How to become an influencer and advance your business

I was recently asked by an acquaintance to provide the “secret” to becoming an influencer within a community. I responded that while I consider myself a big fish in a very small pond, the process that I follow can scale and provide big fish in a big pond results.

Pope-Francis-Catholic-Church-of-England-and-Wales-CC influencer

Pope Frances, one of the greatest influencers of our times.

The following are the six steps that I have found to be effective in creating influence within a community. I believe that anyone can follow these steps to begin their journey towards becoming an influencer:

1. Determine the industry/segment in which you wish to become an influencer:

There’s a difference between being famous and being an influencer. O.J. Simpson was and continues to be famous. Better yet, infamous. John Wooden was an influencer. In the sports industry today who do you think is more successful in influencing the community – even posthumously? Wooden, of course. Influencers must choose a community upon which they will focus and serve. They must respect that community and the community must have no reason to disrespect them. While future influencers need not be experts in community matters, they must eventually evolve into subject matter experts before they earn influencer status.

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

2. Create content that demonstrates your thought leadership and expertise:

Influencers within any community/industry generally have expert knowledge of matters within their domain. The masses listen and act on the advice of influencers specifically because they are experts. Whether their expertise relates to accounting, art or lipstick, influencers are perceived as being subject matter experts. Individuals seeking influencer status must demonstrate their mastery to the community/industry. In today’s content driven world this means that expertise should be evidenced in one or more content formats, including but not limited to, blog posts, whitepapers, videos, podcasts or any other form of content that is preferred by the community. Expertise and thought leadership must come through clearly in order for the community to adopt the individual as an influencer.

3. Develop public relations to put a face to the name:

Something I continually tell attendees at my workshops is that people do business with people. And people are influenced by people. While the Internet, social media and its many forms of content are essential, at the very core we want human interaction. Individuals seeking tocreatetheirplaceintheinfluencer Hall of Fame must ensure that they walk away from their computer screens and actually meet the community they are looking to serve. Through speaking engagements, networking functions and other face-to-face interactions influencers-in-process can help generate needed buzz from those individuals that read the book or saw the video or heard the podcast and have now put a face with a name. Big time influencers will tell you that it is not possible to meet the entire community or respond to every email, tweet or message. But they will also tell you that they invest time interacting as much as possible.


Photo credits (Top L to Bottom R) Susana G Baumann at Univision 41 Studios; Susana with Yvonne Garcia, ALPFA National Chair; Susana with Nina Vacca, CEO Pinnacle Group and Pres Emeritus US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation; Susana with the NAA American Latina Leadership Caucus and SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.

4. Build your list:

One of the most valuable investments an influencer can make is to sign up for an account with Mailchimp, Constant Contact or some other email program. Consideration should be given to capturing contact information with the release of every piece of content. Show me a successful influencer and I will show you an effective contact database. In today’s social media world it is also important to develop followings in-platform. This means growing connections, likes, followers, etc. Both email lists and social media platforms are essential to the distribution of content that reinforces influencer status as well as grows influence through sharing.

5. Create collaborations/partnerships:

The biggest mistake an influencer-in-training can make is assume that he/she must do it all alone. In today’s democratized world where a dishwasher has as much of a chance of being an influencer as a billionaire, there are many opportunities for collaboration. Something that my Two Men In Your Business co-host Aaron M. Sanchez and I do frequently with our workshops is to bring in others with an expertise that fits our program. We promote those individuals to our following and they do the same with theirs resulting in greater reach and broader influence. The concept of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours is an effective tool for developing influence.

Elianne Ramos, one of the most influential Latina in politics, with Susana G Baumann, at Hispanicize 2015.

Elianne Ramos, one of the most influential Latinas in politics, with Susana G Baumann, at Hispanicize 2015.

6. Remain active and innovative: 

The first five steps above represent the tactics necessary to establish oneself as an influencer. However, in order to remain successful the tactics must be consistently applied and revised based on feedback. An influencer is not a state – it is a way of life. Successful influencers are consistently seeking new ways to grow their community, new approaches to deliver content, new presentations of old content and the development of new content and ideas.

Using these six tactics will allow anyone to develop into an influencer. I credit my big fish in a small pond success to these tactics. Perhaps it’s time to move to a bigger pond!


Jesse Torres has been named to the list of the Top 20 Most Influential Community Bankers in Social Media. The title was bestowed by the Independent Community Bankers of America.


Nely Galan Self-Made

Latina entrepreneur Nely Galán SELF-MADE an inspiring story of empowerment and self-reliance

Nely Galan Self-Made

Nely Galan, Author, Emmy-Award winner and Self-Made entrepreneur, founder of The Adelante Movement.

Nely Galán SELF-MADE, the inspiring story that celebrates the triumph of persistence and determination, touches the lives of thousands of women –and men- and encourages them to become rich in every way, money, family, love and abundant time to enjoy it all!


This week, entrepreneur, TV producer and real estate mogul Nely Galán launched SELF-MADE –Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant and Rich in Every Way, her first book. Galán has made her mission to train and empower women to become successful entrepreneurs—regardless of age or background—so they too can become “self-made.”

The Emmy Award-winning producer and advocate for gender parity, Cuban born Galán started at the very bottom when her parents were forced to leave their country of origin and migrate to the United States. She worked her way up to become the first female president of entertainment of a U.S. Hispanic television network (Telemundo).

Although a big achievement in her life, she did not feel satisfied until she became successful in her own terms by building a real estate empire and a global multicultural media company that has created over 700 television shows and helped launch 10 channels around the world.

