Bibi Hidalgo

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

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

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

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

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

“We don’t need to do it alone” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Keep driving it home and pushing hard” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ana Villegas, Latinas in STEM, Latinitas

NI CMO Ana Villegas empowers young Latinas pursuing careers in STEM  

Ana Villegas is the Chief Marketing Officer at NI, a tech company that has developed automated test and automated measurement systems that help engineers solve the world’s toughest challenges for more than 40 years. 

In her role as CMO, Ana leads NI’s global marketing organization and ensures the organization supports their customers and the incredible businesses they lead. NI’s technology helps engineers test and measure the performance of their products, ensuring quality and speeding the pace of innovation in our world. 

With many years of marketing experience across both consumer and B2B organizations, Ana is a frequent speaker at international conferences on B2B digital and modern marketing, diversity and corporate social responsibility topics.

Ana Villegas, Latinas in STEM, Latinitas

Ana Villegas, Chief Marketing Officer at NI. (Photo courtesy of Ana Villegas)

Additionally she proudly serves on the board of Latinitas, a non-profit focused on empowering girls to innovate through media and technology.

As a Latina in STEM, Ana knows first hand the biases and challenges that many women face in this field. Through her work as a leader and mentor she is helping to break those biases and create opportunities for young Latinas in STEM. 

“My childhood set me down a path that didn’t include a career in technology,” she says of her childhood in Peru where she attended an all-girls school where traditional expectations for women were placed on her. 

“The expectation for women was to get married, have children, and take care of the home. And my schooling very much reflected those priorities – I learned to cook, sew, and do other household chores. However, I knew I wanted more,” Ana continues. 

“I worked hard and actively sought out challenging opportunities. I spent time studying engineering despite growing up in an environment that reinforced a limited view of what women can – or should – accomplish. I knew many of those around me had doubts about my plans, but I didn’t allow their doubts to influence me and each accomplishment pushed me further.” 

It was not easy, but Ana kept moving forward on the path she created for herself. She built her own future, seeking opportunities and finding success where others had doubted her. 

Eventually, she would immigrate to the United States from Peru to attend the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University where she received her Masters of Business with a focus in Marketing. Since then, she has worked in marketing roles at Dole Food Company, Dell, and NI. 

“My advice to others: do not let others’ doubts influence your opinion of yourself. Celebrate every victory and know you can achieve anything if you stay focused and work hard.” 

Latinas in STEM need mentors

Another important piece of advice Ana has learned throughout her career is the power of mentors, especially for young Latinas. 

“I have a 10-year-old daughter so it’s important to her future that she has role models and individuals who are there for her. I want her to understand that she’s capable of anything if she puts forth the effort, focuses, and sets ambitious goals for herself.” 

Ana Villegas, Latinas in STEM, Latinitas

Ana Villegas at Startup Chica with Latinitas. (Photo courtesy of Ana Villegas)

In her work as a board member of Latinitas, Ana strives to empower young Latinas and help them cultivate confidence in their abilities and ambitions. 

Through after-school clubs, camps, events and publications, and channels, Latinitas provides a space, both in the physical and online, for girls to express themselves, develop their skills, learn about their culture and discover their unique voice.

Latinitas aims to bridge the gap in access to education and careers in technology and achievement of women in media and STEAM fields. The organization builds future leaders in STEAM who advocate for themselves and their communities and creates a culturally conscious environment that instills pride in identity and a sense of inclusion.

“I’m so proud of the community we’ve created at Latinitas and excited to see these young women flourish as they chart their professional paths.”

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Ana Villegas, Latinas in STEM, Latinitas

“I’m so proud of the community we’ve created at Latinitas.” (Photo courtesy of Ana Villegas)

Ana’s own experiences with mentors and mentorship has opened doors for her and helped her grow into the leader she is today. 

“While working at Dell, I was fortunate to find a mentor in Carla Piñeyro Sublett,” she recounts. “She was serving in a Latin America leadership role and asked me to join her newly formed team. But I wanted to continue on in a more globally-focused trajectory, so I declined. That was a nerve-wracking moment and answer to give someone who had counseled and helped me in my professional growth journey, but it turned out fine. Years later, when she became the CMO at NI, she called and we finally got the opportunity to work together.”

Today, Ana is able to give back as a leader and mentor herself. As an executive in her field, her priority is to help develop future leaders. Knowing first hand the challenges minority individuals can face in the industry, Ana focuses on understanding and embracing the unique perspectives and voices each person brings to a discussion. 

“We must set aside our own biases to understand others’ experiences and viewpoints,” she says. “This builds trust, appreciation for one another, and ultimately helps people grow. My ‘superpowers’ are my abilities to listen and to help others overcome adversity in a way that’s authentic to them.” 

Ana’s parting words of advice to women interested in pursuing a career in STEM is to surround yourself with others who will uplift and support you when you face challenges and to be your own strongest advocate. 

“Speak and live your truth and don’t be afraid to voice your perspective or challenge traditional ways of thinking. Own your authenticity and the personal power it affords you.” 

