Marcela Berland, a pioneer in working from home, combines work and maternity

Marcela Berland is the President and CEO of Latin Insights, a strategic communications firm  that focuses on the Latino market and Latin America. LI bases their strategies on research and digital and AI tools and develops digital and marketing strategies to help clients achieve their goals. LI’s clients include political candidates and heads of state, corporations and nonprofit organizations. 

Building a successful consulting firm from the ground up

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Marcela Berland eventually came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship and began working in New York in strategic communications and polling. At the time she did not expect to launch her own consulting firm and embark on her own entrepreneurial journey. However, life circumstances would soon steer her onto this path.

It was 1996, after the birth of her daughter, Isabella. Marcela asked her then-boss for five extra months of maternity leave so she could work from home taking care of her newborn. She had done the same before when her son was born so Marcela did not expect to be told “No.” After her 3 months of maternity leave, Marcela announced her resignation. 

Marcela Berland, Frank Gomez, Latin Insights

Marcela Berland and Frank Gomez. (Photo by Max Canovas)

“They realized then that they needed me. Many of my clients wanted to work with me so, they agreed to let me work primarily from home.  Now, too little too late, I positioned myself as an external consultant and negotiated a higher salary for fewer working hours. They agreed to all my terms.  However, I was very disappointed at the whole situation and had already made plans to consult for other clients,” said Marcela. 

After three more months, Marcela left for good, showing them that it was possible to work remotely from home and be effective– even in the late 90s! 

In 2000, Marcela decided it was time to launch her own firm. As a Latina, she had a unique perspective to bring to her company, understand the multicultural market in a deeper way, and she was already committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, in addition to women’s issues. 

The brand new entrepreneur began to plan and gather as much information as possible. She was nervous to set out on her own, fearing failure, but determined to try. Soon, she reached out to someone she admired to help her build her business: communications, media, and political expert, Frank Gómez.  

“At the time, Frank was working at a corporation but thinking about retiring. He not only gave me great advice, but he ended up leaving his job and joined me as a partner. I was thrilled. And that’s how Latin Insights started, just the two of us at first,” said Marcela. 

Conquering the fear of failure and following your dreams 

After over 20 years, Marcela’s venture has become a success. She now serves a variety of clients that include political candidates and heads of state, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. As a successful Latina, she is also often the only woman in the room when working with Presidents and political candidates in Latin America. 

And she has proved that working remotely from home and being successful is possible. This was especially evident this past year during the pandemic when Marcela and her team worked remotely on a presidential race, developing a successful and highly effective strategy that ended with their candidate winning a very tough election. 

Despite her successes now, the early days of her entrepreneurial venture were full of doubts and fear of failure—a common fear for many new entrepreneurs. 

“The first obstacle I faced was overcoming my fear of failing. I was doing very well just consulting on my own, but starting a new company, becoming an entrepreneur had a completely different meaning. What if I didn’t make it? How could I sustain a business? Take care of all the financial and administrative needs associated with it?” Marcela shared. 

Like all newcomers, she soon learned the antidote to this fear was knowledge. Now, whenever she feels doubts, she takes this as an opportunity to learn and come back stronger. 

Latin Insights Founder and CEO, Marcela Berland. (Photo courtesy Marcela Berland)

“During my career as an entrepreneur, I learned that you need to reinvent yourself, adapt to the ever-changing times and take risks. It is the only way to grow. Learn from your mistakes. You need to be open and humble enough to admit that you made a mistake and change direction. Also, become associated with people who share the same values and mindset. I was very fortunate to find Frank early on. We sometimes disagree, but in more than 20 years, we have never had an argument.” 

You might be interested: Rosita Hurtado shares how she transformed a childhood passion into a successful design export

With over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, Marcela has found that success is not about winning alone, it is about making a difference. Additionally, each success is made all the more enjoyable because she loves what she does and loves helping her clients. For her, the work is more than just work, it is something she is passionate about. Having that passion pushes her to “go the extra mile” because she believes in delivering the highest quality service for her clients.  

To aspiring entrepreneurs, Marcela urges that you follow your dreams and go for your passion. She shares her pillars of advice for new entrepreneurs: 

First, be well prepared. Have very clear goals of what you want to achieve and develop a product/service that distinguishes you from others. Next, find the right partners/team to support you and ask for help from the right partners/associates/mentors. Check for resources that can help you and also make sure you help others on your way to success. Don’t give up even when you fail. Network strategically. Raise capital if needed (many organizations can help you with this task).

Finally, never stop learning; make sure you learn something new every day if possible, and always honor your values, treating others with respect. 

Ronit Shiro shares the gift of bilingualism with children through FeppyBox

Ronit Shiro is the creator and founder of FeppyBox — a bilingual subscription box designed to immerse kids ages 3-6 in Spanish and English language learning. 

FeppyBox makes it easier for parents to raise their children bilingually, in a fun way that feels more like playing than learning. With the mission to connect kids with the globe through language, in order to build a more inclusive and FEPPIER world around them, FeppyBox strives to raise the next generation of open- minded, global citizens. 

FeppyBox

FeppyBox helps parents to raise their children bilingually, in a fun way that feels more like playing than learning. (Photo courtesy FeppyBox)

Sharing the gift of bilingualism with children 

FeppyBox was born out of Ronit Shiro’s passion for learning, traveling, and connecting with people. Language was the common thread that brought all these passions together. 

FeppyBox creator and founder Ronit Shiro. (Photo courtesy FeppyBox)

Born in Venezuela to immigrant parents, Ronit was lucky to learn and speak more than one language. At the time she did not understand the importance of bilingualism or the opportunities it would offer. Later, as an adult and mom herself, she would come to understand that bilingualism is one of the greatest gifts she could give her children. 

“In our case, being bilingual means being able to connect with grandparents and friends, but it’s also a tool that creates opportunities for the future,” said Ronit. “It connects us to other cultures. It opens doors.” 