Always looking for purpose in her life, she then started The Adelante Movement (“Move it forward!” in English), a non-profit organization sponsored by The Coca-Cola Co., which kicked off in 2012.

Nely Galán SELF-MADE a thought-provoking book of empowerment

“This book is one of my greatest achievements,” she told in an exclusive interview. “It took me over a year but it is a unique tool for women to start their journey of empowerment and self-reliance,” she said.

Galán, a Psychology trained professional, nails down some of the most ingrained issues in women’s behaviors and offers profound insights into a woman’s soul. But the book is not only a soul-searching tool, it is also strategic and practical, providing tips and tricks for making money, saving money, and finding “hidden money in America,” some little known material that can push women into their self-made journey.

Prince Charming is not coming to save you

Nely Galan Self-Made

Nely Galan at Barnard College 2016 (Courtesy of the Self-Made Movement).

“From the time we are born,” Galán said, “we are dependent on our parents so issues of attachment are very insidious and they show up every day in our lives,” she explained. “When we are young, women have this secret expectation that Prince Charming, our husband or significant other will come and save us,” she said.

The Latina entrepreneur admits she had a turning point in her life the day she and her first husband decided to part ways and she was left with a newborn son. She remembers being in despair until a good friend told her she needed to “do the math.” She then went and made the most money she ever did in the following three years of this disappointment.

“We can also think other people or situations in our lives as being ‘Prince Charming’ for us, people or situations that will finally save us or take care of us,” she explained. “For instance, we expect our boss to notice we did a great job and reward us but reality is, they are human too!”

Galán experienced that disillusionment in one of her jobs as the manager of a small Spanish-language TV station in New Jersey, she narrates in her book. Despite her full-time efforts –“I worked 24 hours a day and had no life,” – the media company sold the station and she lost her job.

“That was another breakthrough,” she said. “Your job or the company you work for, your boss or your colleagues are not your Prince Charming.”

“By the time you are in your thirties, you have been disappointed by many people: corporations you work for, co-workers, your boss, your government, even your family and relatives. Then it is time to kill the fantasy and become your own Prince Charming,” Galán affirms. “With this book, training and mentorship, I help women to build their lives around themselves and succeed in whatever they put their mind into.”

“In your pain is your brand” empowerment for entrepreneurship

Nely Galan Self-Made

Susana G Baumann,, meets Nely Galan at Hispanicize 2015.

The most touching aspect of this book is that Galán explains her step by step growth as a self-reliant and empowered woman through her own most vulnerable moments. “I believe that pain is a gateway to growth,” she says in the book.

“Vulnerability is important,” she told “To be tough and strong in business, you have to recognize your mistakes and weaknesses but also own the parts you are good at,” she explains.

Being an immigrant and learning to live within a different culture put her in the best position to make a career in the Latino television market. As a woman entrepreneur, she had to struggle to be taken seriously in an industry dominated by men. When she was discriminated against, she used that pain as an unstoppable force to advocate for multicultural and gender minorities.

“Women have a great advantage as we are not afraid of talking about pain or our painful experiences,” she said. “I teach women to take their pain and build a business around it instead of thinking their pain prevents them to reach their goals,” she explains. Brilliant!

Entrepreneurship is not a short-term self-gratification road

Nely Galan launches her first book Self Made.

Nely Galan launches her first book Self Made. Click here to see reviews!

In detail, Galán explains how to start a business that can bring financial freedom and a rich life in every way.

“To achieve this optimal state, though, you have to make hard choices and lots of sacrifices,” Galán advises. “You need to clearly define your life-term goals and work your way backwards into the present, always keeping an eye on that final end,” she said.

Through exercises and sound advice, Galán guides her readers through a step-by-step game plan that includes falling in love with saving money, getting out of debt in a realistic way, saving a year’s salary before starting their own business, and even finding hidden money in their own home!

“You need to be prepared before you start your business,” she said. “While doing it, you can start considering what kind of entrepreneurial business matches your skills, find a niche to solve a problem, and the people who have this problem,” she shared.

Access to capital and other sources of hidden money in America

For the last four years, Galán has been touring the country with her Adelante Movement and speaking with women from all walks of life. One of main issues these potential or established entrepreneurs mentioned to her is lack of access to capital.

“However, they don’t apply for the money! There are government contracts and corporate contracts that are untouched because many of these women are unwilling or unable to fill out the paperwork,” Galán said.

The Adelante Movement is working with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to solve this hurdle. “I met with Maria Contreras-Sweet, another powerful Latina who wants to give money to women entrepreneurs, and we will help them promote government contracts and ease the application process,” she announced.

The idea is to explain in detail how government contracts work but also find opportunities through her website’s resources and mentorship with companies like Wal-Mart or Coca-Cola. “You can follow a Golden Triangle Approach by researching corporate, government and non-profit opportunities through their supplier diversity programs, low-interest rate loans, and federal and state tax incentives,” she explained.

Rigoberta Menchu and the entrepreneurial spirit that brings life into the world

Rigoberta Menchú in the March 2009 march commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Rigoberta Menchú in the March 2009 commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Towards the end of the book, Galán speaks with great emotion about the opportunity she had to bring Rigoberta Menchu with her on tour. In 1992, Menchu won the Novel Peace Prize for her work advocating for indigenous people in Guatemala and Latin America.

In her words, Galán describes the amazing story of an illiterate woman whose determination drove her to become a spiritual leader of a people. “Rigoberta taught me to dream big and imagine things that are not possible, and then remind ourselves that we need to ground those dreams in reality,” she said.

