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skincare beauty brand

B2 Beauty By Bella: A skincare beauty brand by for Latinas

B2 Beauty By Bella is a natural skincare beauty brand founded by Latina entrepreneur, Edith “Edi” Lagunas, with the mission to provide quality natural, simple, and affordable products that maintain youthful, smooth skin and empower women.  

skincare beauty brand

B2 Beauty By Bella, a natural skincare beauty brand founded by Latina entrepreneur, Edith Laguanas. (Photo courtesy Edith Laguanas)

A skincare beauty brand for Latinas 

Edith Laguanas, owner and founder of B2 Beauty by Bella. (Photo courtesy Edith Laguanas)

Edi first launched her business this past year in November 2020, though the idea for a skincare beauty brand had been a dream in her mind since 2008. As a Major in the U.S. Army, Edi has traveled the world and lived in over 15 domiciles throughout her life and has served various positions in the Army from platoon leader, company commander, to Executive Officer. During her many travels across the world, Edi’s skin was exposed to various seasons and climates which affected her skin tremendously. From bitter colds to blistering heats and humidity to the harsh sandstorms in Iraq, Edi skin suffered. She realized then that she needed skincare products that would provide protection, moisture, and keep her olive skin hydrated and youthful. 

“I saw that other female soldiers had skincare products that complemented their skin needs,” says Edi. “However, I also saw the lack of Latina brand representation in the skincare and beauty industry and how much we spend on cosmetics and skincare products.  That feeling I had of someday launching a skincare product finally came to reality last year.  In March 2020, when COVID hit, and I saw the shutdown of brick-and-mortar business,  I saw how the e-com businesses and those that were able to transition to the digital world were surviving and thriving.  At that point I knew that I had to launch my career in skincare not only for me, but so that other Latinos could see that being an Entrepreneur in the digital world was possible.” 

In the years leading up to Edi going for her dream, she spent time trying out different skincare products that contained essential ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C and vitamin E that would ensure her skin retained its firmness, elasticity, and skin tone. When she decided to launch her own brand, Edi knew she wanted her products to contain these essential ingredients and no harmful chemicals or parabens. However, ensuring top quality in her products would come with some obstacles. 

As a Latina entrepreneur, Edi is adaptable and resilient. Coming from an immigrant family of five kids that grew up with minimal resources, Edi learned how to get creative early on so that everyone could benefit. This made her become resilient and adaptable for when things don’t pan out the way she planned. 

B2 Beauty By Bella Repair Resurfacing Serum. (Photo courtesy Edith Laguanas)

“Last year in March 2020, when I began my research into skin care ingredients and began meeting with manufactures and learning about their chemicals in the products, I learned that most manufacturers have minimum order quantities and the cost to buy one product would require an investment on my part of thousands of dollars,” says Edi. “At this point I was becoming disillusioned and discouraged.  But I kept searching and meeting with skin care manufacturers until I met with a company that met both my needs in the type of product I wanted and, in the amount, I financially was able to invest in.  In this experience I learned that we have to keep looking and trying until we find that solution that fits our needs.”  

Representation matters: Opening the door for other Latino businesses

Edi began B2 Beauty By Bella to provide skincare products that would enhance skin and empower women to feel beautiful and confident, but throughout her journey her mission has grown. She has connected and collaborated with many people from many backgrounds and discovered the beauty in relationships, community, and life. “La vida es Bella!” 

B2 Beauty By Bella all natural skincare beauty line. (Photo courtesy Edith Laguanas)

The importance of community and representation became especially evident after the Covid-19 business shutdowns. Edi saw the devastating impact of the pandemic on the Latino community and labor workers. Now, she hopes to inspire other Latinos with her company and her story to show them that success is possible and that Latinos can thrive in the Post-Covid e-commerce world. 

