Dr. Marlene Orozco demystifies misconceptions about Latinas through data 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demystifying misconceptions about Latinas through data 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We cannot do this alone” 

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

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

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

Latino entrepreneurship, Marlene Orozco

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

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

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

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

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

Latino Business Action Network

LBAN presents: “Resources That Matter: All about capital”

Don’t miss the next session of the Latino Business Action Network (LBAN)  virtual 6-part series supported by Bank of America, “Resources that Matter.” The series covers important topics such as economic market forecast, capital access, customer acquisition, resource building, and networking. 

Latino Business Action Network

Next virtual session May 27, from 1 PM – 2:30 PM PST. (Graphic courtesy LBAN).

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Latino-owned businesses used resilience, creativity, and innovation to survive. Today, the US economy is rebounding and experts are projecting an 8% growth in GDP.  What does that mean for small businesses? It means that small businesses can and should grow in 2021!

Access to capital is a critical component for growth.  We know there are existing barriers to accessing capital. The 2020 Ongoing Impact of COVID-19 on Latino-owned Business report identified a lack of banking relationship, and a lack of required application materials accounted for 39% of the barriers to accessing PPP.

Latino Business Action Network is committed to breaking down those barriers. Join two free webinars to learn the capital resources that will position you for future growth.  In these webinars you will understand the capital landscape, the types of products applicable for your company, how to leverage technology to ensure proper financial documentation, how to build a relationship with a lender, and how to create a one-pager for your company.  In addition, you will have the opportunity to network with growth-minded business owners from across the country.

You might be interested: Latina Leaders share small business post-Covid recovery resources 

The 6-part series is designed for entrepreneurs and key members of their team. From this series, you will hear from industry leaders, learn about essential resources, capital education, network with other growth-minded entrepreneurs, and you will inherit a growth perspective that will propel you in 2021 and beyond. 

Mark your calendar for May 27th at 1 pm PST and June 8th at 1 pm PST to gain the capital tools and resources so that you are best prepared for accessing capital and positioned for growth.  

Latino Business Action Network

Register today for the next virtual session!

Latino Business Action Network (LBAN)

The Latino Business Action Network (LBAN) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the United States by empowering Latino business leaders to grow substantial firms that create jobs. Our goal to double the number of $10+ million, $100+ million, $1+ billion Latino-owned businesses in the 2025. LBAN collaborates with Stanford University to champion the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI).

Latina Leaders share small business post-Covid recovery resources 

Latina leaders share post-Covid recovery resources for Latina and minority small business owners and entrepreneurs during virtual event.

Latina Small Business Post-Covid Recovery event recap 

During our March 19th virtual event, “Latina Small Business Post-Covid: Recovery Resources and Trends”, panelists shared various business recovery resources for Latina and minority entrepreneurs and business owners. 

The event ran from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm EST and consisted of two panels of Latina Leaders and entrepreneurs and chats with guest speaker Damaris Diaz and Keynotes speaker Stacie de Armas. 

Speaking about the event President and CEO of Latinas in Business, Susana G Baumann, said, “After this very challenging year, it is important to regroup and think strategically about how to recover and protect our businesses and essential workers. I am very grateful for the response of these amazing Latina leaders that will provide the knowledge and resources needed for our community not only to survive, but to excel.”

The event’s first panel, Funding and Resources for Latina Small Business Recovery, featured guest speakers Jennifer Garcia, Christina Fuentes, and Wendy Garcia, who each provided a variety of resources for Latina and minority entrepreneurs and business owners. 

Panel 1 Guest Speakers: Jennifer Garcia, Wendy Garcia, and Christina Fuentes.

Funding Resources for Latina Small Business Recovery  

Jennifer Garcia, is the Interim CEO at Latino Business Action Network (LBAN). LBAN’s mission is to strengthen the United States by empowering Latino business owners to grow. Under her leadership, she oversaw four successful cohorts of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative Education (SLEI-Ed) Scaling Program empowering nearly 300 Latino and Latina entrepreneurs to complete this prestigious program. 