Galán ends her book stating that for us women, bringing life is one of our deepest urges and we have been prepared to take care of others. But now, she believes we need to create new pathways, new models for our daughters and their daughters, raising a generation that becomes self-made and changes the world around them.

“One of my strengths is that I complete everything I start. I get afraid but I don’t quit. Find the angles, build baby steps. Don’t overwhelm yourself but keep your grit, one day at a time, until you achieve the success of being self-made the way you want to be,” she concluded.



Tour Dates & Events

Don’t miss Nely Galán, SELF MADE’s author and founder, appearing live:

August 3 – Washington DC

National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists Joint Convention and Career Fair

June 17 & 18 – Washington DC

White House Makers Event

June 14 – Washington DC

The United State of Women Summit

June 13 – Washington DC

SBA / Adelante Movement Announcement, 12:00 – 12:45 pm


Speaking engagement inquiries? Email:



Hair salons small business week

National Small Business Week Celebrates the American Entrepreneurial Spirit

Starting National Small Business Week, who better than our very best Latina Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator, to address the importance of celebrating the drive, innovation and economic impact of the Latina entrepreneurial spirit. Please visit Our LIBizus section to get to know the Latina entrepreneurs we celebrate on Vamos, Latinas!


Hair salons small business week

Hair salons play an important role in the Dominican small business community.

By Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator

What creates two out of three net new American jobs; produces close to half of our nation’s goods and services (nonfarm private GDP); and can be found, coast to coast, in every small town, big city and rural enclave?

The 28 million small businesses that propel our economy forward and define our national entrepreneurial spirit.

To be American is to have the freedom to innovate, take risks, create, transform and put in the hard work that has led to the successes – and failures – that define human progress. From May 1-6, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will recognize and honor the critical and  life altering contributions of America’s moms and pops, manufacturing enterprises, Main Street retailers and entrepreneurs during National Small Business Week.

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation setting aside one week to “recommit to advancing these vital enterprises, and celebrate their contributions to our collective American story.” As Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said, it was small businesses that powered our recovery after the Great Recession.

Rosario Gamboa

Rosario Gamboa, Canela Bakery

This year’s National Small Business Week, themed “SBA: Dream Big, Start Small,” will include special events in Atlanta, New York, Denver, Phoenix, San Jose, Oakland and Washington, D.C.

Tune in all week for live-streaming, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday as we officially kick off the week and join me at @MCS4Biz on Twitter (link is external) or Instagram (link is external), and #DreamSmallBiz.

America is one of the few countries that gives entrepreneurs a seat at the President’s cabinet table. This allows the SBA to provide an amplified voice for small businesses and represent their divergent interests.

The SBA also offers an extensive national network of small business lenders and counselors that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Many innovators with great ideas and great potential do not begin with great wealth, so they need a great government partner to support their success.

The SBA offers the “three Cs” to help aspiring entrepreneurs start up and scale up by making counseling available, providing more choices and chances to secure capital, and by helping them seize market opportunities to commercialize their ideas. These risk takers will help make our lives more productive, safer, healthier and benefit society overall.

Capital: SBA fills gaps in the commercial lending marketplace so success in the small business sector is based on merit, not family wealth. To inquire about a small business loan, click here.

Counseling: SBA provides free consultation and advice to help Main Street succeed. To find a counseling center near you, click here.

Cecilia Arce, Verde Cleaning Services small business week

Cecilia Arce, Verde Cleaning Services

Contracts: SBA levels the playing field with big business by helping small businesses capture new revenue and new customers by winning government contracts, joining corporate supply chains, and exporting beyond our borders. To learn about contracting opportunities, click here.

This year, during National Small Business Week, we recommit ourselves to those fearless entrepreneurs who plan well, work hard, and dream big. Every business starts small. Many of today’s most recognized brands were once small businesses until they found an SBA counselor, lender or investor.

I came to this country as a 5-year old immigrant who didn’t speak a word of English. Today, I serve in the cabinet of the President of the United States. My story is possible only because of America’s promise and its entrepreneurial spirit. I’m proud to lead an incredibly talented team assembled from across the country ready to serve you.

Success in business comes one small step at a time. So dream big, take that next small step today, because the next great American success story could be staring back at you in the mirror.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet started three businesses in Los Angeles, including a community bank, before joining President Obama’s cabinet in April 2014.

Published: April 26, 2016 Updated: April 26, 2016 on the Blog – SBA Administrator


Maria Contreras-Sweet  SBA Administrator Maria Contreras Sweet small business week

Maria Contreras-Sweet is Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and a member of President Obama’s cabinet. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.
ahora te toca a ti Latinas in business Latina entrepreneurs

Women’s History Month Progress of Latina leadership in business and corporate

Since launching our initiative, we have interviewed and were honored with the presence of highly respected Latina leadership. Here’s a list of the Latina entrepreneurs and Hispanic leaders in the business and corporate worlds who visited our pages and shared their experience and wisdom about the progress of Latinas with our readers (by date of publication).


Suzanna SanchezSuzanna Sanchez, National President of the National Latina Business Women Association (NLBWA).

“As women, we have a hard time juggling all our roles, as mothers, spouses, professionals and business owners. Organizations such as ours stand behind Latino women in business to help them thrive as leaders. We support policies that would simplify their lives while advancing their economic power.”