“You have the power to change the narrative”: Selina Sosa empowers young Latinas to succeed

Selina Sosa is a serial-entrepreneur with three businesses in diverse fields, from the food truck industry to life coaching and a non-profit for young Latinas.  

Selina Sosa, serial entrepreneur and founder of Ethnic Perspective non-profit for young Latinas.

Supporting young Latinas’ success with non-profit

A transplant from New York, Selina currently resides in Texas with her family who are the love and joy of her life. Always working toward a goal, she is currently pursuing a degree in cultural anthropology, all while working full-time and juggling her three businesses: Flavors of the Islands, a food truck she runs with her husband; Selina Sosa Coaching, a coaching business for career development, and Ethnic Perspective, a non-profit for young Latinas. 

Selina founded Ethnic Perspective in October of 2016 after seeing a need in the community, especially for young Latinas. She noticed there was a lack of Latina representation in many areas of business, education, science and technology. 

“I set out to find women who are making strides in every field and bring a more personal approach to their accomplishments,” she says. “I founded Ethnic Perspective to encourage young women to define their own ideas of success by means of entrepreneurship through education and mentoring.” 

This has been a great passion in Selina’s life and while there have been many hurdles, she continues to look for ways to connect and collaborate with other women to ensure our young Latinas are not left behind. 

“Anything you start will be met with obstacles or struggles,” says Selina.

When she began her non-profit, some of the obstacles she first encountered were around money. “I did not realize the financial investment I would be making starting a non-profit,” she says. “The laws and regulations were not in my area of expertise.” 

Luckily, Selina had people to act as a helping hand and walk her through the process, as well as a plethora of resources online. 

One obstacle she was not prepared for however, was getting women to trust what she was bringing with her organization. 

“In that process, I saw a great lack of support,” she says. “Many people expressed a lack of inclusivity. Why only Latina girls? That was always the question. The truth is why not? Our culture, upbringing, beliefs tend to be vastly different. To meet the needs of a people group, you have to interpret the culture. The hardest part was when other Latina women would also come down on our cause. My heart is still set on changing that narrative.” 

“You have the power to change the narrative”

As a minority business owner, Selina cites her biggest strengths as accountability, honesty, and a drive to finish no matter how hard. She also holds firmly to the belief that: “If you have started anything, you did it because you manifested an innate desire to succeed or make a difference.” 

These strengths and beliefs are her core foundation that have helped her build her successful businesses and push through hardships. 

“On the days that I feel like giving up because I do not see the outcome I hoped for, I remember why I started. Nothing worth fighting for comes easy. Every business established requires a firm foundation to last, if you leave before that foundation is laid it will never achieve its maximum potential,” says Selina. 

Part of laying this foundation is putting in the work and not being afraid to fail. Through all her years in business, Selina has learned not to give up and not to be afraid of failure. 

“Everything requires work, so put the work in. Failure can only come if you try,” she says. “So do it! Make the move. If one strategy is not working, seek another. Keep the pieces on the board moving. It will be the only way to succeed.”

Another key to creating a strong foundation is to know when to ask for help. “As Latinas we often have this ‘I can do it all’ pride –and we can– however, that does not mean you can’t have help along the way,” Selina reminds us. 

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Selina is grateful to all the women who saw her vision and helped her make her non-profit for young Latinas a reality.  

“I can not speak about the organization without shining a light on those that helped me start the venture,” she says. “Shelly Cassady was with me from the beginning and was the VP for 4 years. She helped bring insight from the perspective of an educator. Briana Reyes & Rikeisha Cunningham-Byrd were my two college students who were on our board of directors. They helped provide insight into the needs of their generation. Since then the faces of our organization have changed but the heart behind the mission has not.”

These women and others helped give Selina balance and clarity as she built Ethnic Perspective and together they also published a book, Rise Up to Greatness, to share their inspiring stories as women, entrepreneurs, and Latinas. 

Ethnic Perspective, Rise Up to Greatness, young Latinas

Rise Up to Greatness features the stories of 11 fiery women who have come together to create this compilation book and devotional. Not only do they speak about faith in God, but share their personal stories of tests, trials, and triumphs to encourage, uplift, and inspire young women.

We wanted other women to know no matter where you started, you have the power to change the narrative of your ending,” says Selina about the book. “In the process of all of this, my mother was fighting a battle with cancer. When I wrote the book, I was able to share with her my vision and stories about things that happened that she did not know about growing up. She was able to see my book be published, and I was able to hear her express her love and that she was proud.” 

Unfortunately, a year after Selina had begun this journey, her mother lost her battle with cancer. 

“There is something about the loss of someone who meant everything to you, that gives you the drive to succeed. She would have loved all that we were able to accomplish and I know would have been standing right there with me along the journey.”

Now, Selina continues her journey, helping other young Latinas succeed and reach their own dreams. 

Ethnic Perspective is dedicated to stepping up their efforts in addressing issues within Hispanic communities through cooperation and community empowerment. They strive to make a difference, and invite you to learn more here.