This is where the idea for FeppyBox began to take shape. Ronit began to ask: How can we provide tools to families to make language learning fun and meaningful? How can we give kids entertaining and creative ways to learn? 

From there, the subscription box service began to take form and was given its name: FeppyBox, from combining the word haPPY in English and Spanish (FEliz), to embody all parents’ ultimate purpose: to see their kids happy. In 2020, FeppyBox launched and has been growing steadily since. 

Raising bilingual children through immersive learning

By combining learning with play, FeppyBox makes language learning fun and easy. Each FeppyBox includes stories, music, and games designed so children can learn, laugh, and live in two languages. 

“From our customers, we’re learning that you don’t have to be bilingual to raise a bilingual child, and we’re seeing that play-based learning takes some of the mystery out of bilingualism,” said Ronit. “The spark of bilingualism happens when a kid connects the content in both languages.”

FeppyBox

FeppyBox offers a variety of activities to make language learning fun and immersive for children and parents. (Photo courtesy FeppyBox)

With a variety of activities, children and parents are able to engage with language in different formats. Feppy Book offers an original story in both English and Spanish and includes exclusive access to its Audio Video Book, which provides unlimited fun learning and supports pronunciation. Each Audio Video Book can be watched in English or Spanish. 

Next, Feppy Play offers a hands-on activity to encourage bilingual play-based learning. Feppy Music gives children a new song with bilingual lyrics and exclusive online access to Feppy Music. Feppy Music adapts versions of traditional children’s songs introducing Merengueton, Salsa/Trap Reggaeton/Vallenato, Electro Mambo and other Latin rhythms. 

FeppyBox

Feppy Play offers a hands-on activity to encourage bilingual play-based learning. (Photo courtesy FeppyBox). 

Finally, Feppy Parents is a unique Parent Guide to support ongoing immersive learning. Every item in FeppyBox is fully bilingual, so parents don’t need to know both languages to share 

FeppyBox is a gift that allows children to connect and grow as global citizens. For bilingual families, it is also a way for family members to connect, even across great distances. 

“We are happy to learn that grandparents have bought FeppyBox for their grandchildren as a way to connect with them,” Ronit shared. “One grandparent sent us a note telling us that, even though he lives far away from his grandson, they look forward to every box and sharing what’s inside.” 

You might be interested: ‘Diary of a Future President’ empowers young Latinas to dream big 

Tip for entrepreneurs: “Believe in yourself and in your ideas” 

Ronit’s personal philosophy as an entrepreneur is to embrace the uncomfortable and continue to move forward striving for something new and better and to seek progress over perfection. 

Creating FeppyBox was a gift of love and a passion project for her, but that does not mean there were no challenges or struggles along the way. Starting out, Ronit had to wear many hats, juggling management, customer service, and delivery. Her strength through all of this was her ability to problem solve 24/7 and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

“Everyday my team and I are uncomfortable, it means we are moving forward because we are doing something new, mastering a new process and doing something better. I truly believe in seeing the positive side of being uncomfortable. If you’re uncomfortable it means you’re discovering something new and moving your business forward,” said Ronit.

To minority women thinking of starting their own business, Ronit advises, “It is very important to believe in yourself and your ideas. We can ask for advice, but deep down we have to trust and believe in what we are creating.” 

Most importantly, she reminds aspiring entrepreneurs to seek progress over perfection and keep moving forward, even when things get uncomfortable. 

“Perfection can paralyze us, and as entrepreneurs it is important to advance, to move forward. It’s ok to pivot and to evolve.” 

Adriana pavon fashion designer

Mexican roots inspired Adriana Pavon, fashion designer and indigenous rights advocate

Adriana Pavon profile 3_FotorAdriana Pavon is the new breed of Latina entrepreneur who is fast setting the trend for others in this country and the world. A woman of many unique talents, Adriana is not only a stylist extraordinaire but also a fashion designer with a strong passion for her Mexican roots.

Adriana is the creator of Mexico Culture & Pride (Mexico Cultura y Orgullo), an initiative inspired by traditional Mexican textiles and fashion accessories designs that employs artisans and crafters from indigenous cultures around the country.

Mexico Culture & Pride’s first project is a Frida Kahlo-inspired collection that is planned to be exhibited in major international markets.

“This is a project of love for our communities and culture and preserves the heritage for our future generations.  We are currently working on our fair trade commerce certification and on a new collection that will be sold at high-end stores in Paris and Japan,” she announced in an exclusive interview with LatinasinBusiness.us.

So how did success come to fashion designer Adriana Pavon?

Adriana’s beginnings are humble. Born into a family of garment workers in Mexico City, she grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Adriana states that even when she was young, she always played around with fabrics and tried to make fancy garments.

Adriana Pavon fashion designer 3“At the time I was not thinking of becoming a designer but there was just something that attracted me to mixing colors and textures,” she said.Adriana Pavon fashion designer

As she grew older, Adriana began to see the different trends in L.A. in the arts, culture, and ultimately fashion. While she was making a name for herself, her work began to attract the attention of other fashion designers.

After she moved to Detroit, she saw the potential in the local fashion designers community and started traveling the country to look for resources and venues willing to help her feature Detroit designers nationally.

In an interview with WNYC, she said, “The creative outpouring in this city is amazing. I could choose San Francisco or L.A. but I live in Detroit by choice because there isn’t another place where you could come up with an idea and have such a large community ready to share and collaborate with you.” In 2010, Adriana’s fashion line won the Fashion in Detroit Local Designer Award.

Adriana Pavon fashion designer 2

Mexico awaited bigger adventures

She was soon consulting for other businesses and it was on one trip to Mexico that her eyes opened to a bigger adventure in life. She had always been captivated with the local Mexican design industry run by indigenous artisans who used natural fabrics to create intricate and vibrant designs.

But she also observed that the older textile traditions in Mexico were rapidly dying, mainly due to the globalization of textiles and the use of synthetic materials.