Angelica-Perez-Litwin_LatinasThinkBigDr. Perez-Litwin,  PhD, a tech social entrepreneur and psychologist  founder of LATINAS THINK BIG

“With 1.4 million computer specialist job openings expected in the U.S. by 2020, and Latinas as the fastest growing female population in this country, it is imperative that we support and advance Latinas in technology and across STEM fields.”



Angela Franco GWHCCAngela Franco, Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.

“ Some well-educated first generation Hispanic business owners, especially from Mexico, have opened their businesses in Washington looking for opportunities to work and engage in federal and state contracts. However, they might lack the experience some contracts require, or seniority in working with the agencies. Our goal is not only helping new businesses grow but also sustain the existing ones and help them succeed.”


Strayer Portraits -Dr Zoppi RodriguezDr. Irene Zoppi Rodríguez, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and the first Deputy Commander in the U.S. Army Reserve in Puerto Rico.

“Every human being has a purpose in life. Many discover it at the end of their lives, when it is too late, becoming a wasted opportunity. We cannot put time in a box so it is up to us to realize our purpose in life as soon as we can. By discovering that purpose, we can fulfill our destiny within that purpose,” Dr. Zoppi said.



Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar at the 2nd American Latino National Summit

Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar, Chair of the Board of the New America Alliance (NAA) Institute

“In 1999, a Latina Supreme Court Justice seemed but a dream. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has since inspired legions of American Latinas who can now see themselves in law careers. Latinas in business can have a role model in Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), and a NAA member. Her inspiring story has already impacted Latinas in banking and now she’ll show the way from a larger platform.”


YazminDavidds_high_resDr. Yasmin Davidds, founder and CEO of the Latina Leadership Academy

“I have trained women in both, the organizational or corporate and the entrepreneurial environments. There are differences in every aspect of the negotiation process. In a corporation, the organizational culture designates how a woman can use her power, what is acceptable and what is not, and how much –or little- the organization is open to be questioned, so I always recommend being very cautious. Less evolved organizations have less appreciation for women and for that, they present a higher risk.”


Mariela Dabbah, Red Shoe Movement

Mariela Dabbah and the Red Shoe Movement

“Most women looking for empowerment usually end up trying to find a formula that worked for someone else without realizing that their characteristics and personality are likely very different from the person they are trying to emulate. The success of the Red Shoe Movement is based on providing tools for women to find their own definition of success and to follow their own style.


Maria_Contreras_Sweet_portraitMaria Contreras-Sweet, Head of the Small Business Administration (SBA)

“We’ve made real progress, but at the same time, Latinos have developed a special culture of entrepreneurship by starting our own enterprises. It’s remarkable to see the growth and strength of Latino-owned businesses. Latino purchasing power is expected to top $1.5 trillion by next year. This means if the American Latino market were its own country, we’d be the 11th largest economy in the world.”



vice president of research, evaluation and learning at The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Debra Joy Perez, The Annie E. Casey Foundation Vice President-Research, Evaluation and Learning Unit

“What matters to young people is to know that every one of the people they admire has had disappointments in their life. They have tried things and failed. WE have also failed. What distinguishes successful Latinas is that even after failure they try again.”



Pilar Avila, NAA

Pilar Avila CEO New America Alliance

“Less than one percent of Latinas hold high corporate and/or leadership positions. We need to build new connections, strengthen the relationships among members of the Caucus, and increase the presence of these leaders who bring particular skills to any decision table.”



Yvonne Garcia

Yvonne Garcia, National Chairwoman for the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA)

“This is the commitment we ask from top corporate management; there must be a mandate from CEOs to mentor and train our women in order to build not only technical skills but also to develop leadership strength and charisma.”



Solange Brooks, CalSTRS

Solange Brooks, CalSTRS Portfolio Manager

“Progress over the years comes from one’s own preparation. Women in general and Latinas in particular have increased their preparation, improved their education and are achieving in many areas in the workplace. In business, Latinas cannot allow any roadblocks to stop them from fulfilling their goals. You have to go over, under or around them, but you need to be strong, do the work and get that experience you need to be successful.”



shopping small business getting ready for Small Business Saturday

immigrant entrepreneur

Have you visited our new discussion group We are on FacebooK? It is an open discussion group where you can promote your business, services, events and everything you need to tell the world! You can also bring discussion topics, information and data about Latinas in business and the workplace, or ask other Latinas what they want or need from your business.

Family-Business-Articles_htmAs a promotion for this year’s Small Business Saturday (#SmallBizSat) we are offering the opportunity to participate for a drawing of a $25 gift card when you promote your business on We are and offer a discount or coupon for your business. You can read about this promotion here.

We have been asking around to our business friends and media partners what they are doing to support small business owners and their members on this special event coming up this Saturday.

November 28th marks the sixth annual Small Business Saturday, a day to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country. Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 in response to small business owners’ most pressing need: more customers.


Here are some of their answers:Small-Business-Majority_log

Small Business Majority is supporting small business owners who are celebrating Small Business Saturday by promoting them on our social media pages and featuring them in our blog. Additionally, this week as part of our Small Business Saturday efforts we issued our inaugural regional Small Business Advocate Awards to honor small business owners who are dedicated to fighting for policies that keep small businesses thriving. Hipatia Lopez, owner of the Empanada Fork in Elmwood Park, was selected as our New Jersey Small Business Advocate of the year for her work speaking up on issues that matter to small businesses,” said Aixa Acevedo, Small Business Majority Coordinator for New Jersey.