“I see on the news the impact that Covid has had on the Latino community and the labor workers.  I keep telling myself that if we are the ones doing the labor and buying the products, then we should also own the businesses,” says Edi. “Representation matters and I believe that small e-com businesses like B2 Beauty By Bella can open the door for other Latino businesses and keep it open for them to join us.” 

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Edi recommends that anyone interested in starting their own business or entrepreneurial venture should first start by finding a community of like-minded individuals to empower you and sit in your corner. Find mentors and ask questions. Do not be afraid to fail. 

“There is always a way,” says Edi. “Get creative when things don’t go as planned and find a way to get things done. ‘Que la vida es dificil cuando nosotras mismas la hacemos dificil.’ Life is full of obstacles and it is up to us to remove those obstacles and keep trying.”

Iyengar Yoga

Norma Colon is transforming lives through yoga

Norma Colon is the owner of YogaNorma and has over 40 years experience studying, practicing, and teaching yoga. She specializes in Iyengar Yoga and has inspired and transformed the lives of countless people through her practice. 

From passion to career

Norma Colon, owner and founder of YogaNorma. (Photo courtesy Norma Colon)

Born in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, Norma is a proud, bilingual Latina and business owner. She teaches Iyengar Yoga in group classes–these days on Zoom, and gives private lessons over FaceTime. For over four decades yoga has been her great passion in life and she loves sharing it with anyone who is interested. 

Norma first discovered her love for yoga in 1977 when she moved to Manhattan. After only 8 months practicing yoga, she decided to take a training course at Serenity Yoga. 

“I took the short course only to learn more about yoga which I was falling in love with, having experienced many benefits in a short time.  I had very little self esteem and didn’t think I had a good voice for teaching!  I discovered I had a talent for teaching and loved it,” says Norma. 

Soon after completing the course, Norma was given a class to teach at Serenity and then another at Marymount Manhattan College where she taught until 1998. She then continued teaching at Hunter’s College, adding a class for Deaf and Hard of hearing students with an ASL interpreter. 

Specializing in Iyengar Yoga, Norma’s teaching style is a unique synthesis of nurturing support and strong encouragement along with the application of hands-on correction. She brings out the best in her beginning students as well as those with considerable experience. Students with specific needs including back and knee injuries, fibromyalgia, MS, and other debilitating conditions have found Norma’s classes particularly rewarding as have many expecting mothers. Norma also offers Gentle Yoga classes for those who need or want a less rigorous approach.

Norma 20 years ago in lotus pose.(Photo courtesy Norma Colon)

Having majored in Human Movement (kinesiology, anatomy and physiology) at Hunter College, and with many years of individual study, Norma has a strong understanding of the workings of the human body and instinctively knows how to help students’ bodies learn to work and feel better from the inside out.

Transforming lives through yoga

Norma’s drive and motivation comes from her love for yoga and her desire to share yoga with others. Over the years, she has pursued different avenues for her business before finally finding what works best for her.

“I was freelance from the start and liked being my own boss, even when teaching a health club and in exercise studios.  I quickly got involved with women’s business groups and learned a lot about running my own business,” says Norma, reflecting on her journey. 

“I tried to open my own studio on a couple of occasions over the years, going as far as finding space up until the late 90s.  My obstacle was money.  I never saved or made much money so I didn’t have much to invest besides my work and I didn’t work hard enough to line up investors, get them to believe in my business. I didn’t recruit a partner… I’m glad in the end; it’s a hard business to run and I would have lost so much with the pandemic, would have had to close like everyone else.  I have profited from not having to pay studio rental with the pandemic!  I’ve actually made and saved more money. I am extremely grateful for this,” Norma adds. 

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Now, she runs YogaNorma, and is happy to share her knowledge and love for yoga with others. Her greatest joy is knowing she has helped and inspired someone through yoga. 

