

BBES International mostly represent Spanish brands that have entered international markets such as Europe, South Africa, Latin America and the United States. “Before I take a new client and develop an international marketing strategy, we evaluate the company to see if they are ready for the jump, and the markets that best fit their needs,” she shared.

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The audience then got to make questions to these fantastic Latina entrepreneurs who are rapidly growing their businesses and sharing their experiences. We thanked them for their time,  it was truly an extraordinary panel about strategic alliances, and we learned from their successes!

strategic alliances

Q&A Session after the Building Strategic Alliances panel – Dr Ginny A. Baro. (Photo Credit:


Gladys cleaning services

Latina entrepreneur Gladys Vonglahn makes impact with cleaning services

Gladys Vonglahn, a Latina entrepreneur and the founder of Gladys’ Cleaning Service LLC, turned cleaning services into a passion for entrepreneurship and an established company in both residential and commercial services.

Gladys cleaning services

Gladys Cleaning Services use humor to entice their clients

Gladys began her business in 2003 cleaning homes and apartments, with the desire to turn her passion for cleaning into a career. Like many immigrants, Gladys came to the U.S. without much experience and could not speak English, but she did not let these obstacles stop her from her entrepreneurial ambition.

She began working in the cleaning business without much knowledge of professional cleaning, without access to capital, and with a language barrier. Little by little her business began to grow due to her constant dedication and from there she was able to structure her business into the company it is today.

The biggest obstacle she cites is the language barrier which made communicating with her clients difficult at the start of her business.

Gladys Vonglahn, founder and CEO of Gladys Cleaning Services

Gladys Vonglahn, founder and CEO of Gladys Cleaning Services

Though, it is thanks to these obstacles that Gladys became motivated to continue to push through them and constantly reinvent herself and adapt to the changes in her industry. “I have a good sense of humor and I use it to market my services and also create communication channels with my clients,” Gladys said. 

As a Latina small business owner she is very dynamic and multifaceted and she believes her flexible attitude and adaptability is one of her biggest strengths apart from her ambition. It is these qualities that have allowed her to continue to grow her business over the past fifteen years.

Alongside her entrepreneurial ambition is her genuine desire to help her clients. Her goal has always been to provide the highest quality service to her clients and adapt to their needs. “The customer is always right,” she says.  

She values her clients greatly and she shares one story with us about a special client.

In 2013, Gladys received a call from a potential client asking for her services. The client lived 60 miles away from Gladys and she unfortunately had to decline the job because she was unable to travel such distance to clean his home.

Later the client called back three more times asking her to come clean his house and that he would pay whatever was necessary. After insisting so much, Gladys decided she would make the trip. When she arrived at the house and the client opened the door she realized it was Jessie Armstead, a famous football player for the Giants. He thanked her so much for cleaning his home because he did not want anyone else to enter his house.

“I felt honored that he valued the service I provided so much and that he had the patience to wait for me to be available to schedule him,” she said. 

cleaning servicesGladys says her mission has always been and will always be to not only have a successful business but to also leave a legacy in her area of work. Seeing the impact of her work and how much she is appreciated by her clients motivates her to continue providing her services to others.

In addition to her business, Gladys also uses her life experience as a Latina woman who has been exposed to different cultures and social classes to give motivational speeches at Casa de Don Pedro to women who have been victims of domestic abuse. She also volunteers as Mantena Global Care and helps the Brazilian and hispanic communities in Newark.

Overall, Gladys hopes she can continue to help and inspire others through both her business and her volunteer work.

To other Latinas aspiring to start their own ventures she says, “I would like to motivate Latinas to  start their entrepreneurial dream. The hardest part is getting started….Little by little all is possible, and to do what one loves is not ‘work’ but instead it is a daily passion that you continue to feed throughout the years.”  

Latina entrepreneurs Stanford

Opportunity knocks for Latina entrepreneurs at the Latino Business Action Network

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.