During the panel, Jennifer shared a variety of resources including information on the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative Education Scaling Program. The program helps entrepreneurs develop a growth mindset to help take their business to the next level. Through the program, participants will join a powerful network of Latino entrepreneurs and will have an experienced mentor to challenge and support them while helping them apply the curriculum to their business. Participants will also learn about funding and capital options, financial management, and go through various exercises to prepare them for a conversation with capital providers. 

The program is currently accepting applications for their next cohort which begins May 5th, so Apply Now

Latina entrepreneurs and business owners can access additional resources from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative Research department. The goal of SLEI research is to understand the state of Latino entrepreneurship by analyzing data and shaping research in this field. The SLEI’s most recent report highlights the impact of Latino-owned employer businesses in the U.S. economy and compares their experiences to those of White-owned employer firms in the United States. 

The full report can be read here

You might be interested: Key Insights from the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report 

Entrepreneurs interested in gaining additional resources and insights should also register for Latino Business Action Network’s (LBAN) upcoming FREE virtual 6-part series: Resources That Matter for Latinx Entrepreneurs During These Times of Uncertainty. The series will cover important topics such as economic market forecast, capital access, customer acquisition, resource building, and networking.

Christina Fuentes, Managing Director – Community Development within the Community Development Division at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). Christina is responsible for developing, coordinating, and managing initiatives that support community development,  such as incentives and loans along with brownfield redevelopment, historic preservation, and small business services including traditional financing, technical assistance, partnering with Community Development Financial Institutions Fund’s (CDFI)  and COVID-19 recovery programs. 

Christina shared resources for NJ businesses impacted by Covid-19. For businesses looking for grants and PPE products, visit for the latest, up-to-date information. 

Additionally, NJ small business owners can visit NJEDA’s site  for resources such as low-cost financing options, lease incentives, industry specific programs, and more. 

For those looking to get assigned to a Small Business Services Liaison or with specific questions, contact

Wendy Garcia, is the Chief Diversity Officer at the Office of the NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. Wendy Garcia is responsible for increasing contracting opportunities for Women and Minority-owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) and managing diversity related projects across all bureaus of the agency. She also leads the Comptroller’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth through Diversity and Inclusion – a group comprised of national, local, corporate, and government experts seeking to increase supplier diversity in the public and private sectors.

Wendy shared a plethora of resources available to entrepreneurs and business owners from the M/WBE University site. Comptroller’s M/WBE University is a series of workshops designed to increase access to the Comptroller’s Office and citywide opportunities for M/WBEs. Materials from all past classes are available for download at the site.

PDF of Resources for Small Businesses Owners & M/WBE’s Impacted by Covid-19 (click to download).


NJEDA & digitalundivided showcase resources for Black & Latino Entrepreneurs

Members of New Jersey’s innovation community had the opportunity to learn about public and private resources available to entrepreneurs of color during a “Removing Barriers for Diverse Entrepreneurs” Instagram Live discussion on Wednesday that featured New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tim Sullivan and digitalundivided CEO Lauren Maillian. The chat also spotlighted the recently-proposed Black and Latino Seed Fund, which the NJEDA intends to create to drive capital to Black- and Latino-owned enterprises.


The innovation economy is facing a nationwide diversity crisis. According to Crunchbase, American companies raised a record-setting $150 billion in venture capital funding in 2020, but less than one percent of this went to Black-owned companies. The numbers are even worse for women. According to digitalundivided’s ProjectDiane, Black and Latina women received just 0.64 percent of total venture capital investment between 2018 and 2019.

During the event, Sullivan and Maillian spoke about ways their organizations are working to increase access to capital for minority-owned businesses and discussed initiatives created to empower Black and Latino founders, foster equitable entrepreneurship, and create the most diverse innovation ecosystem in the country.