“We are leading the conversation on Twitter promoting our small businesses,” said Luis O de la Hoz, Statewide latinosmallbusinesslogoHispanic Chamber of Commerce (@SHCCNJ) Vice-President, and Chair of the Diversity Committee that organizes Feria de Negocios Hispanos de Central New Jersey (@FNHCNJ) at the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce (@MCRCC). “Via social media we are also supporting all the Small Biz Members that are register to participate so they can share their link at the following pages: Feria de Negocios Hispanos del Centro de New Jersey,  Intersect Fund, and Latino Small Business Owner using the hashtags using  #ShopSmall #SmallBiz #Familyown.”

Jimmy Duran, Director of Programs of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (@GPHCC) shared, “We are promoting Small Business Saturday to all of our members, readers and followers both on our newsletter and our social media sites.” You can follow the GPHCC on Facebook and on Twitter.GPHCC Logo

Small Business Saturday, started by American Express in 2010, as a day intended to support “the little guys” has a spending estimate of $15 billion. The motto – “Shop Local” or “Shop Small” – expresses two sentiments that are getting Millennials moving, according to Forbes.

“Millennials, born in the eighties and nineties, are one of the largest populations of our generation. They are a segment of the market predisposed to trust their local small brick and mortar businesses, partially thanks to the distaste of big business. Millennials, approaching 80 million strong, have $1.7 billion in wallet power. Local retailers would be foolish not to tap into that,” says Winnie Sun, Forbes contributor.

Maria Contreras Sweet at the Small Business Majority Summitt 2015

Maria Contreras Sweet at the Small Business Majority Summitt 2015

Maria Contreras-Sweet, the first Latina to be the Head of the Small Business Administration, also made a statement on this special shopping event. “On Saturday, November 28, please join the U.S. Small Business Administration in supporting America’s small business and entrepreneur community by participating in the sixth annual ‘Small Business Saturday’ and encouraging American consumers to ‘shop small’. Small Business Saturday plays a key role in driving customer traffic and growing revenue for our 28 million independent businesses during the important holiday retail season. We’re also encouraging consumers to ‘dine small’ by grabbing a bite at a local eatery.”

Show your support on social media via @SBAGov, #SmallBizSat, #ShopSmall, #Dine Small. For more details visit and for a full listing of the Small Business Saturday Coalition members, please visit (link is external).

And don’t forget to promote your business on “We are” Facebook group!

Hipatia Lopez partipates at 2015 SBM Summit

Empanada Fork selected to the Small Business Leadership Summit in D.C.

Hipatia Lopez, inventor of Empanada Fork, participates at 2015 SBM Summit

Hipatia Lopez, inventor of Empanada Fork, participates at 2015 Small Business Majority Summit

Hipatia Lopez, founder and owner of HL Unico LLC and inventor of the ethnic kitchen tool Empanada Fork, was selected as one of 100+ small business leaders from across the country to meet with policymakers, issue experts and senior members of the Obama Administration. The focus of the summit involved identifying policies to help small businesses thrive at the Small Business Majority’s inaugural Small Business Leadership Summit.

“I traveled to Washington D.C. to talk with policymakers and senior members of the Obama Administration about the top barriers to success entrepreneurs and small business owners face, and identify practical solutions to our everyday problems. The experience was extraordinary,” Hipatia shared with LIBizus.

Panel discussions, keynote speeches, interactive workshops and presentations featured top policymakers at the National Press Club and the White House. Small business leaders heard from Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and top economic advisors to the President.

Maria Contreras Sweet at the Small Business Majority Summitt 2015

Maria Contreras Sweet at the Small Business Majority Summitt 2015

“As an active member of the New Jersey small business community, I was honored to be selected to attend the three-day Small Business Leadership Summit, hosted by Small Business Majority,” Hipatia said. “Some of the issues we discussed were related to the gap between Internet-based companies and small “mortar and brick” business owners who feel they are getting the short end of the stick in tax issues,” she shared.

Other interactive areas of discussion focused on key issue such as problems accessing capital, tax and economic policies, crowdfunding, women’s entrepreneurship, minority entrepreneurship, the freelance/microenterprise economy, technology and workforce issues.

“We heard from the head of the Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet and several members of Congress, and spoke with top economic advisors to the President to help them understand how important small businesses are to boosting the economy and creating jobs,” Hipatia said.

Policies identified during the three-day event will be incorporated into Small Business Majority’s policy platform—the Small Business Economic Agenda for 2015-16—and shared with decision makers to elevate issues of importance to small business owners.

Businesswoman of the Year Hipatia Lopez, H.L. Unico LLC

2014 Businesswoman of the Year Hipatia Lopez, H.L. Unico LLC, SHCC of NJ

Hipatia Lopez, the inventor of the “Empanada Fork,” an ethnic kitchen utensil that works as a pastry press, started her business around the kitchen table during the holiday season when her family was making 100 empanadas. “I remember complaining about how long this last step was taking.  I literally could not get this ‘idea’ out of my mind, envisioning how it would look,” she shared.

As many startups and small businesses, Empanada Fork encountered difficulties in obtaining access to capital, especially from traditional sources such as banks. “I obtained an equity line of credit with my house as collateral,” she said. However, now she needs additional funding to grow her business.

“During the three-day summit, progress was made, but more needs to be done. To instate policies we need to succeed—like greater access to capital and changes to the country’s tax code—we need more small business owners to speak out and get involved,” Hipatia said.

To voice your small business concerns, Hipatia encourages you to take Small Business Majority’s survey at:,

If you’d like to share your business story with LIBizus, please fill out this form and tell us about your business and products. We will post a FREE feature! (Certain restrictions apply. Limited time offer).