Iyengar Yoga

Teaching at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of NYC. (Photo courtesy Norma Colon)

“Two years ago, I went up to Menla retreat center in Phoenicia NY, for a New Years retreat. A woman came up to me and asked if I was Norma Colon, the yoga teacher. She then told me that I was her 1st teacher approximately 40 years ago and thanked me for giving her such a good start (even back then when I knew so little).  She continues to take classes and feels I inspired her. I have had many similar experiences,” Norma shares.

“My favorite is a former student, a Latino who is studying to become an Iyengar Yoga Instructor.  Osiris once said I had ‘single handedly transformed his yoga practice!’  I stay in touch with this wonderful man who will transform many others. Having taught at Revolutionary Fitness in El Barrio, I influenced quite a few young men and young women of color who have gone on to study further and even teach yoga.  I was the only one with extensive experience, bilingual, and available at the time, from 2014–18.” 

After class at Revolutionary Fitness in El Barrio. (Photo courtesy Norma Colon)

Defining success and going for your dreams

“We Latinas are double minority business owners—woman & ‘minority’,’’ says Norma. However, these criteria have never really informed or hindered Norma’s running of her business.   

Norma luckily did not face many obstacles as a Latina business owner in her industry. “There were nearly no yoga teachers in my area way back in the early 80s and 90s so I got all the business/work,” she says. “My white skin and anglo appearance overrode my Spanish name so I didn’t experience racial discrimination in my white neighborhood of the Upper East side of Manhattan.  I ‘fit in’,” Norma says. 

However, she has never pretended to be anything other than what she is: a proud Puerto Rican. Now, as a long-time business owner and teacher, Norma considers herself to be successful. 

Norma in lotus, recently. (Photo courtesy Norma Colon)

“I am not overly ambitious and am content in my small, healthy, simple life,” she says. “My strength is in being organized, keeping good records, being a ‘self starter,’ being diligent about business matters and my passion for yoga. I continue to study and improve in yoga and am always fine-tuning/improving business practices. One can always improve and get more students and clients so I keep networking and putting myself out there.” 

To all the young minority women out there who are thinking of starting their own business, Norma says “Go for it!” 

Running a business is hard work, and is never a Monday to Friday 9-to-5, but if it is something you are passionate about then it will be well worth your time. 

“Do your homework, learn all you can, get help, and go forward.  This is a better time with many more resources available to women and minorities. There are so many experienced, successful women of color for inspiration and assistance, so many organizations to help,” says Norma. 

And she is right. We are lucky to live in a time where we have access to so many resources instantly online. Additionally mentors and role models are all around you, so don’t hesitate to ask for help on your journey and build a support system. 

“I recommend getting help and input from older entrepreneurs in similar businesses, friends, family then make your own informed decisions.  My friends back in the day thought I was nuts with the yoga!  One even asked when I would stop it!  Today, they appreciate my perseverance and recognize the importance of my work.” 

Like Norma, your passion can become a life-long business. Norma has inspired countless individuals with her yoga practice and helped others go on to become yoga instructors themselves. Your business venture could impact others too, so go for it and do what you love!

repositioning

LIB Member, Gladys Vonglahn shares how she reinvented her business post-COVID

Latinas in Business Member, Gladys Vonglahn, shares how the COVID-19 pandemic pushed her to adapt and reinvent her cleaning service business. 

Adapting and reinventing her business post-COVID 

reposting, brand, Gladys Cleaning Service

(Photo Courtesy Gladys’ Cleaning Services)

Gladys is the owner and founder of Gladys’ Cleaning Service LLC, a professional commercial and residential cleaning service with more than 18 years experience in the cleaning industry. Originally from Chile and a first generation immigrant, Gladys came to the U.S. to make a difference in the cleaning industry and positively impact the lives of others. 

At Gladys’ Cleaning Service, their core values are integrity, honesty and excellence. “We take care of our clients’ as our own, leaving a legacy to our future generations,” says Gladys. 

