Para Ti: Five Latina Media Entrepreneurs to Watch

Para Ti: Five Latina Media Entrepreneurs to Watch

Behind the many public successes we see in our everyday lives, great people are guiding the initiatives. From campaigns to announcements, there is usually a communications team overseeing everything. Believe it or not, having the right people in media can make all the difference in the world. This is especially true if those in media look like you and understand your culture. The familiarity brings comfort – and good results.  

Yet, Latinas in media, such as those employed in public relations, only make a slight dent in the media and communications industry. The reality is stark. In 2018, a Harvard Business Review analysis of federal labor statistics found that the public relations industry was made up of 5.7 percent of Latinos/es. You’d expect it to be more, right? 

As we look more closely into all the roles within media, the data is grim. Our community only makes a small percentage of it. From marketing to television presence, there has been a clear absence. However, this doesn’t mean that our impact isn’t grand.  

Latinas, Latinos, and Latines work on multi-million-dollar projects and lead some of the most important conversations in the United States. Being that the Latino community makes up almost 20 percent of the entire population, it makes sense that we hold that much power.  

So, in celebration of Women’s History Month, BELatina has compiled a list of some of the most important Latinas in media. Meet them below:  

Isabel Rafferty Zavala, CEO and Founder of Canela Media 

Para Ti – Five Latina Media Entrepreneurs to Watch

Isabel Rafferty Zavala is a media queen in all her right. She is the Founder and CEO of Canela Media, a leading digital media tech company that gives brands the tools they need to effectively connect with multicultural audiences through multiple touchpoints.  

Rafferty Zavala is part of historical moves within the media space. Headquartered in New York, Canela Media is ranked as the third-largest Hispanic ad-focused company and the only female- and minority-owned certified digital company. It has also become the single largest funded, Latino-owned company.  

“Canela Media set the standard for U.S. Hispanic consumer brand marketing in streaming media,” said Isabel Rafferty in a press statement.  

Since Canela Media launched in March 2020, the company has launched three standalone apps: Canela.TV, Canela Music, and most recently, Canela Kids. 

Canela. TV is one of her most notable media ventures as it is a free-to-stream platform that focuses on influencer marketing, branded content, and more than 180 exclusive Spanish-language sites. Rafferty Zavala previously founded Mobvious, a company dedicated to reaching U.S. Hispanic and African-American audiences via mobile advertising. 

It seems like nothing is impossible for this reina, which is so inspiring to so many Latinas.  

Angela Sustaita-Ruiz, Co-Founder and Chairwoman of Nuestro Stories and Brilla Media Ventures 

Para Ti – Five Latina Media Entrepreneurs to Watch

Though Angela Sustaita-Ruiz is now a well-known name in media, she hadn’t originally planned on making media part of her career path. She majored in Latin American Studies to enter the Foreign Service. Yet, she found herself working in marketing and public relations shortly after she graduated.  

“I was conflicted for a long time about this unintended pivot,” she tells BELatina.  

But the skills she learned through her Latin American Studies degree helped her launch Hispanicize decades later. And, today, it has been crucial in the creation of Nuestro Stories. Sustaita-Ruiz has previously stated that Nuestro Stories is both the most unlikely company she’s ever launched and the most special one. But, a couple of years ago, she found herself rethinking her next steps. It all started when a start-up business she and her husband, Manny Ruiz, launched after they left Hispanicize, was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the inception of Nuestro Stories became stronger during the passage of a congressional bill to build a Latino Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall.  

“The whole premise of Nuestro Stories is to change the hurtful narrative about Latinos by building a huge platform devoted to telling our origin stories and histories,” she says.  

The vision for Nuestro Stories is even stronger today because they have incredible projects underway and are determined to build a legacy-making company.  

The Latina Brilla Media Ventures’ co-founder has been in the game for many years and has a lot of experience up her sleeves. It was the ventures she and her husband led that allowed them to create a fundamental space for Latinos today. Sustaita-Ruiz is part of the reason there is a Latino social media marketing and influencer marketing industry today. (Oh, yes. She’s a true jefa.) She realized how much of a blessing this was by the year 2012.  

“Countless careers and new business ventures have been launched because of the impact we made in our industry, and that’s a tremendous honor.” 

Part of what makes her businesses unique is that she works closely with her husband. It’s not something a lot of people in romantic relationships can do, but they’ve found the secret formula.  

“Sometimes it’s not easy because the outside pressures of life and family can get in our way but for the most part, we have a good partnership because we’ve been doing media ventures together for years.” 

She also added that they understand the importance of having well-defined roles that are based on their strengths and weaknesses. She considers herself to be highly-structured, operations-minded, and client-focused. Meanwhile, her husband, Manny, is very talented at creativity, storytelling, sales, and partnerships.  

“We’re a great complement to each other.” 

