[OP-ED]: Latinas lead the way in Entrepreneurship
Ask Alejandra Castillo, the national director of the Minority Business Development Agency in the U.S. Commerce Department, and she will tell you with no hesitation:
Latinos in the United States need, more urgently than the political leaders yet to be elected to achieve fair representation of their demographics, more individual entrepreneurs to become more immediately agents of change in their communities.
She knows it by experience in her own family, in which the figure of her father, a Dominican immigrant, was the best example.
“My father was a bodeguero in the Bronx,” Alejandra recalls talking to AL DÍA, in a break of her busy agenda at the National Conference of the Minority Diversity Supplier Council (MMSDC), in the city of Chicago.
Holding hands with her Dad, who took the little girl often to their bodega to work with him —before she grew up and became a lawyer in the U.S. Commerce Department— she learned what the ripple effects of the activity of an entrepreneur represents to a community.
“They are the voice and they are in the vanguard” of everything, she says.
“My father created employment for my family,” Alejandra says, and also for the immediate neighbors, improving through his own independent labor the welfare for the entire community.
Today, at the helm of the division that support the development of small businesses across the U.S., she has seen the emergence of a new group of entrepreneurs:
Latinas, women like her, from different backgrounds, professions and national origins, who have taken the leap of faith to start their own companies, be the masters of their own destinies, and also the agents of change on their families and their own communities, as Alejandra describes.
Latina entrepreneurs increased their numbers by 35% during the tough period experienced by the economy since 2007, when the financial crisis kept the growth of new business in the U.S. economy at the slow pace of only 2%.
Take for example Tillie Hidalgo-Lima, a Cuban mother of 3 and grandmother of 5 who took the business from her husband and, as CEO, grew the firm to 130 employees, with busy operations scattered across 10 States.
As Latinas we are natural connectors, says Tillie (Matilde to her Cuban family), speaking to AL DÍA in Chicago.
Both Alejandra and Matilde represent a new breed of female leadership that is making a quiet but solid contribution to the U.S. economy, contradicting the negative image unfortunately exacerbated by this electoral political season—thanks God, coming to an end this coming week.