Since March 2020, Gladys and her team have had to work hard to adapt to the changes in the cleaning industry brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We had to be resilient and implement new cleaning protocols to stay in business and make sure we are safe,” Gladys says, “Not only for ourselves, but also to give confidence to our clients requesting our services.” 

Their biggest obstacle initially was that almost 95% of their clients were in the residential sphere. This made it difficult to continue performing their services when statewide lockdowns began. Gladys and her team stopped working for a week and during that time Gladys realized that she needed to adapt now and hear the needs of the market. She also realized that there was now a tremendous need for cleaning services in the commercial market, an area she had been working to tap into for years. 

With not everyone able to work remotely, commercial spaces were now in most need of reliable cleaning services to keep their employees safe and healthy. Gladys was able to meet this need in the industry by repositioning her business to cater toward the commercial market. 

“The main lesson of this situation is that we have to listen to our clients’ needs and adapt our services to satisfy the existing needs in the market. These obstacles make you strong and help you to go to the next level,” says Gladys. 

repositioning, reinventing, adapt

Gladys Vonglahn at one of their commercial clients facilities. (Photo Courtesy Gladys’ Cleaning Services)

Despite the setbacks brought on by the pandemic, Gladys says she is so happy to have the opportunity to expand and grow her business. 

“We are so proud to be an essential job. Before the pandemic people took the cleaning industry for granted and did not give them importance until having a clean and disinfected area was a priority for everybody. Now, owners of businesses and corporations need our services to keep their employees, clients, and facilities clean. Thanks to the pandemic people now value our job!” 

“Dream bigger and dare to do”

This ability to adapt and reinvent is one of Gladys’ strengths as a Latina business owner. She is resilient and has always loved a challenge. She believes every day is a new opportunity to positively impact the lives of others, whether that be by giving them cleaning solutions, blessing them with a job, or just sharing her story to motivate them to do something extraordinary. 

Mother's Day

Gladys with her family, who help her run her business. (Photo Courtesy Gladys’ Cleaning Services)

“God gave us unique abilities to each one of us to succeed in life,” she says. “My main message to other Latinas is trust in God, believe in yourself, do not let people tell you what you have to do, hear your entrepreneur voice and have your own experience. Even if you fail you gain an experience. You will be more prepared for the next adventure. Life is not easy but it is good to live it with integrity, honesty and excellence.” 

Gladys encourages other entrepreneurs to always keep sight of their mission and vision as if it were the first day they decided to be in business. As with everything in life, there will be struggles and obstacles, some as large as a global pandemic, but with resilience and the ability to adapt, anything is possible. 

“Dare to do,” says Gladys. “Work harder and be determined to take your business to the next level not only because you want a profit. Do it as a lifestyle to leave a legacy behind for the next generation. Dream bigger, be visionary and eager to fight for your success in whatever you do in life!” 

Andrea Giraldo celebrates Colombian heritage through coffee

For many, coffee is a ritual. It marks the beginning of a new day. It offers some warmth and comfort before one’s morning commute or provides a moment of peaceful morning meditation and contemplation.

Coffee is also a culture. The culture surrounding coffee-making is rich and meaningful. For countries like Colombia, coffee is not only culture, but a way of life.

To celebrate that lifestyle, Andrea Giraldo set out to create a brand: Giraldo Farms. Specializing in instant coffee blends, Giraldo Farms is a stand-out brand for quality instant coffee, having been ranked number six nationwide by the Huffington Post for best soluble coffee. Made from 100% Colombian coffee imported directly from Colombia, Giraldo Farms values quality as its main focus.

Giraldo Farms Logo

The Colombian Dream

Andre Giraldo, Owner and President of Giraldo Farms.

Born and raised in New York, Andrea spent much of her formative years visiting her parents’ native Colombia. She refers to these early times as her “Latina Development Period.”

“I learned the language, ate the food, and most importantly learned the idiosyncrasy of the culture, which you truly learn when you actually live in another country,” says Andrea.

