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Latinx Heritage Month
Latinx-owned businesses are outpacing the post-recession growth rate of all other demographic groups, yet founders still struggle to gain access to capital compared to their white counterparts. How are Latinx entrepreneurs beating the odds?
Today, swathes of workers are abandoning their full-time jobs to try their hand at starting their own company.
And while parting ways with traditional 9-to-5 employment can be a tough transition for anyone, for Latinx entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurial landscape can be especially challenging to traverse.
According to the Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Latinx entrepreneurs are a rising force in the entrepreneurial space, but still face significant challenges when it comes to raising capital.
According to Stanford GSB, Latinx-owned businesses currently outpace the post-recession growth rate of all other demographic groups, yet Latinx founders still struggle to gain access to capital compared to their white counterparts. This is especially true for Latinas, who received just 0.4% of $400 billion in venture capital funding between 2009 and 2017, according to recent reports.
Still, despite the odds faced by some Latinx entrepreneurs, things are improving. The amount of Latinx-owned businesses is continuing to expand, and the existence of initiatives such as Pipeline Angels, Backstage Capital, and Digital Undivided, among others, are all contributing greatly to the success of not just Latinx entrepreneurs but marginalized founders across a spectrum of identities.
Below, we chatted with five Latinx entrepreneurs across several different industries, career stages, and identities to shed some light on their journeys as Latinx founders, share some of the biggest obstacles they have faced or witnessed so far, and provide some words of wisdom to new or aspiring Latinx entrepreneurs.
"In terms of advice, one of the things that I say, which ties into my podcast Pitch Makeover, is: even if your first pitch doesn’t end up getting funded, you might get great feedback and the person might end up saying ‘Hey, I know someone else who this might resonate with,’ and guess what: You can leapfrog!
It’s not just about financial capital, it’s also the social and human capital someone can bring to the table and the connections and expertise someone can leverage for you. So pitch and share your ideas. Also, be aware that feedback is great. Be adaptable, be coachable, and continue to level up your game, whether it’s your startup concept or yourself, while also acknowledging that there is a system that exists and is inequitable. We still live in a world where things are just harder for some of us.
I’m a huge believer in creating new systems, and yet at the same time there’s a lot of money stuck in the current status quo. So it’s about managing both things and the reality that, for some systems, it will take time to replace them. If there’s a challenge I’d like to issue, it’s that it’s not just about leaning in as individuals. It’s about getting more systems to lean in. It’s about leading and creating culture because, by creating a better culture, we will influence the status quo."
—Natalia Oberti Noguera, Founder and CEO of Pipeline Angels
"Growing up, I didn’t see many people who looked like me on the cover of business magazines or talking about their companies on news channels. But, being Latinx and a child of Dominican immigrants, I was always surrounded by incredibly resourceful and ambitious people. Entrepreneurship, for many of us, is part of our history and DNA because it was a necessity for many of our ancestors.
My experience as a Latinx founder is an extension of my mother being a seamstress, of my grandmother being an Avon lady decades ago. Being Latinx, along with my other identities, is part of my strength as a founder; they set me apart from the majority. Those lenses give me the sight to see opportunities where many folks often overlook. That’s how the idea for Queerly Health came to be.
The biggest obstacle I’ve faced as a Latinx entrepreneur has been myself and all of the layers of disempowering contexts I was buried under. I had to examine those contexts and peel them back, one by one. I wasn’t completely sure that I, an Afro-Latinx, gender non-binary, queer, child of immigrants, from very humble beginnings could be a CEO and build a successful company. I now know that I’m more than capable; I am doing this. And it’s part of my mission to make sure those spaces continue to be carved out for other people like me.
My words of advice to new Latinx founders are: You belong. You’re whole, perfect, and complete exactly how you exist right now. You’re more than capable of building that thing you want to build. That thing you want to build doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to start."
— Derrick Reyes, Co-Founder and CEO of Queerly Health
“I was really low income for the first three years out of college—like less than $19,000 a year. My income, combined with $25,000 in loans and no savings was really impacting my life. I started reading a lot of blogs and then started blogging myself, and eventually pivoted into Bravely Go. We host pop up events for people of marginalized genders to learn about money, and provide online community. So many financial narratives don't talk about how racism can impact your finances, but we do.
Being Latina is a core part of how I run my business. But for me internally, the biggest challenge has been 'what's my Latinx lane?' I'm a white-passing Latina, so I have a lot of privilege, which makes me cognizant of making sure my company is a safe place for people of color. I embrace my heritage in my business, but I also know that the only way we create real change in the system is for those with more privilege to open doors and step to the side.
I started Bravely Go with $3,300, so having more money would have been great. But also, I wish I had checked in with my business strategy more. When I first started, I gravitated towards anything that paid and that meant it took me longer to find the work I really shine at and love doing. Now I do a monthly check-in where I review the partners I worked with and the work I did, and ask how next month can bring me closer to my long-term business goals.
My advice to new Latinx founders is to find community. Email me if you want someone to talk to. You are not alone—don't think you're the first person to struggle with starting a business. Go learn from people and find friends. It will help you and your business.”
— Kara Pérez, Founder of Bravely Go
"Being a Latina founder, you’re a double minority; people often think I lack something, no matter the degrees I have. I’ve also struggled with fundraising. I’ve been trying to raise capital without really knowing what I’m doing. Now I’m realizing there is this whole courtship to getting somebody to say yes; we are learning how to make the ask at the right time.
What’s helped me most as a Latina founder is being prepared. Honestly, I’m very much a prepare-for-the-worst kind of person, so when I saw that founders are often lonely and need therapy, I started going to therapy even before I even felt I needed it. My therapist has helped me understand that I should trust my own process, even if I don’t know what it is. I’ve also had to learn to take entrepreneurship minute by minute.
The thing that’s most helped me move through obstacles is to learn to just laugh things off. I choose to actively not be angry when I’m slighted on things or asked dumb questions, or people assume that I’m not smart enough or can’t handle money. I try to just laugh it off and say ‘This is going to be an excellent chapter in my book.’
My advice to aspiring Latinx entrepreneurs is to not think too much about how the odds are stacked against you, because it can make you want to stop. Recognize that we’re in this awesome awakening period where there are going to be more opportunities to share your story. Don’t worry about the systems, focus on the opportunities you do have."
— Lynda T. C. Peralta, Founder of Pocket Palette
"Jumping into entrepreneurship as an Afro-Latina has been rewarding because I can highlight my cultures and bring awareness to Afro-Latinas, but there have been business hurdles that have made it challenging.
The biggest obstacle I’ve faced is learning how to properly scale my business at a pace that feels comfortable. Yo Soy AfroLatina has grown tremendously over the past year and I want to continue that growth but I’ve had to ask myself: ‘How do I do that when I’m a one-woman show?’ My solution is that I’m looking to create a fellowship program in 2020 where I can bring on other talented creatives to help continue our momentum.
My support system and YouTube have helped me in my career. I’m thankful that I have a solid support system of family, friends, and creatives who I can hit up and ask for feedback or just bounce ideas off. YouTube is how I learned a lot of my skills to create and run Yo Soy AfroLatina from design, email marketing, and creating websites.
I don’t have any regrets thus far, I don’t necessarily feel like I would do anything differently because being an entrepreneur is simply being open to learning. This whole journey has been a learning process and I try to take any knowledge that I learn and apply it moving forward. To new or aspiring Latinx entrepreneurs and founders, I say: Don’t sleep on resources like YouTube, Skillshare, Canva, and Google. Do your research and be your own teacher.”
— Bianca Kathryn, Founder of Yo Soy AfroLatina