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]


certified women-owned business

Women-owned small biz federal contract program, friend or foe?


Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator

Are you a certified minority or women-owned business? And what does the certification mean for your business? Is your business qualified for minority or women-owned certification just because you are a woman or a minority?

I have asked these and other similar questions to several Latinas business owners and few of them were indeed certified or knew the answers.

According to the Small Business Administration, President Obama’s signature of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2015 is a critical move for women-owned small businesses to earn their fair share of the federal marketplace and gain economic opportunities.

Although legislation existed since 2000, implementation has been a promise since President Obama took office. Finally, it was implemented in April 2011. Section 825 of the NDAA authorizes federal agencies to award sole-source contracts to women-owned small businesses eligible for the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program, giving women the same level of access to the federal contracting marketplace as other disadvantaged groups.

“Women entrepreneurs are growing at an unprecedented rate.  More than one in four U.S. companies is owned or led by a woman, and these firms employ more than 7.8 million Americans.  Passage of the women’s small business provision in NDAA is a win for women entrepreneurs and a win for America.  This will help women-owned small businesses gain equal access to federal contracting as they add jobs to the U.S. economy.  A big thank you to the leaders of the Senate and House Small Business and Armed Services Committees for helping make this a reality,” said the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet.Our economy won't work

Currently, women entrepreneurs are receiving less than five percent of federal contracts.  This new provision will give the SBA a new tool to continue to open doors for more women entrepreneurs in the federal and commercial contract space.    SBA’s efforts include aggressively offering support for the Women-Owned Small Business Contract Program, which aims to expand federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses.

Tina Dante, CEO/President, The Metamorphosis Group, shared on the LinkedIn group Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), “This has been a long time coming, and I heartily applaud it! HOWEVER, I sure hope there is oversight on this, because this also brings out the worst in people. It already is a challenge to compete with other supposedly “woman” owned businesses in the federal market, when we all know that the ‘woman’ is nowhere to be found….the real front person is a husband or a close friend. Let’s hope that the SBA keeps tight reins on this program.”

Vilma Betancourt-O’Day, President at Women Wrule, also clarifies on the same discussion: “I am a Certified Site Visitor for the National Women Business Owner’s Corporation (NWBOC), an approved 3rd party WBE certifier, a WBE/Minority/Small Business Certification consultant and an experienced Government Contractor (Federal, State, Local Municipalities. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO)’s report on the WOSB Certification Program, two groups representing WOSBs stated that Contracting Officers prefer 3rd party certified WOSBs/EDWOSBs as the review process is less tedious for them. Fraud has already been an issue with this program as there is little to no oversight on the Self-Certified WOSBs/EDWOSBs,” she says.

And she continues: “Based on my experience as a Government Contractor, if a business entity does not have sufficient money to spend on marketing its services and/or products to the Government (and the WBE Certification is a huge marketing tool), they’re not prepared to sell to the Government. You must have enough cash to cover your payroll and other expenses incurred while working on the contract, until you get paid by the Government. It takes lots of money to get into the Federal arena. The Agencies want to make sure that you have enough cash in the bank so you don’t default on the contract.”

“Bottom line,” she adds, “Any WBE that wants to grow their business with Government or Corporate Supplier Diversity contracting, should invest in themselves and their businesses with a WBE/Minority/Small Business Certification. It must be part of their annual marketing budget.”

What is your experience regarding this topic?  Share with our community your story so we can learn form each other!

WOSB Program Third Party CertificationUpdated

The SBA has approved four organizations to act as Third Party Certifiers under the WOSB Program. The four organizations and contact information are:

Women Owned Small Businesses may elect to use the services of a Third Party Certifier to demonstrate eligibility for the program, or they may self-certify using the process outlined here on this website. SBA will only accept third party certification from these entities, and firms are still subject to the same eligibility requirements to participate in the program.

Please note, at the request of WBENC, SBA has approved WBENC only for the certification of WOSBs and not for the certification of Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs.


Carlos Medina, Pres SHCCNJ, Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator, Luis O De la Hoz, SVP The Intersect Fund, and Tayde Aburto, Pres HCEC.

Contreras-Sweet invited as speaker for SHCC of NJ

Carlos Medina, Pres SHCCNJ, Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator, Luis O De la Hoz, SVP The Intersect Fund, and Tayde Aburto, Pres HCEC.

From left to right, Carlos Medina, Pres SHCCNJ, Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator, Luis O De la Hoz, SVP The Intersect Fund, and Tayde Aburto, Pres HCEC.

Attending the National Annual Conference of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) can bring unexpected opportunities. Among them, Carlos Medina, President of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (SHCCNJ), had the perfect opening for inviting the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Maria Contreras-Sweet as the Keynote speaker for the 24th SHCCNJ Annual Convention and Awards Luncheon. The event is taking place this coming October 23rd at The Brownstone, 351 West Broadway in Paterson, New Jersey.

“We bring the most relevant figures as keynote speakers to our events, and this year, inviting Maria Contreras-Sweet was just the perfect fit for us. This public figure represents the fastest growing business community in the nation: Latinas,” Medina said.

Although her participation has not been yet confirmed, Medina expects that Contreras-Sweet will clear her schedule to attend this major event for Hispanic businesses in New Jersey and the Northeast region. The New Jersey chamber estimates there are 83,000 Hispanic businesses with an economic power of over $10 billion annually. “Most Latino population concentrates in six counties in New Jersey, and so do many of their businesses,” said Medina.

