In 2015, I found myself a single mother with one son and a pressing need to provide for my family. While reviewing my options, starting a new business as a Mexican immigrant and woman of color wasn’t the first thing that came to mind.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I’ve always enjoyed making jewelry — a passion learned from my father, who worked with metals in Mexico.
With the help of my business coach and mentor, Edgar Olivo, who referred me to a scholarship program at Grand Canyon University, I completed two Small Business Programs, including Business Leadership and Micro-Enterprise Administration. This gave me the foundation to learn more about business, and my Esmeralda Fine Jewelry storefront was born.
But at the end of 2019, disaster struck. The company I had worked so hard for burned to the ground. I lost everything. Although I was devastated at the time, my mom and my abuela had taught me to “endure and overcome.”
Just as the business was getting back on its feet, the pandemic struck, dealing yet another setback. Obviously, COVID-19 has made it difficult for entrepreneurs everywhere to keep their doors open and rebuild. And minority-owned small businesses are disproportionately impacted by these challenges, but we continue to persevere.
Luckily for my business, I was able to turn to the Raza Development Fund, which aims to increase opportunities for Latinos and low-income families across the country.
The fund is supported by Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund in the Phoenix area, which offers technical support and long-term resiliency programs to nonprofits that serve small businesses. Open for Business focuses on racially and ethnically diverse small business owners like me who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
My business started its comeback small by participating in the biweekly South-Central Mercado in Phoenix. Eventually, the support I received from the Raza Development Fund helped me restock my jewelry cases and rebuild my store at a new location in Glendale, Arizona. I also invested some funds I received to increase the number of products I can sell in the store. That, in turn, led to my profits growing tenfold. My business’s success has inspired me to hone my skills as a designer. I have dreams of selling my jewelry through even more prestigious retail companies.
I should also point out that my individual story is actually part of a larger trend of Latino entrepreneurship in the United States.
A 2021 research report released by Stanford University (and funded in part by Wells Fargo) found that even though Latinos make up 19 percent of the total U.S. population, Latinos continue to start businesses at a faster rate than all others: 44 percent growth in the number of companies in the last ten years compared to just 4 percent for non-Latinos. The report said that the “growing consumption and business ownership trends result in $2.75 trillion of total economic output by Latinos in the United States.”
I hope more single mothers, immigrants, and women of color will find the inspiration to start their own businesses and seek out the numerous resources available to ensure they survive and thrive. Research the full list of Open for Business Fund partners, which includes a state-by-state listing of nonprofit organizations that provide capital, technical support, and long-term resiliency programs for small businesses.
You can also find additional resources at the Small Business Resource Center at https://smallbusinessresources.wf.com/.
Having risen from the ashes and weathered a pandemic, I can say that your entrepreneurial journey won’t always be an easy one. But lean on your resources and always remember the advice from my mom and abuela to “endure and overcome.”