Later in life, Andrea returned to live out her “Colombian Dream” and plant roots in her family’s native land. She planned to live there the rest of her life. She and her husband settled down and started a family. Andrea took a position as a regional executive director for an internet company. She became immersed in Colombia’s culture and made many connections. She never imagined that her Colombian Dream would come to an abrupt end.

However, in 2003, at the height of the Colombian guerrilla wars, she and her family were forced to relocate back to the U.S.

Celebrating Heritage

Andrea at one of her NYC client’s gourmet store with Giraldo Farms products on Display

The period that followed was a time of adjustment and reevaluations.  Having left behind their careers in Colombia, Andrea and her husband were forced to begin anew.

After much contemplation, the couple realized they could utilize their many connections in Colombia to offer something that would benefit the country they loved so dearly and create a business for them in the U.S.

Together they created A&G Trading Corp, the parent company of Giraldo Farms. Through this company, Andrea consults, represents, and wholesales food products.

Then, after the success of her first company, Andrea conceived another idea: a brand that would fully represent her love and appreciation for her Colombian heritage.

The brand would focus on the touchstone of Colombian culture: coffee.

With the expertise of her husband, an agricultural engineer who knows more about coffee cultivation than most people, the two once again brought together their various connections to create Giraldo Farms.

Soon it became a nostalgic brand for other Colombians based in the U.S. though Andrea never planned for that. Her only intent at the time was to develop a line of coffee that she would be proud to carry and call her own, where quality was the main focus.

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Carving A Name

Giraldo Farms has since become a success, lauded as New York City’s favorite Colombian instant coffee. But as with most new businesses, there are sure to be obstacles.

Andrea consulting with a company in Colombia (Courtesy Andrea Giraldo)

For Andrea, the beginning stages were the most difficult. Being an unknown name in the industry, a Latina business owner in the early 2000s, and a woman carving her way into the food industry at the time was bold. Dealing with distributors and clients was difficult at first because many were reluctant to take a chance on a newcomer. But Andrea always remained persistent.

“There was one particular client, whom I knew was important to feature my products in his store. It probably took me six months to convince him and over ten years later we still do business,” says Andrea.

Through all these obstacles and challenges, from finding funding to attaining connections and resources, the important thing Andrea has learned is to always stay focused and positive. You will eventually figure it out. Have faith in yourself.

“You must realize that only you will be your biggest cheerleader,” says Andrea. “Latinas are resourceful, it is in our culture to figure it out. We are smart, savvy, and most importantly hard workers.”

Realizing New Dreams

Her hard work has paid off in many ways and offered her amazing opportunities. She loves traveling to other countries to meet with business owners and hear firsthand their struggles and dreams, as well as share her own experiences and expertise with them. One such moment that Andrea shares with us is her trip to Egypt, something that had always been a lifelong dream. She, along with various other entrepreneurs from all over the world, were invited to the country by the Egyptian Department of State and Department of Commerce to attend a trade mission. Here, Andrea came as a buyer and consultant and met with fellow entrepreneurs where they attended events hosted by the Egyptian government. The entire trip was a dream come true for Andrea, who always wished to visit Egypt and see the deserts.

“A funny story from this trip,” says Andrea, “was the escorted motorcade for the group I was with, to attend the Sinai Desert for a dinner with Boudin, which was hosted by the equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State for Egypt.”

As Andrea and her group of fellow entrepreneurs were escorted to the dinner, she could not believe that this was happening to her. It was completely surreal.

“Yes, I felt very a la Hillary Clinton,” she says, “minus the pantsuit.”

100% Colombian Vanilla Coffee

In addition to the many adventures she has had thanks to her job, Andrea is happy to share her expertise and experiences with newcomers. Having been there herself, she knows how intimidating it can be to start out.

Some key tips Andrea always stresses when consulting small businesses is the importance of doing research and knowing your industry.

“Know everything about the industry you plan on entering, your product, or service. Even professionally it says a lot about a person when they can discuss their industry and not only their jobs–two very different things.”

