In 2016, I launched an online women’s boutique and found myself feeling incredibly alone and isolated throughout the first half of my entrepreneurial journey. Not only was being cooped up at home while running my little business lonely, but I also found that I didn’t have the support I truly needed to help me take my business to the next level.
What’s incredibly interesting to me is that it wasn’t until a few weeks ago, after being interviewed by an editor for an online publication on the subject of Representation Burnout
, that I began to recognize just how much of the lack of support I had experienced was tied into the fact that I am a female who is also Puerto Rican American.
At the age of 13, I moved from the Bronx to Connecticut. Within a couple of hours, I went from living in an incredibly diverse city, where I was very much a part of the majority, to instantaneously becoming the minority and being seen and treated differently because of it.
While I will be the first to admit that I’ve always been fairly introverted, I’ve also always loathed feeling like others were trying to keep me small or as if I were being limited in any way. Yet, throughout those years in Connecticut, I kept quiet and well-mannered as to not ruffle any feathers. I didn’t want to fight for my seat at the table, so I sat at the table that was chosen for me.
The truth is, during those 3.5 years, I never felt good enough for anything or anyone. This impacted every aspect of my life - my self-worth, my educational experience, my relationships, my career prior to becoming an entrepreneur, my career as an entrepreneur - and while I’ve done a lot of inner work throughout the years, I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t continue to impact me until this very day.
As much as it saddens my heart to admit this, in total transparency, when starting my business, I made a pact with myself that I would not lean into the fact that I was a Latina. It had nothing to do with embarrassment and everything to do with the fact that I had lost my pride. I wanted to prove myself OUTSIDE of being Latina. I also didn’t want to be judged in any particular way or held back for being Latina, and I didn’t want opportunities to feel like they were “handed” to me for the sole fact that I am a Latina (oh hello, ego!).
Although I wasn’t initially going out of my way to let people know that I was a Latina, as I began to cultivate my very own community of women small business owners, I found that I was organically attracting women of all ethnicities from various walks of life, and that’s something that really began to excite me and fill me with so much pride!
As I began to create space for these brilliant change-making women to share their stories, obstacles & wins, it opened my eyes to how much more of a climb it is for minority women business owners, in comparison to our white counterparts, when building and sustaining a thriving business.
In the last 10 years, Latinos have been launching businesses faster than any other ethnic group. This is not only due in part to the increase of the Latino population in the U.S., but is also a response to Latinos wanting more for themselves & their families, as there is greater potential for Latino entrepreneurs to receive a higher income and better homeownership rates than if they were to work for other entities - no matter how large or small.
Prior to the pandemic, Latinos owned 1 in 4 of all new businesses in the U.S., which is double the combined rate of other groups. Latino-owned businesses bring $700 billion into the US economy every year, which is a huge number.
More important than the number is the effects these businesses have on families, communities, job growth, and availability of valuable services. Since the pandemic has hit, the Latin community has been hit hard, and Latino business owners are no different. Many had trouble gaining access to federal relief and are left to use their savings to fund their businesses. This has stunted the growth of a business, caused cutbacks that have led to job losses, and has hurt families that rely on the support of these businesses.
As the founder of We Are Women Owned, and as a Latina myself, I knew I had to do something to be a part of the solution. In celebration of Latinx History Month this year, my team and I organized a virtual Latina-owned pop-up where we utilized our platforms, resources, and connections to amplify the voices of and shine a light on nearly 100 Latina-owned small businesses with the goal of making a dent in affecting the long-term economic change we so desperately need. Through this event, we made it easy for our audience to vote with their dollars by shopping Latina-owned and encouraged them to continue to show these businesses support by following their social media accounts, signing up for their newsletters, and sending them words of encouragement and appreciation today & every day.
If there is anything this pandemic has shown us, it's that the only way out of this is together. The recovery of the economy is no different. Now is the time to bolster a huge portion of the economy, which is small minority-owned businesses. If we support them, they support their communities and raise the quality of life for communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic and economic disparities.
My support of minority women-owned businesses is, in part, a very personal journey, but the value gained from that support extends far beyond the personal and into the global. It is my hope that by sharing my story and the stories of the women in our community, we will help create a personal connection that extends to wide-spread support of Latinx businesses in a much greater capacity than was deemed acceptable prior to the pandemic.