Empowering Latina Business Owners

with Jennifer Rodriguez of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Latina-owned businesses are the fastest-growing sector among women-owned enterprises.

Jennifer Rodriguez, President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, discusses an initiative that empowers rising Hispanic entrepreneurs.

Posted on:

Mar 04, 2019

Hosted by: Sheila Hyland
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Hyland: The United States is home to more than 1.4 million Latina-owned small businesses, accounting for the fastest-growing business segment in the nation. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Sheila Hyland. For rising Latina entrepreneurs who face their own set of challenges, opportunities exist to accelerate their journey toward business growth. Jennifer Rodríguez, the president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, joins me now to talk about what is happening in this community. And thank you so much for being with us, Jennifer.

Rodríguez: Thank you for having me.

Hyland: So, the female Hispanic business owners in general are doing extraordinarily well and having a huge impact on the American economy. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of Latina-owned firms increased by 137%. That´s amazing. What do you attribute this explosion in Latina-owned businesses to?

Rodríguez: Well, look, Latina businesses -- Latinas are creative, Latinas are resilient, Latinas have been solving problems in their families and their communities for so long. And, look, the United States is a place where entrepreneurship flourishes, and so why not flourish with the country and start your own business? And so, we find that Latinas, female Hispanic entrepreneurs, are starting businesses at six times the national average.

Hyland: And yet you say they are still left out of the mainstream conversation. -

Rodríguez: Yes, yes.

Hyland: Why is that, and how is that?

Rodríguez: Well, you know, it´s hard to pinpoint the exact causes. I think what we find is the female Hispanic entrepreneurs, or Latinas, of course, they are not accessing the resources that are available. Sometimes they self-select out of certain programs, I think. And something that the U.S. Hispanic Chamber wants to do is to really highlight and really make sure that we put our focus on this highly entrepreneurship group.

Hyland: They do face a number of challenges, though. They have trouble getting funding in some cases.

Rodríguez: Yes, in some cases, access to capital is a problem. In some cases, perhaps they´re not sitting at tables where decisions are being made. In some cases, their networks are not as strong as perhaps they could be.

Hyland: So, you want to keep the success going, continuing, increasing. And you are doing that with a program called In Her Footsteps. -

Rodríguez: Yes. -

Hyland: Tell us about this, and what´s behind the name In Her Footsteps?

Rodríguez: Well, you know, In Her Footsteps is designed as a podcast complemented by live events that is year round, and the idea is to provide a road map in her footsteps, something that Latina entrepreneurs can follow along with. And so, the idea is the podcast features celebrities that have been very influential and very successful, but also, you know, let´s say, your average entrepreneur -- somebody that has a beauty salon business, a staffing agency, a marketing company. And you learn how is it that they built their business -- what are the steps that they´ve taken -- in an effort to really inspire other female entrepreneurs.

Hyland: So, is mentoring a part of that? Or is it sort of leading toward mentoring, the In Her Footsteps initiative?

Rodríguez: So, the podcast has been growing in what it offers, and so, during the year, it culminates in in-person appearances. So, for example, in the spring, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber has the Legislative Summit, and so there will be an In Her Footsteps live event with a panel of Latina influencers -- in this case, politicians that have been recently elected to Congress. And then, in the fall, it follows with another in-person event at the U.S. Hispanic Annual Convention. And so, there, we will feature Latinas in the workplace and what are the challenges and what are the successes that we can learn from.

Hyland: Earlier, you mentioned you have some celebrities onboard that are role models. Tell us about a couple of those, starting with Jessica Alba.

Rodríguez: So, Jessica Alba, she received an award in 2016 from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber. Last year, In Her Footsteps, at the convention, we featured Zoe Saldana, who is not only an activist, but she´s also an entrepreneur. And we featured Nely Galán, who is somebody that has been in media for a long time that has really developed a really fantastic career and inspirational program for Latinas.

Hyland: Well, it sounds like you are on the path toward extraordinary things.

Rodríguez: Well, I think, with the inspiration of Latina entrepreneurs, we cannot go wrong, can we?

Hyland: Good point. [ Both chuckle ] Jennifer Rodríguez from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, thank you for joining us. And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Sheila Hyland. ♫♫ ♫♫

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