Adriana Pavon profile with Frida

Adriana Pavon with Frida Kahlo’s mural (courtesy of Adriana Pavon)

Further, Adriana also noted that her people had no say in what happened to their productions, which were frequently sold all over the continental USA and even Europe.

“While working with the indigenous artisans, I was surprised to know that they become the victims of plagiarism. The indigenous textile traditions that have been a historical part of Mexican culture are being sold across Europe without any compensation for their intellectual work or that of their communities,” she explained.

Adriana felt passionate about these injustices. She wanted to help locals become innovative and yet receive credit and money for their work.

The Mexico Culture and Pride initiative

Adriana Pavon with artesans

Adriana Pavon with Oaxacan artisans

Adriana has always been fiercely proud of her Mexican roots and she desperately wanted to help revive its cultural traditions and the arts. She was impressed by the work ethics of Mexican artisans and soon was heavily invested in the project. She even sacrificed her lifestyle so that her project would come to fruition.

You might be interested: Pulitzer Prize winner Natalie Diaz weaves together Latina and Indigenous identity in poetry collection 

Adriana Pavon fashion designer

Adriana Pavon and her Mexico Culture & Pride team

To help boost the Mexican design industry, she recruited top-notch professionals in many related sectors to help Mexican locals thrive and show their talents on a global arena. Some of the clients who helped her were “Project Runway Latin America” and “Mexico’s Next Top Model.”

Mexico Culture and Pride displayToday, Adriana is admired as a leader among the local artisans who revere her work ethic and consider her a role model as a female entrepreneur. For years she dreamed of rejuvenating the culture and preserving the artistic talents of her Latino counterparts, who had no voice.

“This is a very personal achievement to me,” she said. “Currently I have satellite offices in NYC, LA, Detroit, Mexico City, and Oaxaca, Mexico. We are selling our products exclusively through distributors who apply on our website,” Adriana explained.

As far advice for the younger generation who wants to follow in her footsteps, Adriana advises listening to their heart. “Bringing out what is in your heart helps you stay unique and develop your own brand. You will find more satisfaction in your own inspiration than in that of others,” she told LIBizus.

For those of you interested in Adriana Pavon’s designs and fabrics, you can visit her at Mexico Culture & Pride, where she is now announcing her exclusive getaways.

 

Latinas in Business Inc. Welcomes New Vice President, Chief Innovation Officer and Board Members

Today, Latinas in Business Inc announced the change of role of Danay Escanaverino from Board Member to Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, and the appointment of two new Board Members: Fatima Pearn and Jennifer Garcia. The new Directors will be sworn in during the October Executive Board Member meeting.

“Our Board of Directors is comprised of women who are leaders in their trade and communities. We are grateful that they have decided to join us in our mission,” said Susana G Baumann, President and CEO of Latinas in Business Inc. “These new directors will add tremendous value to our organization by aiding to produce the strategic growth we need, while complementing the goals we have worked incredibly hard to accomplish.”

latinas in business, latinas in business board,

From left: Jennifer Garcia, Danay Escanaverino, Fatima Pearn

Danay Escanaverino is the CEO of LunaSol Media, a digital agency she has owned for 9 years to help brands connect with Hispanic consumers online. She is also the Founder of LatinaMeetup, a free community that celebrates, elevates and connects Latina professionals in an effort to build Latina wealth and influence. Her goal is to help Hispanic entrepreneurs expand their reach through her expertise and services and specifically expand the Hispanic market and unite and support Hispanic businesses. 

Fatima Pearn is a seasoned banking professional with more than 15 years of experience providing commercial lending, mortgages, lines of credit, leasing, business development. Her goal is to manage and develop an organization’s Business Banking team by applying her vast management and banking experience to strategically drive growth initiatives.

Jennifer Garcia is the Chief Operating Officer at Latino Business Action Network (LBAN), responsible for the successful and scalable operations of the organization. She manages national strategic partnerships, lead sponsors, and oversees program operations. She works in tandem with the CEO to set the strategic vision, innovative programs for entrepreneurial economic growth, and access to capital.

Jennifer is also the Founder of Fluential Leadership, which provides business and leadership consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses. She is passionate about developing business leaders and empowering them with the tools to scale.

Dr. Marlene Orozco demystifies misconceptions about Latinas through data 

Latina researcher, Marlene Orozco shares the importance of data in demystifying misconceptions and biases about Latinas. 

Dr. Marlene Orozco is the Principal Investigator and CEO of Stratified Insights, a Latina-owned research consulting firm that provides academic grade research solutions to organizations from research planning and design, data collection and analysis, to reports and presentations tailor-made for key stakeholders. 

Recently, Marlene was a guest speaker at our third annual Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit last month where she shared key insights and data from the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship report.  

We are honored to have the opportunity to share her amazing story with you today and how she is using her research to help demystify misconceptions about Latinas in business and entrepreneurship.

Latina researcher and founder of Stratified Insights, Dr. Marlene Orozco, shares the importance of data in demystifying misconceptions about Latinas.

As mixed methods researcher by training, Marlene has over 250 hours of in-depth interview experience and quantitative expertise in big data. She holds a Ph.D in Sociology from Stanford University, a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a B.A. with honors in Sociology from Stanford. 

Throughout her years of education training in the field of research, Marlene decided to use her research as a tool to make a real-world impact, especially for minority small business owners and entrepreneurs. Her research is guided by her passion for education and economic equity and exploring pathways of mobility for immigrants, women, and entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds. 

Marlene’s work has been featured extensively, appearing in over 100s of media outlets including Bloomberg, MarketWatch, Forbes, NBC News, CNN en Español, and Univision, among others. She is also the lead editor and co-author of an academic volume, Advancing U.S. Latino Entrepreneurship, and has written academic publications in peer-reviewed journals in addition to several industry reports and research briefs. 