Latinas, if you are looking to walk on a path Angela has graciously paved, she says not to let setbacks or closed doors discourage you. As part of her advice, she stresses not to compare yourself to others. 

“Move forward with purpose, and focus, and, believe me, it will all work out and you’ll always find your way.”  

Damarisse Martinez, CSO of Neo Communications

Para Ti – Five Latina Media Entrepreneurs to Watch

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Damarisse is a media powerhouse. She’s delved into the many levels of media, from behind-the-scenes to in front of the camera.  

She started her career with the guidance of Ángelo Medina, an international entertainment business guru who has managed Latin music greats such as Ricky Martin, Maná, and Romeo Santos, among many others. Through him, she learned the secrets of how to be successful in the entertainment and communication business. By working in this industry at the beginning of her career, she was able to develop skills in different areas of communication. She has experience in branding for people and businesses, advising governmental entities as well as private companies, and crisis management.  

Aside from this, she’s also a published author. Her book, “Menudo, el reencuentro con la verdad,” details the popular Latino boy band’s history. This is the first and only book available that narrates Menudo’s story.   

“The book collects the history of Menudo with the anecdotes and their versions of the band members, their parents, and part of the team behind the group,” Martinez previously told BELatina. “It is also an analysis of the marketing strategies that led them to become such a global hit.” 

Her success didn’t take place overnight. She began her career in media as early as the age of 15, while she was finishing her degree. Damarisse has worked in almost all the fields that anyone in media can navigate: entertainment, sport, government, non-profit, production, faith-based, healthcare, public safety, and more. She was set on creating a name for herself on her beloved island – and she did. 

The Puerto Rican media entrepreneur provided BELatina’s audience with some tips for anyone wanting to make a name for themselves in media. Find it below: 

“I have learned that success has no gender or race. It is in the mind of each person; it is in not being afraid of anything and in the confidence that one reflects the world,” she says. “The greater amount and diversity of knowledge you acquire in your professional life, the more self-confidence you will have and the more respect others will have towards you.” 

“Finally, you have to keep in mind that every problem you face is nothing more than an opportunity. The more you prepare, the more you will know how to use it to your advantage.” 

Rita Bautista, CEO of Latina Podcasters 

Para Ti – Five Latina Media Entrepreneurs to Watch

Bautista started her podcast in 2019 when she noticed there was a lack of representation of Latinas in the space. As she started her journey in media, she found herself explaining how Latinas are also capable of having big goals.  

“People weren’t used to Latinas being the owners of media companies,” Bautista says.  

She realized that these same people weren’t used to Latinas that dream big enough and speak boldly about how big they want their companies to grow. But she was set on creating the largest podcast network for U.S. Latinas/os/xs/es — and she wants to IPO the company while she’s at it. Though getting brands on board to purchase host-read ads on their podcasts is also a challenge, she knows it’s only a matter of time until they realize how much-untapped business they have in this space. After all, Edison reports that 74 percent of respondents who listened to a podcast hosted by Latinos in the past month said they had recommended a product to friends and family after hearing about it on a podcast. When asked if these challenges were the basis of being a Latina, she said that she felt that this was partly the reason.  

“Other podcast networks are gaining more traction because they are utilizing models from older companies that have been in place for years that don’t necessarily fit the US Latina/o/x audience,” she says. But she knows that the power of community is beautiful. Latinas and Latinos have been stepping up to support and help us grow. 

For other Latinas who want to follow in her footsteps, she says to do it.  

“Reach out and let’s grow multiple networks and work together. Latinos are on the rise and representation is everything. We need you to start a podcast; we need you to start a podcast network. I need you here in this playing space because none of us are in competition with each other — there are tons of ways to win.” 

Bautista recently launched two flagship podcasts for the networks. Latina Podcasters Network welcomes “Angelicales Podcast with Angelica Maria and Angelica Vale,” and Latino Pods launched a flagship called “That’s Your Reality with Chicklet and Maleni.” Make sure to check them out! 

You can find all 36 podcasts on the websites and, on Apple podcasts channels under the network names Latina Podcasters Network and Latino Pods, or download the Latina Podcasters Network app on IOS and/or Android. 

Jessica Salinas, Chief Investment Officer at New Media Ventures 

Para Ti – Five Latina Media Entrepreneurs to Watch

As Chief Investment Officer, Jessica is responsible for the cultivation of early-stage deal flow and portfolio management, building mission-driven partnerships, and leading the growth and direction of the investment team. Previously, she was a Partner at an impact fund moving the world towards zero poverty, zero diseases, and zero pollution. Jessica was also the founding Social Impact Lead at Headspace and the founding Director of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative Education Program.  

Born in LA and raised in Houston, Jessica serves on the Board of Words Uncaged, which provides programming for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals in LA and Plugin South LA. She received her BA in Communication from Stanford and her MS in Social Entrepreneurship from USC Marshall School of Business. 

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