LATINAS THRIVE IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND BUSINESS OWNERSHIP.
By Christine Bolaños.
“Latinas in Dallas have reached the ranks of executives, entrepreneurs and public officials but there is still work to be done to achieve fair representation in all strata of society,” says Patricia Rodriguez Christian, CEO of CRC Group, Inc. The company provides streamlined mail, courier and copy services and other business service needs to large office environments.
“Hispanics on average have turned to entrepreneurship as a means of bridging the income gaps so prevalent among people of color,” she states. “Over the past 10 years Latinos are starting their own businesses at a rate 15 times the national average.”
Like many business savvy Latinas, Christian’s cultural heritage is a key part of what drives her daily.
“As a Latina, you feel the extra pressure to succeed,” she says. “You are not only faced with the challenges of gender, and all that it encompasses, but you are also challenged by the old-fashioned ideas that people have about Latinas and their place in society.”
This reality has built strong character and determination into the Latina mindset making them ideal to lead entrepreneurial endeavors.
Between July 25, 2014 to July 7, 2017, the Small Business Administration offered 84 loans to Latina-owned business in Dallas. These are firms where a Latina owns more than 50 percent of the business. The number of loans awarded nearly tripled between 2014 to 2015 from 10 to 29 and has remained steady the following years.
The firms represent a vast array of industries, ranging from beauty salons to construction and gravel mining, to electronic stores, full-service restaurants, chiropractic offices, and janitorial business, pet supply shops, security guard and patrol service.
Nancy Alvarez, an SBA Supervisor Business Opportunity Specialist based in Fort Worth, recommends aspiring entrepreneurs take advantage of the Small Business Development Center, SCORE counselors, Women’s Business Council-Southwest, the 2017 InnovateHER Challenge and the Business Hub for Women Entrepreneurs at Texas Woman’s University.
“I think there is a focus and an interest (in entrepreneurship from Latinas) not only because of the business aspect but how it’s going to impact them, their families, their employees and their surroundings,” says former Dallas Mayor Pro-Tem Monica Alonzo.
During her six-year tenure, Alonzo worked with the Regional Hispanic Contractors Association to establish a Women’s Business Center in her district. The center advocates for women business owners and offered training for engineering, architecture, accounting and more. According to Alonzo, the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is also a great resource for entrepreneurs.
Wanda Granier, Chief Executive Officer of BridgeWork Partners, a talent acquisition and HR consulting services firm, says employment rate in Dallas is low which gives business-minded people like Latinas the opportunity to impact their community through job creation.
Since its founding, her company has committed to advancing diversity and inclusion, including a major focus on the Latino market.
“The Latino market has an interesting way in how it wants to buy and who it trusts,” Granier shares. “As a Latina, this is something I believe in and understand continues to add value to those we serve in the community.”
Some of Dallas’ largest businesses also have the same commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport hosts Business Opportunity Forums semi-annually to connect entrepreneurs with internal department leaders. The airport held its second annual Capacity Building Program Series, a six-month educational program featuring free customized training classes for those interested and already doing business with the airport.
Twenty Latinas serve in the upper-management structure of the airport where they play influential roles in bringing its strategic plan to fruit.
“Our unique talents and level of engagement play a critical role in all areas of the business, from administration and diversity to customer experience, operations, infrastructure and development,” says Suzanne Cruz-Sewell, Assistant Vice President for Business Diversity and Development at DFW Airport.
“We strengthen the fabric of the organization through our expertise, work ethic, interpersonal skills and our ‘can do’ attitude (si se puede!),” she says.
Isela Aguilar, Vice President and Banking Center Manager for Comerica Bank, believes the passion, drive and resilient spirit of Latina entrepreneurs will have a transformational impact on Dallas’ economy.
She is proud to work at Comerica which she believes is a leader in championing and advancing multicultural colleagues, and has been recognized for its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“I am proud to work for an organization where diversity is a strategic goal and a core value reflected in a number of important corporate initiatives, including but not limited to Employee Resource Network Groups like the Hispanic Ambassadors and Women’s Forum,” Aguilar says. “Latina entrepreneurs in Dallas are a dark horse in this game of chess … Checkmate!”
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