Social mission integration

Latina entrepreneur: How your social mission can optimize your business model

Is it important to have a social mission in your small business? Our Guest Contributor Jeff Zhou explains how having a social mission in your small business can help you optimize your business returns by aligning  your social mission with your business model. What he calls “You can have your cake and eat it too.” Welcome, Jeff!

Social mission integration

As a founder, I am always optimizing our limited dollars between competing goals. One area I have never had to compromise is social mission. We are fortunate to have mission alignment: at my company, Fig, our business return is maximized when our customers achieve the highest possible credit score.

What is mission alignment? Simply put, it is the level to which a company’s social mission is baked into its business mission. A company’s business mission will always be to generate return, while the social mission can be anything from improving access to drinking water to making it easier to get a reasonable loan.

When these two missions are not aligned, it can cause internal conflict because social mission activities have real costs, and companies have limited dollars.

With complete alignment, a company no longer has to make trade offs: there is a single path forward.

Let’s look at an example:

TOMS is a shoe company that popularized the Buy One Give One (BOGO) approach. Buy one pair of shoes and they will give one to someone in need.

Toms improving lives social mission

Toms improving lives social mission

It is a fantastic model that provides many shoes to those who need it, but it is not completely mission aligned because giving shoes away is a cost to the company. While the marketing, sales, and other benefits could ultimately outweigh costs, I would argue there is room for more alignment because BOGO is not a core business activity.

TOMS’ core business is making and selling shoes. TOMS then uses a portion of the proceeds to buy shoes / clean water / medical supplies for in-need groups. I can break out these two distinct activities because, from the start, the mission is not baked into the core business.

What if the societal benefits could be irrevocably tied to selling shoes? What if TOMS’ shoes were only made and sold via companies owned by the people that they are giving shoes to today? What if TOMS’ process of making higher quality shoes naturally created clean water as a byproduct?

My ideas might be farfetched, but I am hoping to demonstrate that it is possible to improve TOMS’ mission alignment. If TOMS’ shoes were made and sold by the people they’re giving shoes to today… then TOMS core business of making and selling shoes would no longer be separated from their social mission to support communities in need! In 2013, TOMS started producing shoes in Haiti, a region they were giving shoes to… mission alignment!

How can you find social mission alignment?

The worst (and best) part about finding alignment is that there is no silver bullet: every company is unique. For the little that it is worth, here are the three questions we asked ourselves repeatedly at Fig to get to mission alignment.

1) What is success for our customer?

2) How can we build a business that creates this success?

3) If we do everything (be honest with yourself, everything means everything) to drive business return, how does that impact our customer success outcome?

At Fig, we ultimately found alignment through business model innovation. TOMS achieved alignment through operations. Finding alignment is not easy, but it has allowed us to operate more efficiently and grow without fear of losing our core mission.

Working on social mission alignment or think it is a waste of air? I would love to hear your thoughts and share ideas! Reach out at


Jeff Zhou social mission

Jeff Zhou, Founder FigLoans


Jeff Zhou is founder of FigLoans, which changes the way people with low credit experience banking by offering emergency loans and financial stability products in a socially responsible way. He was a peer-selected winner of Village Capital: FinTech US 2016.


Four Latina entrepreneurs featured on semifinalists in HSN competition

Four* community members have been selected as semifinalists for the national HSN competition in partnership with Project American Dreams ( We are so proud for all their accomplishments!

(L to R) Frances Prado, Hipatia Lopez, Victoria Flores, Francesca Kennedy

(L to R) Frances Prado, Hipatia Lopez, Victoria Flores, Francesca Kennedy

Frances Prado (CA), founder and inventor of the bras organizer Hanging Secrets; Victoria Flores (NY), co-founder at LUX Beauty Club; Hipatia Lopez (NJ), creator of the Empanada Fork; and Francesca Kennedy, founder of Ix Style, a fashion brand based on Guatemalan designs will move to the next round of the business competition that aims at discovering, mentoring and fast-tracking product innovations created by Latino entrepreneurs on the shopping network HSN.