He refers to the so called “big six” counties, which hold 81 percent of the total number of Latino-owned firms in the state. Those are the Northern counties of Hudson, Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Union and Middlesex with an estimated total of approximately 67,000 firms.

Contreras-Sweet, perfect for the job

Contreras-Sweet most relevant experience for her SBA appointment is her helm at ProAmérica Bank, a business financial institution with over 30 years in the making.

In a 2012 interview, the business woman recalled that the founding of ProAmérica Bank evolved through the years, with the input of several important business leaders from the Los Angeles area. During her time in public office, she was approached with the idea of starting a bank oriented to the particular needs of Latinos. However, the project did not crystallize until years later, when her son, who worked at a financial institution, noticed the obstacles Hispanic business owners had to overcome in understanding financial products including language barriers and the lack of institutions that would make the banking process accessible to them.

Through friends and business acquaintances, Contreras-Sweet was able to gather the necessary resources to finally launch the institution in 2006. Founding board members included Ed Roski, real estate investor and Contreras-Sweet’s partner at a private venture capital firm; George Keiffer, former Chair of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and attorney at law; Henry Cisneros, who had served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Univision COO; and Sol Trujillo, former CEO at US West.Maria_Contreras_Sweet_portrait

Latinos encounter cultural barriers in using traditional banks, either because they grew up with different values about building wealth, did not use banks, or are unaware of the resources available to them, she believed. She set the foundation to create a bicultural service providing financial education and empowerment, access to technical skills and networking opportunities, and additional business resources.

Even when the economic power of Latinos in business has grown at a staggering rate –the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimates that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew from 2.26 million with revenues of $350 billion in 2007 to an estimated 3.16 million and $500 billion in revenues last year– access to investment capital and other financial products continue to be a major hurdle for many of them.

“Maria Contreras-Sweet ‘s appointment to the head of the Small Business Administration is a historic opportunity to bring someone to this position who understands the need of ethnic business owners in the banking arena,” said Luis de la Hoz, The Intersect Fund‘s vice president and board member of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. “Her background as an entrepreneur and chair of a financial institution addressing the needs of small and medium business owners, together with her experience in the public sector, makes her an ideal candidate to understand that access to capital continues to be the number one obstacle for Hispanic business owners.”

Maria Contreras Sweet small business week

SBA corner: Maria Contreras-Sweet at LULAC

Maria_Contreras_Sweet_portraitExcerpts of Maria Contreras-Sweet speech at LULAC Convention

(Speech date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 In New York)

“I’m delighted to be with you today. This has been an incredible journey for me. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to serve as SBA Administrator and be a champion for America’s small business owners.”

“I was born in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to this country at the age of 5 with my mother and five siblings .I come from a family of migrant workers in Mexico and arrived in California not speaking a word of English. My family didn’t have much, but what we did have was a belief that America was a land where dreams could come true.”

“My mother worked in a chicken processing plant to give her six kids opportunities that she would never have. My abuela back in Mexico would write me these wonderful letters. She’d tell me that if I worked hard and played by the rules in America, anything was possible. She said, ‘Maria: You could even work in an office some day and become a secretary!’ Well, the good Lord heard her. Indeed, I’ve had the opportunity to work in an office and become a cabinet secretary in Washington, D.C. Only in America can we harvest such bounty of opportunity.”

“… But my selection was also made in recognition of the growing role that Hispanics – and Latinas, in particular – are playing in the economic growth of this nation. It’s a remarkable sign of the progress we’ve made that I’ll soon be one of three Latinos in the cabinet. Don’t you just love Julian Castro? He’s going to make history when he’s confirmed at HUD. Soon, for the very first time, there will be three Latinos serving in the cabinet of the President of the United States.

These are important milestones to be celebrated. When I became a cabinet secretary in California in the 1990s, I was the first Latina to do so. Then, as now, I’m standing on your shoulders. I wouldn’t be standing where I am today without organizations like LULAC who’ve worked so hard to empower Latinos to seize the chance to become leaders.”

It’s an exciting time to be the leader of the SBA

“… Some of the most important work LULAC does today is in the areas of education and economic empowerment. You’re partnering with major corporations – many of whom are here today – to create opportunities for Latinos to move up the ladder and grow. And I’m so proud that you’re also partnering with the SBA to unleash the power of the Hispanic entrepreneur. My agency and yours have been putting on trainings together at conferences like these for many years, teaching Latinos about how to get started in business, how to access capital, and how to get contracts.

It’s an exciting time to be the leader of the SBA. Today, two out of three net new jobs in America are being created by small businesses. Small businesses employ one in two members of the private sector workforce. It’s incredible what’s taking place, and it’s Latinos who are driving so much of that progress.

There are more than 3 million Latino-owned businesses in America today, and they’re pumping nearly half a trillion dollars into our economy every year. Latinos in America are starting businesses at 3 times the national average. Immigrant-owned firms today employ 1 in 10 U.S. workers. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or children of immigrants.

As SBA Administrator and a Hispanic entrepreneur myself, I’m proud of how far we’ve come. Our economy has now added back all the jobs we lost in the recession. That’s a remarkable accomplishment, when you consider the economic peril we faced when President Obama took his oath of office five and a half years ago. So as we fight for civil rights and voting rights, we must step up our efforts to fight for market rights so more of our brothers and sisters can share in this prosperity.”

Growth and strength of Latino-owned businessesOur economy won't work

“… Entrepreneurship is an essential part of the Latino culture. We don’t just work hard, we work smart. We take risks and we start new companies. Many of us who arrived in this country faced language barriers and cultural barriers that made it difficult to advance as far as our talents would allow. In fact, my start in public service was an appointment to the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission to explore how we could create more opportunities for women in corporate board rooms.