Additionally, Marlene’s tremendous skill and success has been recognized through various accolades such as being named 40 Under 40, Top Young Professionals by Silicon Valley Business Journal and presented the Stanford Community Impact Award by the Stanford Alumni Association. 

Demystifying misconceptions about Latinas through data 

It’s no secret that Latinas are often misrepresented, undervalued, and unappreciated in the professional world. Latinas are also the most underpaid group of women, making on average only 55 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-hispanic man. Latinas have to work harder than almost every other group just to get the same recognition and struggle to gain access to resources such as capital to grow their businesses. These unfair biases have an impact on the rate of success for Latinas and other minority groups. Many feel isolated and hopeless when they see themselves and people like them failing to advance in their professions. 

This is why information and data is important. According to the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report, the number of Latino-owned businesses has grown 34% over the last 10 years compared to just 1% for all other small businesses. In fact, Latino-owned employer businesses are growing revenues at a faster rate than White-owned employer businesses. Moreover, much of the growth in the number of new businesses among Latinos has been driven by women. Latinas represent 40% of all Latino business owners and the number of Latina-led employer firms has grown 20% within the last five-year period.

When we asked Marlene what pushed her to launch her own research consulting firm, it was the desire to see her research have a real-world impact. 

“As a Latina who appreciates the power of data, I seek opportunities to demystify misconceptions about Latinas’ contributions to society with hard facts.” (Photo courtesy Marlene Orozco)

“In the middle of graduate school, I was starting to feel unfulfilled by the lack of real-world impact that my research was having,” she told Latinas in Business. “Through much of my rigorous, academic training in producing peer-reviewed publications, I found that this research would largely live within the ivory tower. I started my company in December 2019 to bridge academic research grade solutions to industry needs. My first major client was the National Association of Investment Companies, where I produced a white paper on the state of growth equity for minority businesses as part of an initiative supported by the Minority Business Development agency to aggregate billions of dollars of growth equity capital to invest in ethnically diverse and women-owned business enterprises.” 

As a Latina, who appreciates the power of data, Marlene seeks opportunities to demystify misconceptions about Latinas’ contributions to society with hard facts. 

“I thus have a strong philosophy that reminds me to document my small wins. This philosophy is to never assume your work speaks for itself,” she says. “While I pride myself in the outputs that I produce, it is important that we communicate the milestones and successes along the way. Being able to readily produce these metrics are critical in instilling confidence in your clients that you can get the job done but also keeps you encouraged about the work that you are doing.” 

Marlene Orozco speaking as Keynote Speaker at the 6th annual State of the Latino Community in Sonoma County hosted by Los Cien. (Photo courtesy Marlene Orozco)

Along with her research work, Marlene provides coaches and provides expertise to reduce system-level bias facing women and people of color who are entrepreneurs, fund managers, or in the investment field through her position as a founding board member of CRESER Capital Fund and an Illumen Capital Ambassador. 

“We cannot do this alone” 

Marlene is a big believer in the power of community. As an entrepreneur, coach, and researcher she herself has experienced the immense benefits that come with being part of a community groups and networks. 

“I have been very fortunate that I am tapped into an extensive entrepreneurial network at Stanford Graduate School of Business as I also lead research efforts at the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. I would encourage readers to get connected to community organizations and structured networks as these are key to scaling and growing your business,” Marlene advises. “My research has shown that you are more likely to come into contact with capital providers if you are part of an organizational network. As we experienced first-hand in the pandemic, information impacting small businesses changes very quickly from local ordinances to relief aid.  Organizations such as chambers of commerce, trade associations, economic development centers, and nonprofits are able to synthesize and distill this information quickly. Get connected!”

Being part of a community of like-minded individuals will not only give you the support you need, but also allow you to be the inspiration for someone else. You never know who might be in your circle who is seeking your advice, expertise, and talent, so make those connections, reach out, and share your story! 

Latino entrepreneurship, Marlene Orozco

Marlene Orozco sharing insights on the latest trends in Latino entrepreneurship at the 6th annual State of the Latino Community in Sonoma County hosted by Los Cien. (Photo courtesy Marlene Orozco)

“A couple of years ago, I was a keynote speaker at the 6th annual State of the Latino Community in Sonoma County hosted by Los Cien. The event included many sponsor tables put peppered throughout the ballroom were high school students engaging with these business leaders,” Marlene shares, recalling a moment where she was able to guide and empower a young student. “After I shared the latest trends on Latino entrepreneurship, a high school student bravely took to the mic and asked a question about how to scale her craft business. I was so moved by her courage and by the fact that I was able to play a small role in compelling her to share her story publicly. Motivating others through the power of data and my research encourages me to keep pushing my public scholarship.”

Communities and networks allow emerging entrepreneurs to access the resources and aid they need to grow and succeed in their ventures. However, knowing when to ask for help from your community and peers is an area where Marlene has seen women struggle. We often think success is being able to do it all for ourselves, but this can sometimes hold women back from achieving the full potential of their success. 

You might be interested: Alice Rodriguez: Overcoming obstacles and the power to succeed in business and life

I would encourage women to get started even before you think you are ready. There are numerous research studies that show that women, especially Latinas, hold themselves back on applying for a job or financing due to their gendered perceptions about qualifications,” says Marlene. “Know your worth, have confidence in yourself, and keep personal and professional support groups to turn to for advice and encouragement. This past year, in addition to navigating the complexities of the pandemic, I was finishing graduate school, publishing a book and articles, working full time, kick starting my business, and raising a toddler. Call on others for help as we cannot do this alone!”

Alice Rodriguez: Overcoming obstacles and the power to succeed in business and life

The 2021 Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit (WEES) was a day full of inspiration and empowerment. With inspiring guest speakers, panels from industry leaders, and interactive deep-dive workshops, the event centered on giving entrepreneurs the tools to THRIVE! post-pandemic. One of the main moments at 2021 WEES was hearing from Keynote Speaker, Alice Rodriguez, Chairwoman of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Alice Rodriguez

Keynote Speaker, Alice Rodriguez, Chairwoman of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“She is a person who is raising the bar for Latinas in Business and I’m absolutely grateful for her presence here,” said Susana G Baumann, President and founder of Latinas in Business when she introduced Alice.