HSN competition

The selected entrepreneurs will participate in a hands-on program designed to introduce new products to the marketplace through a partnership between leading lifestyle retailer HSN, and award-winning entrepreneur and creator of Dreamers Ventures, Liliana “Lili” Gil Valletta.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of our Latina entrepreneurs and excited about this well-deserved opportunity for their innovative products,” said Susana G Baumann, Founder and Editor-in-Chief. “In fact, Empanada Fork was the very first Latina entrepreneur we featured on platform when we launched a little over two years ago for Hispanic Heritage Month. Hanging Secrets was also selected as one of the featured products in July 2015,” she said.

Hipatia Lopez, winner of the 2016 Best Business Pitch that recently took place in West New York, recalls that in her earlier stages of founding her business H.L. Unico LLC DBA Empanada Fork she was going to NYC looking for Latina empowering networks, wishing there was one in New Jersey.

Hanging Secrets intimate apparel organizer closet

Hanging Secrets intimate apparel organizer

“To my surprise, I was so happy to have met Susana Baumann at a Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey event. I became part of the community in its early stages,” she said. “Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, we feel alone and on our own. We are afraid to ask for help! genuinely cares about its members and wants to see them achieve their goals. I was so happy to have won the #pitchyourbusiness competition two years in a row and I look forward to working with them more in the near future,” Hipatia said.

Frances Prado, CEO and Inventor of Hanging Secrets, also remembers contacting to promote her business. “In June of 2015, I reached out to Susana G. Baumann regarding the opportunity of being spotlighted in Susana supported my request and made it very easy to provide the content about my life as an inventor and my entrepreneur journey,” she said. “My article was published on July 2015. When I started reading the post, it made me cry. I had to stop and take a few breaths before I was able to continue reading it. Susana was able to convert my content into an amazing story that gushed empathy. When I shared the article to my peers and family, they all had the same reaction. Susana has a true gift in storytelling,” she stated.

The HSN competition next steps

HSN competition

Susana G Baumann (L) and Lili Gil Valetta at the 2016 Best Business Awards and Pitch your Business competition

At the HSN competition, judges reviewed and selected up to 20 products; five entrepreneurs will then win the opportunity to introduce their products to HSN viewers reaching 94 million households in the Spring of 2017.

“While Latinos represent 17% of the population and are starting more new businesses than the general population, they receive less access to opportunities and get less than 1% of all venture capital and angel funding,” said Lili Gil Valletta, co-founder of Dreamers Ventures. “This is why I assembled an alliance of leading experts, investors and mentors to fill the gap in access and opportunity for Latino entrepreneurs.” This network of experts will provide personalized coaching and resources to the selected finalists in preparation for their national launch. Various HSN celebrity partners will also provide their personal business tips to the contestants throughout the competition.

U.S. Bank supports Project American Dreams as a partner to educate, empower and offer access to capital for Hispanic business owners. Other celebrities and organizations involved in the project include best-selling author and “TV’s Billion Dollar Man” Bob Circosta, a pioneer of the multi-billion dollar live television shopping industry; and Access Latina, a media strategic partner, which offers capital resources, access to networks and mentoring for Latinas.

Here are their stories:

Empanada Fork makes a mark for Latina entrepreneur

Hanging Secrets Latina innovation for lingerie and intimate apparel

A Latina entrepreneur finds clean water in Guatemalan designs

Latina entrepreneur makes hair extensions’ glamour accessible to all


*Correction: in a previous version, the inclusion of Carmen Milagro from Borbon Skincare was a namesake. The selected finalist is Carmen Milagros Torres, creator of The Pop Cornerie.

Opportunities in affiliate marketing programs

Affiliate marketing programs

By Jesse Torres

I recently had the opportunity to interview affiliate marketing veteran Stephanie Robbins on KCAA Radio’s Money Talk. Stephanie, through her company Robbins Interactive, helps clients with all aspects of marketing including affiliate marketing, social media, online branding, website development and online advertising.

“Affiliate marketing is an agreement where one firm (the marketer) compensates another firm (the affiliate) for generating transactions from its users. In practice, it involves a marketer placing links to its website on affiliated websites,” describe Simon Goldschmidt, Sven Junghagen and Uri Harris in Strategic Affiliate Marketing.