Additionally she reminds aspiring business owners to remember that it might not be always be as glamorous as you imagined, and at times you will be wearing many hats, working 24/7, but to never become discouraged.

“Keep going and have faith in yourself.”

Andrea’s journey toward coffee making was an unexpected twist in her story. It was not part of her original “Colombian Dream.” But like many Colombians, she is now part of the extensive coffee-making culture, celebrating her heritage and bringing rich, quality Colombian coffee to the U.S.

martial arts

Martial Arts Sensen Marieangelic Martinez defeats industry stigma and work-life balance

Martial Arts and Family Fitness Center owner Marieangelic Martinez talks work-life balance, facing industry stigma, and mindset for success.

career counseling

Latina Career Coach Bonnie Negron gives advice for achieving career goals

Inspire. Identify. Achieve. This is the tagline for Bonnie Negron’s company, Bonnie Career Services, Inc. The company aims to help individuals in their job searches and careers by inspiring them with the confidence to reach their career goals and achieve success.

career counseling

Bonnie Negron, CEO at Bonnie Career Services Inc.

Bonnie loves helping others and believes that her work goes beyond just helping people find jobs. She wants to help them feel empowered and bring them hope and excitement as they strive for their utmost career goals.

Bonnie is an Executive Leadership Award winner with a BBA in International Management from Pace University and an MBA in Management with Honors from Wagner College. Born in Brooklyn to an Ecuadorian dad and Italian/Irish mom, she began her career at the age of 16, working as an intern for an international law firm in New York City. From there she continued working, earning her first management position at the age of 19. It was during this position that Bonnie realized how much she enjoyed mentoring and training others. She loved helping people succeed. Since then, Bonnie was always in a leadership role.

Career goals for all

career counselingAs she continued to strive for her own career goals, friends, family, and colleagues would often ask her for help with their own careers. She often would help them edit their resumes, offer career advice, and coach them on opportunities.

“I took the time to provide insights for their career development because talking success and happiness gets me excited,” said Bonnie, “so I would happily divulge any knowledge I thought they would find helpful.”

In 2017, after years of working in the corporate world, Bonnie decided she needed a change. She no longer felt fulfilled in her job. Deciding to start anew, she sent her resume to a resume writer, hoping to enhance her resume to be the best it could be. What she received was disappointing.

“I received a document that was full of spelling errors and with minor revision to my original document. I was appalled that I had wasted hundreds of dollars on a service hat I very well knew I could’ve handled on my own,” said Bonnie.

It was at this point that Bonnie had the vision for her business.

“I realized that I had been doing this resume writing and career coaching since I was a teenager and I needed to expand my skills outside of family, friends, and employers so I could help individuals everywhere.”

career counselingShe officially began Bonnie Career Services in September of 2017 and the company has been growing since then. Of the obstacles she’s faced so far being a business owner, Bonnie says the biggest struggle was the transition from employee to owner and setting up all the benefits she was used to having.

 

“Medical/dental, 401K, payroll and other insurances– there are so many options and pricing for these services that I just didn’t know what was the best option for a small business owner,” said Bonnie.

She was able to overcome this obstacle by doing extensive research, asking for quotes, and consulting with various other business professionals as well as utilizing the resources within Statewide Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of New Jersey.

Every business has its challenges

Bonnie has not let these obstacles deter her from her ambitions. She continues to stay motivated and says her biggest inspiration and motivation are her daughters.

“Every step that I have taken in my career has been to be a mom that makes them proud and teaches them to be strong, independent women,” shared Bonnie.

Her daughters often help her with her business and they enjoy learning about resumes, different positions, and career paths. Bonnie hopes to inspire her daughters the way she inspires her clients, showing them the value of their skills and talents so that they may achieve their career goals. It is from this desire to inspire that the business’ tagline was born.

career goals

My strengths have always been in back office operations such as finance, human resources, administration and IT, Bonnie Negron said.