We’ve made real progress, but at the same time, Latinos have developed a special culture of entrepreneurship by starting our own enterprises. It’s remarkable to see the growth and strength of Latino-owned businesses. Latino purchasing power is expected to top $1.5 trillion by next year. This means if the American Latino market were it’s own country, we’d be the 11th largest economy in the world – just below France and Mexico and larger than Korea and Spain. We’ll have more per capita purchasing power than Brazil, Russia, India and China – the fast-growing BRIC countries we hear so much about.

So to our corporate partners here today: I urge you to think hard about the untapped potential of this vast market. Sure, it’s important to be pioneers in new emerging foreign markets. But it should not be done at the expense of the critical U.S. markets, and there are none bigger than the Hispanic market.

Make no mistake, these numbers are only getting bigger According to Census forecasts, the U.S. Latino population will grow by 83 million people by the middle of this century. This will make Hispanic America larger than the current population of Japan and almost as big as Russia. Hispanic growth will be the equivalent of adding 10 additional New York Cities. So I challenge you to be disciples of change to make certain that we’re spurring the economic activity here domestically, at home.”

What’s new at the SBA

“… During my time at the SBA so far, I’ve been focusing on making sure our systems are keeping pace with the rapid pace of changes around us. We all see the transformative impact of technology on how companies conduct their business and how consumers live their lives. Today, you can swipe a check and deposit it through your phone. So not long after I arrived at SBA, I asked my team: Why is the SBA still using faxes and pushing paper? So next year, we’re automating our lending application to reduce the burdens on small business owners.

It’s going to make applying for credit cheaper and faster, and that’s good news for anyone who has ever had to navigate the process of getting an SBA loan. I believe we must make it easier for borrowers to borrow and easier for lenders to lend.

Did you know that the Urban Institute did a study and found that minority business owners are 3 to 5 times more likely to get an SBA loan than a conventional loan? I have a very keen understanding of how important the SBA is to the success of Latino-owned businesses. I started a community business bank in Los Angeles some years ago and ran it until I came to Washington this March. I’m absolutely determined to apply my experiences to the goal of make it easier for Hispanic entrepreneurs to get the capital that’s the lifeblood of any small business.

The truth is, we know capital is not reaching minority-owned businesses today in an equitable way. Your race or your gender should never impact your ability to get a small business loan; only your creditworthiness should! That’s why one of my first big moves at the SBA has been to change our underwriting rules, which were unfair to the communities most affected by the recession. During the Recession, many small business owners spent money out of their own pockets to make payroll, cover costs, and weather the downturn. As a result, their personal credit score went down, and it became even more difficult for them to get an SBA loan.

So this month, at my direction, the SBA is implementing new, fairer credit standards. We call it the “SBA total credit score.” It combines your personal and business credit scores, so those who make personal sacrifices for their employees in tough times aren’t penalized for doing so.

I’m doing something else to speed capital to more Hispanic businesses: I’ve charged my Capital Access team to create lending referral networks with microlenders across the country. If you don’t qualify yet for an SBA loan, you shouldn’t be sent packing and told “better luck next time.” If an SBA lender can’t say “yes” yet, we’re asking them to make referrals to microlender that can. Microlenders can work one- on-one with entrepreneurs to improve their credit rating and their cash flow. They’ll start you with a smaller loan, and they can give you free advice on how to build your credit and then refinance your microloan into a larger loan.

Big companies started as small companiesimmigrantentrepreneur

“… Every big company in America started small. Do you want to know what companies like Under Armour, Ben & Jerry’s, Nike and Fed Ex all have in common? They were all once small business who grew into larger ones because SBA was there to guarantee a loan in their infancy, when the big banks would not.

Most people don’t understand that about the SBA: We’re the agency that makes capital available when the major banks cannot. Every dollar of capital that we inject into the economy is money that would otherwise stay on the sidelines. The single biggest factor that determines whether a small business stagnates or grows comes down to one word: capital.

You can manufacture the greatest widget known to man, or make the best Texas chili since the invention of the bean, but if you don’t have the capital to hire staff, buy equipment, and expand your operations, you’ll stay small. So in my first few months at the SBA, I’ve been focused on how we can speed that transformation.

We’re working with our corporate partners to help more small business enter large corporate supply chains. We call this effort the American Supplier Initiative. We’ve already received more than two dozen commitments from major companies like the IBM Foundation.

They’re giving small businesses the opportunity to make big revenue by become indispensable parts of their global supply chains. Listen to this amazing statistic: small firms that enter corporate supply chains grow their revenue by an average of 250 percent and grow their workforce by an average of 150 percent.”

“…Because when you do business-to-business sales with small companies that have sufficient working capital and cash flow, it’s a win-win. The small business gives you world-class goods and services, and your corporation invests in local communities and creates local jobs. There’s absolutely nothing more patriotic and American than that.

So let me close today with a call to action for every person in this room. You don’t have to hold elective office, or sit in a corporate board room, or even be a member of LULAC to help build the market power of the Latino community. Because you know what? Voting is not something you do every other year. You vote every day in America. You vote with your wallets.

Every time you make a decision as a consumer, you’re voting whether to support the companies that invest in our community, that pay-family sustaining wages, that support small business, and that promote diversity in the board room and on the factory floor. Who knows? Maybe your vote will help a Latino-owned business become the next great American success story.”