With over 30 years of extensive banking experience at JP Morgan Chase and positions in business banking, consumer banking, Alice Rodriguez serves a leading role in community engagement initiatives and localization strategies. 

“Congratulations for this wonderful summit, and all the wonderful content you are providing to Latina entrepreneurs is so important,” says Alice Rodriguez while opening her speech. 

Below, Alice shares three key aspects from her presentation to empower YOU to succeed. 

“Lessons learned from my Sheroe”

“Behind every great woman there is another great woman,” Alice begins.

Alice’s great “sheroe” was her mother, Alicia Nuñez Ramírez who had the most impact on her life. 

“This was a woman who came to this country when she was 15 years old,” Alice shares. “My grandfather died when she was 12 years old and my mother came to a family of 12 and it was very difficult for my grandmother to raise all of those children by herself. So she sent her children away to live with another family while my mother ended up living with an aunt in Texas.  She met my father who was from the US and they started our family.” 

Growing up, Alice saw how her mother overcame a lot of adversity. “She had this very strong ability to never get flustered, which I learned from her and I believe she was completely ahead of her time.  She was a strong independent Latina that just did not take a no for an answer and I recognize that I stand on her shoulder. She came here with a middle school education and it didn’t stop her from learning. She taught me everything, how important family is, values, faith, how to create your own success and take a risk. She was always figuring out how to get over those barriers.” 

One of the most important lessons she taught Alice was “‘Life is not fair’ so you can’t sit there and see how things don’t go your way. You have to figure out how to get back or what you need to do in order to change the path that you are currently on,” Alice says. 

She continues, “When I think about my mom and Latinas today… Latinos are making such an impact in this country. According to a Neilsen report, every generation of Latinas are making great progress when it comes to education. For Latinas that are 50 or older, 13% of Latinas have a Bachelor’s Degree. If you are between 35 and 49 that number goes up to 18% and if you are between 25 and 35 years old that number is 19%.” 

Alice Rodriguez’s mother did not read or write. She had a seventh-grade education. Then Alice was the first in her  family to graduate from College. Finally, two days ago Alice’s youngest daughter who’s now 29 graduated from her 3-year residence in John Hopkins. 

“I am a real example of those statistics on the great strides that Latinas are making. It’s not just education, it’s also what we see in politics,” says Alice. “There’s no question that Latinas are making a very big impact in entrepreneurship.”

Alice Rodriguez speaking virtually at the 2021 WEES.

You might be interested: Congrats to all our 2020 – 2021 Latina Leaders Awardees!

Amazing statistics on Latino power

“I want to share with you really important statistics that are not shown in the media. Everybody knows we have 61 million Latinos in this country, a number that is growing very fast and the economic activity that Latinos are providing to this country is significant. If we say ‘Latinos are their own country’ it will be the 8th largest in the world. Larger than Italy, South Korea or Brazil. The labor participation for Latinos has been extremely strong.”

Alice continues, “A large number of baby-boomers are retiring every month. If you were a country that didn’t know where your population is going to come from you would be extremely worried.  The good news is Latino participation is growing and this is where I became super optimistic about the real economic power that Latinos have and how we need an equal system.” 

“As we look at Latino-owned businesses in this country, there are 5 million and growing and Latinas are growing 6 times faster than the overall coverage. Which brings me to what I am doing in the Hispanic US Chamber and JP Morgan Chase as the Head of Community Impact. At the Chamber we see this economic power and we know that is real and we are working very hard in what we call the 3 Cs: 

  1. Capital: We recognize that Latino-owned businesses really need to have this access to capital and also the work that we are doing with the administration, with banks is extremely critical. 
  2. The second C is connections. I don’t have to tell this group how many organizations out there are very focused in really engaging minority suppliers and this is a really great opportunity to have all of you prepared to be able to do business at a larger level and so the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is really providing those introductions so those procurement opportunities are available at the Federal level, al the local level and obviously at the corporate level. 
  3. And the third C is Capacity Building; so we are very blessed to have 250 local chambers that we are working very closely every day and we recognize not every chamber has the same capabilities so our ability to build capacity with them has been critical. It includes more webinars, more content, etc.

“In JP Morgan Chase. I had a very long career and what I’m doing today is one of the most impactful assignments I ever had. We have to be sure that we are bringing the power to our local communities, how we can help with that mentoring, with that coaching, with that advising. We are very excited about the programs we put in place and more importantly we believe that this five-year commitment that we made is really going to be an opportunity to provide more access to many Latinas in businesses in this country. 

I want to leave you with a few takeaways

Alice concluded her presentation with a few key takeaways that every entrepreneur and business owner could use to help them grow and THRIVE! in business and in life. 

“Really take care of your financial health,” is Alice’s first recommendation. “Knowing the details of your business and really understanding your own credit and where you are in income perspective. Spend the time. There are lots of resources to help with that.”

“The second is that you have to love a lot of paperwork, if you don’t like it you just have to get over it,” Alice continues. “Be sure that you have the right CPA, that you have an accountant, that you have a lawyer, that you have a banker and more important that you have a relationship with the banker. This is critical and we discovered during this pandemic how critical it was in order to get the resources that were available.” 

Third, is no surprise to any entrepreneur. “Network, network, network. It’s important to keep up with the people that you meet, understanding what their background is because you never know when you are going to need that person. Even if that person can’t help you, they can always connect you to the right person that perhaps can help you.” 

Finally, more important than anything else is self-care. Without taking care of yourself, everything else will unravel. 