Bonnie enjoys helping people realize their true potential and harness the skills and strengths they have to better their careers. When asked what she would say her biggest strengths are as a Latina business owner, Bonnie cited her leadership skills and problem solving.

“My strengths have always been in back office operations such as finance, human resources, administration and IT…and performing as a hiring manager for many years.”

Its these positions she says that have given her the hands-on experience so that she can now coach others on their own career development.

Bonnie has some career goals advice to share with readers

“Don’t think about doing it, just do it! Set career goals and stick to them. Ask for that raise or promotion, network with industry professionals, have a positive support system, and always have an updated resume.”

She specifically stresses the importance of having an updated resume on hand as one never knows when an opportunity may arise.

Bonnie urges both her clients and readers to simply begin. Take those first baby steps towards one’s career goals. It’s the first steps that are the hardest.

“Once you make that first step, everything else follows directly after and you’ll question why you didn’t make that first step sooner.”

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.”  

event planning

DACA Latina student turns event planning hobby into business venture

Georgeth “Geo” Sanchez is a Latina small business owner whose event planning venture arose from a hobby to support her college finances. Her business Geo & Co. specializes in chocolate dessert bowls, arranged fruit and candy buffets, handcrafted pretzel rods, and banquet chair covers and props to rent.

event planningGeo currently attends USC under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program where she is studying to become a social worker. While DACA provides many opportunities such as the ability to obtain a driver’s license, enroll in college, and legally secure employment, there are still hurdles, such as financial aid for students. Under DACA, students are disqualified from federal financial assistance which means all school related costs must come out-of-pocket. This can be incredibly difficult when college tuition is constantly rising.    

event planningDue to her financial need, Geo decided to turn her event planning hobby into an actual business to raise funds for her graduate school studies. With the help of C.P. Krishnan an Ann  Krishnan of CAK International, LLC, a 2017 Small Business Champion, Geo gained the courage and motivation to officially file her business name on March 8th, 2017, in honor of International Women’s Day.   

As someone who is studying part-time and working full time at a homeless women’s shelter, managing her own business is not always easy, but through every challenge she manages to find solutions.

One major obstacle has been working with a limited budget for her inventory. She explains how “in the event planning business, trends and styles are always changing and it’s difficult to house all the Pantone colors in overlays, napkins, chair covers” etc. And due to her financial need she cannot always purchase inventory in bulk or splurge on rare hues and prints which retails at higher costs.

Despite this, she has found ways around the challenge by sticking to classic colors and finding combinations that are timeless, clean, and sophisticated while allowing her customers to save money.

“As a small business entrepreneur in the event planning industry, I feel my bilingual skills and budget friendly approach to event planning has allowed me to gain the trust of customers. In our Hispanic/Latino communities, milestones (quinceaneras, baptism, weddings, birthdays, and graduations) are the cause of great celebration. That gives me the opportunity to offer my services while ensuring that my customers get the best deals possible.”

event planningShe also feels that much of her success has come from her faith in God and her grandmother’s watchful eye from heaven. Her grandmother was a successful business owner herself for over fifty years in South America and undoubtedly has been a great influence on Geo. She even incorporated her grandmother’s favorite flower the “flor de nardo” into her business’ logo in her honor.

Throughout her journey so far as a business owner, Geo has surmounted obstacles and fought for her dreams. This mentality is what she encourages other aspiring Latinas to have when pursuing their own dreams.