“Reclaiming New Jersey’s position as the nation’s leader in innovation hinges on welcoming all entrepreneurs with original ideas to pursue their dreams,” Sullivan said. “Under Governor Murphy’s leadership, we’re working with our partners in the public and private sectors to close funding gaps that exist for far too many entrepreneurs of color and ensure that founders have the resources they need to succeed.”


newjerseyeda We were thrilled to team up w/ @digundiv for last night’s “Removing Barriers for Diverse Entrepreneurs” Instagram Live event! Couldn’t join us? Get details on resources for entrepreneurs of color & a link to a recording of the chat. Link in bio. #IGLive

Sullivan gave an overview of New Jersey’s proposed Black and Latino Seed Fund, which will focus on driving capital to Black- and Latino-owned enterprises. Governor Phil Murphy has proposed a $10 million Fiscal Year 2022 budget allocation to create the Fund. Crafted with input from Black and Latino founders, investors, and policy experts, this seed fund is an important step toward tearing down the institutional barriers that hold Black and Latino entrepreneurs back and replacing them with accessible resources that respond to these innovators’ unique needs.

The concept for the Fund resulted from a Request for Information (RFI) issued by the NJEDA last year to solicit input on ways to increase access to capital for Black- and Latino-led startups. The RFI sought input from a diverse range of stakeholders, including fund managers, angel investors, venture capitalists, small-business owners, researchers and practitioners involved in entrepreneurship work, industry and trade groups, and other states’ governments.

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Sullivan also outlined a comprehensive suite of initiatives advanced by Governor Murphy to foster equitable entrepreneurship and create the most diverse innovation ecosystem in the country. This includes adding new bonuses to:

It also includes adding a diversity bonus to the NJEDA’s own venture investment plan, and an increased investment cap for investments in certified woman- or minority-owned businesses under the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund, created under the Economic Recovery Act of 2020.  

During the Instagram Live chat, Maillian highlighted digitalundivided’s mission and resources it offers Black and Latina women entrepreneurs. digitalundivided is a non-profit, social startup that leverages data and advocacy to catalyze economic growth for Black and Latina entrepreneurs in innovation and technology. Maillian spoke about the groundbreaking programs they offer including  START 2021,  a three-week virtual program for Black and Latina women founders at the idea stage of their entrepreneurial journey. She also talked about BIG Pre-Accelerator, a fast-paced pre-accelerator program for high-potential, pre-revenue Black and Latina women-led startups, as well as the Do You Fellowship, which positions high-potential, innovative Black & Latina founders for growth by providing them with funding, professional development, and access to exclusive mentorship and resources.

“Responsibility falls on all players in the innovation ecosystem to break down the barriers that far too often impede the path to success for entrepreneurs of color,” Maillian said. “It’s important to keep having conversations like we had this week and to continue connecting diverse entrepreneurs with critical resources like the programming spearheaded by NJEDA and digitalundivided. Working together, we will encourage innovation in NJ and have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy.”

A recording of the Instagram Live chat can be found at

About the New Jersey Economic Development Authority

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) serves as the State’s principal agency for driving economic growth. The NJEDA is committed to making New Jersey a national model for inclusive and sustainable economic development by focusing on key strategies to help build strong and dynamic communities, create good jobs for New Jersey residents, and provide pathways to a stronger and fairer economy. Through partnerships with a diverse range of stakeholders, the NJEDA creates and implements initiatives to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life in the State and strengthen New Jersey’s long-term economic competitiveness.

About digitalundivided

digitalundivided is a non-profit, social startup that leverages data and advocacy to catalyze economic growth for Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs in innovation and technology. Our goal is to create a world in which all women of color own their work. digitalundivided merges data and heart to change the trajectories of women’s lives. We are a connector and a catalyst, supporting Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs through best-in-class programming, mentorship, training, resources and investment. We offer unparalleled thought leadership in the space. And we bring together the shared experiences of our community to produce ground-breaking authoritative research on Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs. For more information, visit: and follow us on Twitter (@digundiv) and on Instagram and Facebook (@digitalundivided).

To learn more about NJEDA resources for businesses call NJEDA Customer Care at 609-858-6767 or visit and follow @NewJerseyEDA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.