Latinas flex entrepreneurial muscle in California economy

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Latinas are playing a critical role in California’s economy, increasingly because many Latinas are opening and running their own businesses.

Recently in Los Angeles, as part of our work with the California Economic Summit, we met with a group of Latina business and organizational leaders, each of whom had an interesting and unique story to tell.

Our friends at HOPE, a non-profit, non-partisan organization committed to ensuring policy and economic parity for Latinas through leadership, advocacy and education, organized the event. HOPE brought with them the Economic Status of Latinas Report to illustrate the importance of Latinas in the California economy.

The number of Latina-owned small businesses in California expanded rapidly from 2002 to 2007, generating $13 billion in sales receipts and employing more than 70,000 workers.

Latinas were unfortunately among the hardest hit groups during the recession. But, fortunately for the state economy, programs have sprung up to help Latina entrepreneurs grow their business.

Also sitting at the table was Dr. Yasmin Davidds, CEO of the Latina Global Executive Leadership Program, which works with Latinas to prepare them for leadership positions. Dr. Davidds agreed to answer a few questions we had after listening to the conversation:

1. Are there some specific qualities you see in a woman who is to become a successful business owner. (Are women/Latinas better suited to running a business?)  

Dr. Davidds: “A successful Latina business owner must be resourceful and resilient. When a business owner is resourceful, they will search for answers or solutions everywhere and will not give themselves the option of giving up. Resilience is the trait that provides sustainability to a Latina business owner. One must remain resilient in order to fuel their resourcefulness when the situation looks bleak.”

2. Running your own business or organization takes leadership—which you teach. What do you emphasize in the Latina Global Executive Leadership Program?  

Dr. Davidds: “Our program is unique as it is multi-dimensional. It incorporates as its foundation an authentic leadership framework, which leads Latina business owners through a process of self-awareness. Although our cultural traits as Latinas benefit us in many ways, they can also be subconscious barriers that cause us to self-sabotage our business success. Leading oneself to be the most innovative, productive and effective business owner takes knowing how we hold ourselves back and breaking through our internal barriers.” 

3. At a recent meeting with California Forward, we heard from a roomful of Latina leaders some of whom are already running successful businesses. What did what they said about their experiences resonate with you?

Dr. Davidds: “Lack of:  access to capital, resources, mentorship and support in starting and sustaining their businesses.”

4. At that same meeting, there were several new business owners in the early days of starting their business. Those are exciting, challenging, and even a little daunting experiences. A lot of them were talking about the challenge in identifying access to capital in order build their businesses—as a woman who helps Latinas achieve their leadership potential–what advice do you have for them?

Dr. Davidds: “Invest time in educating yourself and acquiring knowledge so you learn how to work on your business and not in your businesses. Learn how to create systems so your business is sustainable without you.”

Editor’s note: Dr. Davidds introduced us to Lilly Rocha, who created the Sabor Latino Food Show, which will be held in May. Her story will be featured in a future CAeconomy post.


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan