Latina Entrepreneurship in Atlanta, GA
By Melissa Barrera-Sosa
According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, Georgia has the fastest-growing Hispanic/Latino population in the United States. With an increase of 118 percent over the past 15 years, more than half of those who make up that number reside in the Atlanta Metro area. When those numbers are broken down even further, they show that the median age of metro area Latinos is 26 and many are first-generation Americans and born to parents who came to the United States from Latin American countries to meet the demand of the building boom that accompanied the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and never left.
These numbers matter because they help tell the story of the ever-expanding impact of Latina-owned businesses that have emerged during that same timeframe. Terri Denison, who serves as the District Director of Georgia’s Small Business Administration, believes this growth in the Latino demographic has helped Latinas leave their mark on the Atlanta area as well as on the entire state. She cites a study conducted by American Express (2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report), which found that from 2002 to 2018, the number of Latina-owned businesses in Georgia has grown from 4,886 to almost 40,000, with much of that growth occurring in the metro Atlanta area.
One of those businesses is H3Media, a successful marketing firm started by CEO Andrea Rivera. Rivera is a fountain of knowledge for emerging Latina entrepreneurs. She says that it is important for Latinas to get connected and take advantage of the plethora of resources that are available to help them succeed. One such resource is the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where Rivera has been a member for the past eight years. Rivera emphasizes that through her involvement with the GHCC, she has had the opportunity to receive leadership training, business referrals, mentoring, and made connections that proved important as she established her business. She has seen the same ring true for other women involved in the Chamber and offers this gentle reminder, “I like to compare the chamber membership to that of a gym. You can pay your dues, but unless you actively attend meetings and programs, you won’t see the results you want or expect.” Involvement is key!
Hilda Abbott, COO of WePartner Real Estate Investments and Management, is excited by the spirit of entrepreneurship that has risen among Latinas in the Atlanta area.
“I believe that Latina entrepreneurs are impacting Atlanta’s economic landscape by creating businesses that help serve and support all members of their diverse community,” she states. She believes that about Latinas because they are “truly intersectional individuals.” “These women can relate to and influence their communities through both their gender and ethnicity,” she adds.
Like Rivera, Abbott also emphasizes the need for Latinas to get involved with the Chamber, citing specifically the Cultivating Hispanic Leadership Institute, as well the Hispanic Business Center, two programs she had the honor to be a part of. She endorses both by saying, “Both organizations provide Hispanic businesses with the education and resources they need to support and accelerate their growth.”
Yvette Moise, president and Co-Founder of the Georgia Latino Film Festival and Alliance, and an Atlanta-based entrepreneur who has taken on many roles in both business and non-profit sectors, echoes another of Rivera’s sentiments – connections are important.
“There is no such thing as a self-made woman,” she shares. “It takes a village. You can be the best at what you do, but if you don’t have the right partners around you who believe in you and support your dream, you won’t make it.” Moise encourages emerging entrepreneurs to find a mentor who will provide open and honest feedback and suggests making the most of every opportunity that presents itself. She states, “It’s only by putting yourself out there that you will truly learn what you are capable of.”
Moise believes that even the things she’s done that haven’t worked out for the best have benefitted her. “Bad is good, too, because you learn from it,” she shares. “We win or we learn.”
A recurring sentiment from all three entrepreneurs was that the emergence of Latinas in business is creating generational wealth and opportunities for the next generation to prosper.
“Latinas are impacting more than just the economy in their roles as entrepreneurs,” Rivera states, “Their impact is creating generational wealth for their families and forging pathways for future entrepreneurs from their own children, families and circle of influence. In the long run, this creates a compounding effect that, if it is directed correctly, can lift up our community as a whole.” Moise adds, “If we focus on producing instead of consuming, we can move our community forward.”
Based on the numbers, Atlanta seems to be heading in the right direction. On the practical side, Liccette Shumaker, IRS Stakeholder Liaison, recommends small business-owners keep up to date with tax-related business issues. Like the GHCC, the IRS provides information on filing and paying business taxes, recordkeeping, starting a business and operating a business. They also have an online resource, Small Business Taxes: A Virtual Workshop, video lessons to help business owners complete with subtitles in Spanish for those who may need linguistic support. She also recommends they use social media to keep up with the latest news and information.