“I think as Latinas, as women, we want to do it all,” says Alice. “But we just are human beings like everybody else and if we don’t slow down and really take care of ourselves, physically, mentally we are not going to do anyone any good and we are certainly not going to do our professional lives any good. Take that time. Some people meditate, some people exercise, some people just don’t do anything. Pick whatever works for you but more important, take care of yourself.” 

spanish children's books

Vic Sanchez, founder of Libro Magico Amarillo, shares pandemic lessons learned and exciting future plans

Maria Victoria “Vic” Sanchez is the creator and founder of Libro Magico Amarillo, a publishing company that creates personalized Spanish children’s books that offer a mix of adventures and educational content that keep children engaged and reading longer, all while playing and having fun. Her books also serve as a tool for parents raising bilingual children, helping them foster a love and appreciation of Hispanic language and culture in their children. 

Libro Magico Amarillo, spanish children's books

Maria Victoria “Vic” Sanchez, creator and founder of Libro Magico Amarillo.

We shared Vic’s story last September and we were so inspired by her love for books and her commitment to child education. Vic began her business last June, in the thick of the pandemic–talk about a challenge! But she rose to that challenge and persevered because she believed in her vision and was ready to make her childhood dreams of telling stories a reality. 

Now, nearly a year after launching her business, Vic shares with us some lessons learned and her plans for the future, because yes, it is only just the beginning! 

Running a business during a pandemic: Lessons Learned

As many of you know first hand, running a business this past year has not been easy. Many business owners and entrepreneurs have struggled to stay afloat and adapt to the “new normal” that the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon us all. Latina business owners were disproportionately affected according to the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report.

Despite these odds, many Latina-owned businesses found new, creative ways to THRIVE and regain their power, such as turning to Instagram to advertise and grow their businesses

You might be interested: THRIVE! What to expect from deep-dive workshops at 2021 WEES

As an entrepreneur who launched her business in the thick of the pandemic, Vic experienced her share of challenges but shares with us now her lessons learned and advice to other women entrepreneurs and minority business owners. 

Be patient and think outside the box 

“Things take time,” she says, “and we need to be patient, thinking positively, while we continue working on what we believe in.” (Photo courtesy Maria Victoria Sanchez).

One key lesson Vic learned this past year was to be patient. Worrying and stressing will not help in the long run and only lead to more anxiety. Instead, Vic learned to let go, and this has helped her manage her anxiety better and overall feel better. 

“Things take time,” she says, “and we need to be patient, thinking positively, while we continue working on what we believe in.” 

Working on a long-term project or business is not something that always yields quick results. Instead of treating it like a sprint, we must look at each project as a marathon. As the old saying goes: “Slow and steady wins the race.” If we are constantly worrying and rushing we will surely burn out quickly. But by practicing patience and continuing our work at a steady pace, we will soon see those results and feel better too. 

In conjunction with this idea of taking the slow path is another lesson learned: take a different path too! Or, think outside the box. 

When things are not working one way, “sometimes you need to reshuffle,” says Vic. If you feel stuck, consider a new perspective. There is never just one way to do something, just as there can be multiple paths to get to the same place. 

“Things will work out for the best in the end.” 

Do all things with love and collaborate

The third lesson Vic learned during the pandemic is the power of collaboration and that when you do things with love, you bring together that same positive energy to others. Vic always brings that love to everything she does and has been working to help others during the pandemic. 

“I have been dedicating a lot of my efforts to doing pro bono work for fellow entrepreneurs,” Vic shares. “Some weeks ago I participated in a conference for entrepreneurs in Patagonia, where I am originally from. I am happy to help in any way.” 

To other women and minority entrepreneurs, Vic says to join in by collaborating with others and seek help when you need it. 

“This pandemic has been especially hard for women, for caregivers, and for minority women. There are amazing organizations, like Latinas in Business, bringing mentoring and educating us. If you need help, speak up! We are all here to help one another. Nothing can stop what you set your mind to. Women are serious, focused workers. We get things done.” 

Help support El Libro Magico Amarillo!

The future is bright and a year after launching her business, Vic is ready to expand and take things to the next level, but this dream cannot be achieved alone. 

“We are working on a crowdfunding campaign to produce two new books and accelerate our digital marketing efforts,” says Vic. “We want to reach out and impact more families, connecting kids with books and loved ones. Books can always provide a refuge for kids, as we have seen during the pandemic.” 

The upcoming Kickstarter will work to accelerate the company’s growth and produce two new books. 

“My dream is to grow our inventory and with this campaign we hope to do so with two new books. One is about the myth of the minotaur and the other one is about El Dia de los Muertos, as homage to all Latinas from Mexico.” 

spanish children's books, Libro Magico Amarillo

Libro Magico Amarillo’s current Spanish children’s books.

To support Vic and her dream she asks that people subscribe to El Libro Magico Amarillo’s newsletter by registering on their site. The newsletter will keep subscribers up to date when the campaign launches. 

“The only way we can succeed is through the generous support of all you Latinas! Please subscribe to our site and follow and share our campaign with friends and contacts when we launch. This is our first crowdfunding project ever and it would be great to have your support and good energy!” 

As fellow Latinas, minority business owners, and entrepreneurs it’s so important that we support each other. So let’s all give some love and support to Vic and El Libro Magico Amarillo.

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2021 WEES Speaker Maria Piastre: A Latina leader excels in a male-dominated industry 

In 2017, after only 12 years working in this male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre was appointed Metallix Refining Inc. President. Ambition had always been a driving force fueled by a passion for the industry, but never did she imagine to be made President.

The 2021 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Summit motto is THRIVE! with our panels and workshops focusing on key areas of growth to connect and empower women business owners and give them the tools and insights to propel forward and thrive post-COVID19. 

