Last week I attended the Inaugural Summit of America's Future - Conversations on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Inclusion, and Leadership presented by the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society program. The purpose of this event, full of leaders from the business, political and educational communities, was to deepen the understanding of the US Hispanic market, both as a community and as business leaders.
The demographics are striking. By mid century 85% of the US population growth is projected to come from Hispanics. This will be a young group with the average age just 18 years old.
And as entrepreneurs, “Latinovators” are a significant and growing force for the US economy:
- Hispanics are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. In general, foreign born Americans start businesses at three times rate of non-foreign born.
- Latino-owned businesses represent half a trillion in revenue and $3 trillion in purchasing power.
- The Latino community is super engaged in social media and are the highest users of Facebook and instant messaging.
In the panel discussion Latinovators: Inventors, Entrepreneurs and Change-makers, several impressive entrepreneurs talked about their successful companies and the struggles in getting there:
Tanya Menendez, Co-Founder and CMO of Maker’s Row, a platform to help companies find American manufacturers. Tanya was named as one of Forbes “30 under 30” entrepreneurs to watch.
Ricardo Garcia Amaya, Founder of VOIQ, an app that instantly enables a mobile on-demand call center – expanding access to jobs for call center operators and access to quality, affordable call centers to businesses.
Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca, Founder and CEO of DREAMers RoadMap, an app to help connect undocumented immigrant students with college scholarships and financial aid. Sarahi herself is a DREAMer (and winner of a recent innovator’s award) and created this business concept after struggling to get college funding.
When asking this inspiring group, “What is the Secret to your success?”, they offered this advice:
- Work hard and be tenacious. There is no blueprint so keep searching for information and resources.
- Think bigger. Though Latinos are over-represented in numbers as entrepreneurs, this panel saw an issue of scalability. Think bigger and look for ways to create a business model that can be repeated. For inspiration look at solving problems within your own communities.
- Don’t underestimate the power of small checks. The greatest hurdle for Latino entrepreneurs is access to capital. There are still few Latino venture capitalists and angel investors so many new start-ups struggle with migrating through the process and pitching involved in getting first round funding. Instead, this group recommends reaching out to the Latino community with requests for “small checks” to get started. Even $1000 will get a developer in Argentina and can help get a business through those critical initial pre-revenue months. Be comfortable asking for money, going to meetup groups and getting the word out.
- Ask for help. Find mentors who believe in you and push you. Coaches talk to you, Advocates talk about you and Mentors talk with you. Create and sustain a network of all these supporters.
- Embrace failure. Ricardo Garcia Amaya’s uncle said it best, “You are a clown until you are not”, or get comfortable with failure. Deep down you need to know that you will survive failure and therefore can continue to take the needed risks. Failure is important because this is how you learn. When people say “no”, ask why and learn from it.
- Believe in yourself. Share your story and others will jump onboard.
PS Check out thedream.us, a website on getting an affordable higher education. The site features colleges (such as Miami-Dade Community College) that can offer a four-year undergraduate degree for a total of $25,000 as well as some $81 million in scholarships.