“Think outside the box, ask for help, and fight for what you dream of,” she says. “We are often paralyzed with fear and although quite normal- what defines us is what we do with that fear. Today, I choose to fight for my DREAM!” And she hope you do too!

gourmet popcorn

Carmen Milagros Torres gourmet popcorn and family, the Latina way

Why do people love gourmet popcorn? Many say because it is different, tasty, comforting. Others just love the smells of childhood. Carmen Milagros Torres’ gourmet popcorn startup story is one of empowerment, passion, commitment and the courage to share family traditions, a Latino twist for the most demanding palates.

gourmet popcorn Carmen Milagros Torres

Carmen Milagros Torres, La Dona Carmen, founder of The Popcornerie

She is the owner of Tampa Bay’s The Popcornerie, a family owned business that aims at bringing the highest quality of freshly made gourmet popcorn to its customers. Carmen has recently been selected a semi-finalist on Project American Dreams, an initiative launched by HSN and Dreamers Ventures to feature Latino-owned businesses.

Carmen’s inspiration and driving force

Carmen is a New Yorker of Spanish descent; both her parents are from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Carmen’s inspiration to start her own gourmet popcorn business came from her experiences as a young, eleven-year-old girl helping her abuela’( Spanish for grandmother) make popcorn balls for their friends using original, cherished recipes. “I finally put the pieces together and decided that I wanted to carry this family tradition. It just felt right. Ironically, my daughter is named ‘Palomita’ –‘Palomitas’ or ‘palomitas de maíz’ is the Spanish equivalent of popcorn–”, Carmen told LatinasinBusiness.us.

Being a single, working mother to three children, her children’s future was always her top priority. She was especially determined to ensure that her daughter, “who will face more challenges in life than others simply because she is a double minority”, has a secure future. When she reached a point in her life where her children were no longer dependent on her, she decided to concentrate on starting her own business.

Initial obstacles and how she overcame them

gourmet popcorn Carmen Milagros TorresWhen she first set out to start her own gourmet popcorn business, she could not afford to leave her day job. Amidst the grueling task of trying to balance both her day job and setting up her business, she many times found herself wanting to give up.

After her grandfather’s death, she nearly did. However, her children, the very reason she decided to start her business in the first place, told her to keep it going. Their advice was all the encouragement she needed to get back to work with renewed zeal and fervor.

Carmen Milagros believes in turning every seemingly negative situation into a positive one. Recounting an incident from the time when she was still in the experimental stages of making her gourmet popcorn caramel recipe, she talks about how that incident has always stayed with her.

“I have a habit of placing my reading glasses at the top of my head when I’m not using them. On that particular day, I left the popcorn in the oven to cook and reached for my glasses in order to read,” she recalls. Unable to read, as the words looked blurry to her, she remembers wondering how her glasses had gotten so dirty. When she tried to clean them, she then realized the lenses had fallen off from the frame.

Much to her astonishment, she found the lenses melted at the bottom of the oven landing. “I have kept those lenses until this day and fondly think of them as my lucky charm,” she said with a smile.

Growth and success of gourmet popcorn “The Popcornerie”

gourmet popcorn Carmen Milagros TorresHer unwavering dedication and out of the box thinking is what makes Carmen stand out from the rest. She embraces her roots and incorporates the rich Spanish heritage in all aspects of her business. A great believer in self-improvement, she constantly finds ways to enhance her product. “There’s always room for better”, she asserted.

When she was selected as a semi-finalist on Project American Dreams, she knew the road to success was opening in front of her. Project American Dreams, launched by HSN and Dreamers Ventures, is a business competition to discover, mentor and launch products created by Latino entrepreneurs. If selected among the five lucky winners, this opportunity will give her the right platform and encouragement to boost her business.

You might be interested:

Four Latina entrepreneurs featured on LatinasinBusiness.us semifinalists in HSN competition

Carmen’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs

She stresses the importance of hard work, sound research and the courage to keep going even when the odds are against you. “Never give up”, Carmen stated. She also talks about how keeping her family close and going to them for advice has helped her grow both personally and professionally.

“My children are my driving force”, she said, “My eldest son Damien constantly tells me ‘focus on nuts and bolts mom’. My children are my biggest fans and my toughest critics and I love and respect them for it”, she signed off.

 

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gourmet popcorn Carmen Milagros Torres