Our women’s panel,THRIVE! Women Turning Adversity into Success”, will feature guest speakers: Maria Piastre, Marvina Robinson, and Jessie Gabriel as they share insights learned on their journey to success while fighting the odds of being a woman and reinventing themselves during the pandemic. Below, Maria shares her story with us of how she rose through the ranks and excelled in a male-dominated industry as a Latina, eventually becoming company CE

 

“The leap of faith never fails”

Maria Piastre was born and raised in Cali, Colombia. She came to the USA in 2000, the start of a new millennium, one that would unveil marriage, a young family, graduation, and professional achievements in business. 

woman in a male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre

Maria Piastre, President of Metallix Refining Inc.

As her career path was still uncharted, Maria’s tenacity for success and recognition would prove to be her armor against the many inequalities she would encounter. Later these inequalities would form the foundation for future campaigns.

Maria graduated from Kean University in 2004 with a degree in Economics thanks to the unconditional support of her family.  She then entered the world of business and commerce. Over the next two years, the motivated Latina immigrant excelled in business management, marketing strategy, aesthetic value, with an aptitude for communication at all levels. 

With the end of 2005 insight, Maria reflected on both her achievements and looked towards new challenges that would be more aligned with her goals and those of the organization she would represent. This new chapter of discovery would lead Maria to Metallix and a career in the male-dominated industry of precious metals where her future would soon unfold and be a platform for success.

“Facing new challenges can often be very daunting and come with their own set of risks but taken intelligently, they will open doors to countless possibilities where the rewards can be high,” Maria asserts. 

And she continues, “The leap of faith never fails because you learn something valuable about your decision and the events in your life, bringing growth and confidence.  Survival makes you strong and it is an understanding of failure that makes you realize this is not the end of the line, but just the beginning of a new chapter.” 

Achieving success as a woman in a male-dominated industry

In 2006 Metallix Refining Inc., a precious metals recycling company in New Jersey, announced they were recruiting for an inside sales position to cover Latin America. 

Maria, a native Spanish speaker, fluent in English with a background in sales and marketing, applied for the opening and received an interview offer from Eric Leiner, owner and then President.

For any profession, being prepared for whatever situation you face is crucial; it is a professional obligation to your colleagues and suppliers to answer their questions fully and present them with the best, most relevant, and actionable recommendation.

Maria applied the same professional approach to the Metallix interview. Reading precious metals and refining trade magazines, researching product supply to the industry from gold-plated connectors to solar industry production, all of which made for credibility and confidence during the interview process and responses.

woman in a male-dominated industry

Maria during her tour of Asia meeting with our Technical Director Claudio Ferrini and the General Manager of Metallix Refining Asia Mr. SB Sangbae Kim. (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

There is always a voice of doubt and moments of anxiousness when you want something which is almost in touching distance, and for Maria, this was no exception. 

However, instead of a second interview, she received a job offer. The strategy had worked, and Eric Leiner was thrilled when Maria accepted.

The best place to work is the place you can be at your best and this was true for Maria.  Maria started to learn the business and soon fell in love with her job and became fascinated by the industry. 

With increasing industry knowledge and eagerness to grow within the company, Maria assumed additional responsibility bringing in new business, developing good relationships with industry partners and leading the way for improvements within Metallix.

In 2007, following the birth of her second son, Maria took a short career break from Metallix.  In a competitive and male-dominated industry time away can often result in missing significant opportunities.  “The progressive mindset of Metallix and their appreciation for my professional achievements and value to the company, secured my time away from the industry – a luxury many working mothers do not enjoy. I will always be grateful for such important consideration to my family,” Maria explained.   

Upon her return, she continued to achieve recognition within Metallix, taking on significant responsibilities assigned by Lerner.  

“The only limits are those you set yourself”

In 2017, after only 12 years working in this male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre  was appointed company President.  Ambition had always been a driving force fueled by a passion for the industry, but never did she imagine to be made President. This was both a pleasant shock and honor. 

woman in a male-dominated industry

Maria interacts with every member of the Metallix Team, making an effort to engage with every employee on her many frequent visits to the Refinery. (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

The sense of humility that Maria brings to the position transcends not just gender but embraces a new generation of values, of learning and reward based on individual merit, with the only limits being those you set yourself.

“As an immigrant to the US, I know only too well the challenges we all will encounter, especially for minority groups. The road will not always be smooth, and regardless of your cultural background, you should believe in yourself, your self-worth, your ability to succeed and that your qualities will always shine through to achieve rewards,” Maria advises Latinas in Business readers. This ethos is ingrained in Maria’s leadership.

One of the most important responsibilities as President was to establish a vision, a long-term mission with short-term objectives.  These will ultimately determine the expectations for the company’s culture and core values that will lead Metallix at multiple levels ensuring alignment throughout. Equally, recruiting talent and nurturing Executive growth for succession planning is key to building sustainability and industry expertise.  

Now guardian of a prestigious and respected precious metals recycling company, with locations in New Jersey, Greenville, and Maxton, North Carolina, the pattern of reinvestment and growth is set to continue. 

In 2019 the company embarked on a significant expansion program establishing Metallix Refining Asia Ltd in South Korean and Metallix Refining Europe Ltd based in the UK. 

These two new facilities secured the recruitment of the industry’s most experienced and respected personnel, opening up new and untapped revenue sources to add to the diverse industries already served by Metallix.

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Evolving with the times

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Maria has witnessed and experienced many changes over the last 12 years and has been influential to many changes herself. Through Maria’s values, Metallix is a multicultural employer with promotions based on ability, not gender, and an environment where there is no place for discrimination or bullying. 

As 2020 has seen the impact of COVID-19 on businesses globally, Metallix has been no exception. 

Maria at the Precious Metals Refining meeting the Metallix Trucks arriving back to the Refinery (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

“Business models once tried and tested no longer applied, and the way to survive and grow in this new economic market would be through technology, Maria said.”Metallix has always made a significant investment in equipment and applied sciences resulting in the Metallix Precious Metals Refinery becoming a world-class facility. We now needed to apply the same approach to sales and communication,” Maria explained. 

In addition to travel and face-to-face meetings no longer possible, video conferencing and social media platforms have been tools in which to maintain stability in the supply chain.  Metallix has an experienced team of buyers providing materials management guidance and support, managing social risks to protect our employees, suppliers, and the community. 

