Entrepreneurship has grown in popularity over the last several years. Whether it’s due to social media, where many entrepreneurs chronicle their day-to-day endeavors (myself included) or the urge to provide solutions to age-old issues, entrepreneurship has become a popular career choice and birthed a new era of innovators and creatives.
This topic hits home for me because I took the risk in late 2014, a week before my birthday, and became a full-time entrepreneur. It was (and continues to be) far from easy, but I’ve learned a lot along the way. As a Latina and the first in my family to set upon this career path, I quickly realized how many Latinas had a similar experience. Latinas saw the largest percentage increase in business ownership, according to the National Women’s Business Council. In 2012, there were nearly 1.5 million small businesses owned by Latinas, an 87% increase from 2007. Black women also saw profound gains in small business ownership with more than 1.5 million Black women-owned businesses in 2012, a 67.5% increase from 2007. Those numbers are expected to increase year over year. While entrepreneurship is on the rise among Latinas/Afro-Latinas, and women of color, many within our community are unclear on how to take their ideas to the next level and what resources are available to help grow their businesses.
It’s why I organized “Afro-Latinas in Entrepreneurship” during Latino Heritage Month. On Thursday, September 22, Ain’t I Latina? in partnership with PUNTO Space, hosted a panel event with three Afro-Latinas — Sandie Luna, co-founder and the Director of Business Development of PUNTO Space and co-founder of award-winning Nettles Artists Collective; Jessica Perdomo, founder and CEO of J.J. Gray; and Casandra Rosario, founder and CEO of The Rosario Group and FoodBeforeLove.com — this panel delves into starting a business, challenges and success of being an entrepreneur and tips to taking one’s venture to the next level, to name a few topics.
Here are five lessons from the intimate conversation:
- Learn to say ‘no.’
When you’re fully in sync with your purpose and mission, not every opportunity aligns with it. If an opportunity comes along that doesn’t, say ‘no.’ “Every opportunity is not for you…learn how to say no,” said Rosario.
- Discipline is a must.
“You’re required to do things, even when you don’t want to,” the founder of FoodBeforeLove.com said. When you’re the boss, you can’t opt out of doing essential business tasks (i.e. meet deadlines on contracts, run meetings and fulfill payroll, among other things). Of course there will be times when you don’t want to do things, but if you don’t do it, who will? Entrepreneurs are disciplined. They do what they have to.
- People support in different ways.
Entrepreneurship can seem lonely at times. It can even seem at times like those you’ve known the longest like family and friends aren’t supporting you but, really, they’re not showing up the way you’d like them to. However, it’s important to realize people support in different ways. One person might show up to every single event you host and another might never show up, but messages you when they sense you need it. Both are support, just different.
- You’ll be tested.
As a woman of color and entrepreneur, you’ll be questioned, tested and seen as less of a threat in certain spaces, mentioned Perdomo. I hate to put it that way, but it’s a reality that many have admitted encountering. It definitely doesn’t mean you should change anything about yourself, quit or lessen your light. Learn to navigate these tough spaces and know your work will speak for itself.
- Lift as you climb.
Don’t forget to bring hermanas with you as you build and thrive.
Are you an entrepreneur? Share your tips with us, below.