Earning

'If you have a passion, go for it': 5 Hispanic entrepreneurs on how they built businesses

Twenty/20

National Hispanic Heritage Month wraps up on October 15, making this a good time to celebrate the contributions of some of the community's entrepreneurs. Their impact is significant: About 4.4 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. contribute more than $700 billion to the economy annually, according to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Here are insights on raising capital, reaching their target market, scaling a business, and more, from the founders of four businesses who have discovered innovative ways to showcase their cultural pride.

Joanna Rosario and Leslie Valdivia, Vive Cosmetics

Courtesy Vive Cosmetics

Joanna Rosario and Leslie Valdivia loved the beauty industry, but they didn't see themselves represented by any line of cosmetics on the market.

In 2017, they started Vive Cosmetics, an e-commerce beauty brand that carries makeup and accessories for the Latinx community. Vive Cosmetics nods to Hispanic culture via lip shades named after legendary artists like Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, Rocío Dúrcal, and Celia Cruz. Their product names are also all in Spanish and include common phrases like "que linda," or "¡azúcar!"

"Coming from immigrant parents, we didn't have family and friends who could give us money," says Valdivia. "We were able to take out a $10,000 SBA [Small Business Association] loan, and that was what gave us the capital to get our business off the ground." Since launching Vive Cosmetics, Rosario and Valdivia have been able to pay back that loan.

Rosario and Valdivia agreed that starting their business was no small feat — and, they say, what they lacked in capital, they made up for in creativity and authenticity.

"My advice would be that if you have a passion for something, go for it," says Rosario. "If you don't have the money, there are resources out there available to you. You may not have all the money that L'Oreal has, or Maybelline, but if you're authentically representing what you want to do, you're already at an advantage."

Ramona Ferreyra⁠, Ojala Threads

Courtesy Ramona Ferreyra

When Ramona Ferreyra's nephew landed in the intensive care unit after a short illness, Ferreyra, who is Dominican-American, realized how important it was to make sure he learned about his roots. In early 2018, Ferreyra launched Ojala Threads, a line of nontoxic baby onesies that reflect her heritage through artistic designs.

"My fear was that he would never know who we are as a people and never really experience or understand our heritage. I decided to make him a bodysuit that reflected that, and that became a company," says Ferreyra. "But because of the financial challenges I faced, I had to go the free route as much as possible."

Ferreyra sought out resources available to her through the Small Business Administration, where she was able to secure the help of a mentor who helped her develop her business plan and find free courses that could help her learn how to grow her business, all at low- or no cost.

Ferreyra's advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: Seek out as many free resources as possible.

Rebecca Story⁠, Bloomi

Courtesy Rebecca Story

Rebecca Story started her intimate care products business in 2018 after having trouble getting her hands on the "clean," or nontoxic, versions of hygiene and sexual wellness products she liked to use. She soon realized she wasn't the only one unsatisfied by the options on the market.

"I started curating products that I found, but it was difficult to get them, so I put them on a platform to kind of test it out, and was continuously selling out of the products I was recommending," says Story.

From there, Story launched Bloomi, which carries a wide array of nontoxic menstrual products, like pads and tampons, as well as sexual wellness products like condoms, lubricants, and sex toys.

If you don't have the money, there are resources out there available to you. You may not have all the money that L'Oreal has, or Maybelline, but if you're authentically representing what you want to do, you're already at an advantage.
Joanna Rosario
Cofounder, Vive Cosmetics

One of the common challenges Hispanic business founders face, says Story, is difficulty accessing capital to scale their businesses. "I think the barriers to entry to starting a business [are] relatively easy now. There are a lot of really helpful platforms and programs that will help you launch it," she says. "The problem I see is in the scaling, where you need capital in order to grow fast. It's kind of like the chicken and the egg, where you need to grow but you need money to grow."

The key to raising capital, she says, is to fundraise for more than you think you'll need.

"A lot of people will downplay how much capital they need, or they won't ask for what they think they actually need, but it's smart to ask for more," she says. "There's always gonna be something that comes up in growing a business that's unexpected, so being smart in the beginning will help you deal with those obstacles later."

Patty Delgado, Hija de tu Madre

Courtesy Patty Delgado

In 2016, Patty Delgado founded Hija de tu Madre, a site that sells fashionable clothing, art, and stationery that aims to display Latinx culture in a bold and unapologetic way.

"I just had a very strong feeling that there was an underserved market of Latinas who overindex [overspend] in terms of their buying power, but weren't necessarily seeing the representation that they deserved and wanted to see," says Delgado.

She too notes that for many Hispanic entrepreneurs, securing funds can be a challenge. "I think that our community is extremely entrepreneurial. I come from a lineage of hustlers. We have the resources and the knowledge — we just don't have the capital," says Delgado.

The most important things to remember when starting your own company, she says, are to be open to all feedback, and to expand your network to include industry experts. "Be the dumbest person in the room," she says. "Constantly surround yourself with entrepreneurs, mentors, or advisors that know way more than you."

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