Under Maria’s leadership, Metallix Refining Inc. strives to provide exceptional customer service with world-class facilities that continue to achieve excellence for our customers.

Community leader and nonprofit organizer Sandy S. Broughton shares her story of career success and lessons learned

Sandy S. Broughton is  a leader in her community and a role model and a champion for women in business. Today she shares with us her career story and journey to career success.

Currently, Sandy S. Broughton is the Community Development Officer of Investor Bank’s New Jersey branches. In this role she works to support and connect the bank’s NJ branches in the nonprofit space, overseeing the development of community relation activities and creating business development and expansion strategies of nonprofit organizations.

Sandy S. Broughton, Community Development Officer of Investor Bank’s NJ branches. (Photo courtesy Sandy S. Broughton)

Additionally, Sandy plans and hosts the banks’ Annual Not-for-Profit Conference in New Jersey and serves on the Investors Bank Foundation Vetting Committee. She is also the co-chair of the Community Committee of the bank’s Women’s Leadership Council.

Defying expectations and navigating challenges on the road to success 

Sandy has had a long and successful career thus far. With almost 30 year experience in the nonprofit sector, she has been broadly recognized for her achievements and excellence in the field and in her various leadership roles. 

Among her recognitions, she is the proud recipient of the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s most prestigious honor – the Woman of Distinction Award, the Tri County Scholarship Fund – Woman of Achievement Award, Special Parent Advocacy Group (SPAG) – Hero Award, and last but certainly not least, the NAACP’s Community Achievement Award. Among her proudest professional accomplishments, Sandy has been recognized in the Investors Bank “Circle of Excellence – Best of the Best” four times during her tenure with the bank. 

Sandy’s career success was not achieved alone or overnight and she realizes that she stands on the shoulders of many amazing women who came before her and who helped her along her journey become who she is today. 

Born on a farm in North Carolina, Sandy moved to Paterson, NJ at an early age. Her family did not have a lot of money but getting an education was always stressed by her parents and college wasn’t an option. 

Sandy attended THE Eastside High School in Paterson, you know the movie, Lean on Me, and graduated in the top 20 of her class of over 650 students.  She expressed to her guidance counselor she wanted to attend Rutgers University, and was told she wasn’t ready for such a big school and that she wouldn’t get accepted. She instead was encouraged to go to the community college. 

United Way Warmest Wishes Coat Drive. Sandy serves on the Board and proudly participates as coats are collected for needy children throughout Ocean and Monmouth Counties. (Photo courtesy Sandy S. Broughton)

 “Don’t get me wrong – community colleges are amazing, but I wanted the whole campus experience. I applied anyway and got accepted and couldn’t wait to tell her! When I did – she responded, ‘Let’s see how long you stay there.’ Those words could have ended my vision of that on-campus experience. However, I used it as a challenge,” says Sandy. “That fall, I went to Rutgers and I worked hard. I surrounded myself with people who were hungry for a degree – just as I was. Not only did I want my family to be proud, but I had to prove that guidance counselor wrong and send her a copy of my Rutgers degree – AND I DID!” 

Motivated by this challenge, Sandy went on to receive her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey – Douglass College. She then continued her education and earned a Master of Administrative Science degree, with a concentration in Leadership and Non-Profit Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU). She completed her final coursework at the Wroxton Campus of FDU in Oxfordshire, England, northwest of London. 

Achieving career success: “If I can do it so can you!” 

Sandy pictured with Carlos Medina, President — Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ, and entrepreneur, Quovella Mitchell. (Photo courtesy Sandy S. Broughton)

Sandy reflects back on that story about her high school guidance counselor’s discouragement and lack of faith in her and the impact one person can have on your life. Perspective is everything. Sandy could have accepted her guidance counselor’s low expectations and gone down a different path. However, she instead followed her dreams and did not let others stand in her way in achieving what she knew was possible for herself. 

“One person or one decision can totally change the course of your life. So, it doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you have – if you work hard and surround yourself with the right people, you can do whatever you put your mind to,” Sandy says to other women struggling through doubts and looking to achieve career success. 

Sandy has had a long and rewarding career because she knew her potential and did not let anyone dim her light. Through her work in the nonprofit community she has served in numerous leadership roles and impacted the lives of many. 

Prior to joining Investors Bank in March of 2014, she served as the Executive Director of the Ocean County College Foundation for 11 years where she raised millions of dollars to support the student scholarship program, as well as special projects and programs of Ocean County College. Sandy also spent nine years at the Girl Scouts in North Jersey in various capacities, culminating in the position of Director leading the fundraising, public relations, community development initiatives, and special events. Additionally she has held positions at the United Way of Passaic Valley, the Urban League of Bergen County, and Hackensack Medical Center. 

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Currently, she serves on the Board of Trustees of RWJ Barnabas Health Systems – Community Medical Center Campus; Ocean County College Foundation; NJ ACE Women’s Network; and the United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in addition to serving on various committees including, but not limited to, the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s Resource Development Committee, and the Boy Scouts/Jersey Shore Advisory Board. 

Sandy also volunteers with the Caregivers of Ocean County Alzheimer’s Respite Program and is also a member of New Beginnings Agape Christian Center in Freehold, NJ, where she serves in the Usher’s Ministry. 

Sandy delivering lunch to and visiting a “special lady” in a program that is near and dear to her heart during COVID-19. (Photo courtesy Sandy S. Broughton)

Her numerous positions and leadership roles within the community is an inspiration to women everywhere that each of us are capable of achieving great career success in our personal and professional lives and inspiring others with our work. Sandy’s story shows us the importance in believing in yourself and your own potential. One person can change the course of your life, for the good or the bad — you get to decide! 

 “If I can do it – so can you! If my work can make a difference – so can yours,” says Sandy. “You get what you work for – NOT what you wish for.”