“Rather than pay for the links upfront, the marketer provides a commission to affiliates for every transaction that results from these links. If organized correctly, it can potentially benefit both parties, because it helps marketers acquire new customers and increase revenues, while affiliates can generate revenues from the visitors to their sites.”

Among today’s best affiliates are bloggers and social media personalities that have developed a large following. Through affiliate marketing entrepreneurs enter into an arrangement with an influential Internet personality or any person willing to represent the entrepreneur’s product. The affiliate, who should feel passionate about the product, promotes the product through links, banners, testimonials or other content about the product.

The entrepreneur benefits through the sale of products resulting from the efforts of the affiliate, the affiliate benefits from the revenue as well as the content that is created and share with followers and followers benefit through access to the content and the introduction to the product.

Entrepreneurs should ensure appropriate disclosures are made by affiliates that choose to promote the product through testimonials or other similar content. There is nothing wrong with affiliates that choose to promote a particular product. However, in such cases the affiliate should ensure that appropriate disclosures are made in compliance with applicable laws, rules or regulations. Lack of appropriate disclosure can damage the reputation of both the affiliate and the entrepreneur.

The following are four considerations that entrepreneurs should consider when establishing an affiliate program:

1. Online Store. Robbins states that affiliate marketing programs work best where an online store has been established. The store should have been up and running for a while to ensure that it is working properly and the kinks have been worked out. Robbins cautions that the quickest way for an entrepreneur to lose valuable affiliates is through technical glitches that cause lost sales and result in lost revenues for affiliates.

The beauty of well-developed affiliate programs is the ease of integration with the online store. While entrepreneurs can develop homegrown systems it may be worth exploring the options available through third party affiliate programs such as CJ Affiliate, Rakuten, Shareasale and Avantlink.

“You need to be able to put the technology in place so that you can reimburse and reward your affiliates as appropriate,” says Robbins.

2. Product Pricing. Affiliate marketing programs provide affiliates with a percentage of each sale generated through the affiliate’s activities. Driving traffic to an online store can involve tasks as simple as a hyperlink or banner on a Web site to comprehensive and well-thought out articles that address the features and benefits of the product.

Regardless of the effort, influential affiliates – those with large online followings on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. – have many products available for them to represent. As such, the commission per conversion is important. Robbins believes that products priced in the $60 – $100 range are optimal as they can generate significant volume with a reasonable commission. Lower dollar amounts provide nominal affiliate revenue and higher priced items do not sell as readily.

3. Product Worth Buying. Successful affiliates work hard to create influence within their space. If the product does not inspire a conversation the top affiliates will not touch the product.New logo w byline

Each affiliate has a niche. Entrepreneurs should target and make arrangements only with affiliates that operate within their industry. For example, an entrepreneur selling high-end culinary utensils and hardware should seek affiliates that are foodies, restaurant owners, industry consultants and others that operate in a related space. These affiliates may maintain blogs, Web sites, social media pages and social media accounts where they can share information and links about the product.

4. Great Affiliates Are Not Cheap. Entrepreneurs must be prepared to make significant revenue sharing agreements if they wish to engage with the top affiliates/influencers.

Years ago entrepreneurs were told in books, articles and workshops to seek out influential bloggers and others with strong followings and offer product or some other benefit in exchange for a mention or link. This worked for a while. But it doesn’t work any longer.

“So many people think that if we give these bloggers free product they will be completely happy,” says Robbins. “These are business people now. They know the value that they are bringing to the client. And they want to be compensated for it.”



 About Jesse TorresJesse_Torres

Jesse Torres has spent nearly 20 years in leadership and executive management posts, including executive management roles at financial institutions. In 2013 the Independent Community Bankers of America named him a top community banker influencer on social media. He is a frequent speaker at financial services and leadership conferences and has written several books. He hosts an NBC News Radio show called Money Talk with Jesse Torres.
Follow @jstorres or contact