Resilient Latina Entrepreneurs in New Mexico Thrive During Pandemic

By Christine Bolaños

Tina Cordova, President, Queston Construction, Inc.

Business owners in New Mexico, like the rest of the country and world, have been impacted by the pandemic in drastic ways. Some have been forced to close up shop while others have had to pivot from the service or product they offered before the coronavirus struck. Women of color are at particular risk of losing their jobs, becoming victims of domestic violence, and balance overwhelming responsibilities amid social and financial burdens caused by the pandemic, according to the New Mexico Women organization. But the countless Latina business owners of New Mexico are a resilient force who have found ways to thrive in 2020.

Resiliency isn’t a new character trait for Tina Cordova, president of Queston Construction, Inc., who first made her mark in the industry nearly 30 years ago when women in her field were scarce. When the government declared construction workers essential last spring, it meant Cordova and her team could continue working, but not without new challenges. Estimates for projects had to be done outside potential clients’ homes, Cordova had to figure out how her employees could repair roofs while socially distanced and new safety measures were put in place to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Commercial roofing clients are keeping Cordova busy but homeowners are hesitant to spend money on their homes when there is so much economic uncertainty in their lives.

Synthia Jaramillo, Director, Economic Development in Albuquerque City.

“To be successful, you have to have resources to fall back on so savings are important and so is your relationship to your bank,” Cordova advises. “It’s always about how you’re able to pivot your business, but it’s also about keeping your business capitalized properly so that when there’s a downturn, you’re financially sound enough to access the resources you need to survive.”

Unprecedented times shouldn’t deter Latinas from running a business even if it looks different from what they envisioned.

“Latinas get paid less than any other women and we don’t tend to advance like other people. The risk of starting a business to me is almost negligible,” Cordova says. “Latinas have historically employed people in New Mexico and I also believe many of us understand where we come from and we incorporate that into everything we do.”

IRS Senior Stakeholder Liaison Lelah Martinez.

For example, Cordova’s team ensures it stands out by putting together gift bags for residential roofing clients that include chips, magazines and other items that cater to the Hispanic market.

“This way we contribute to the economy in big ways and also contribute to our culture by ensuring we’re carrying it on,” she says.

Cordova is proud to see Latina business owners in every industry, including historically male-dominated industries like construction and technology. When she was starting out, she was one of the very few women in construction, and became a role model and pioneer for the women who followed. She previously served as president of the New Mexico Roofing Contractors Association, where she was the only female member for several years, and advocated for competitive wages for roofing industry workers

The City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department, which is focused on closing local racial and gender gaps to ensure both economic and job growth, recently opened the Albuquerque Minority Development Center in a culturally-rich Latino neighborhood to help business owners of color thrive.

Martha Carpenter, CEO and Owner, Pasando Tiempo Winery and Tasting Room.

“Latina entrepreneurs in New Mexico comprise a significant portion of our ‘lifeline industries’ (such as early childhood education, care, health care and social assistance),” says Synthia Jaramillo, the Director of Economic Development in Albuquerque City. “Our state is grateful for them, and my department is doing all we can to support them through small business grants, personal protection equipment, and a host of resources and services available in their preferred language.”

The IRS’ Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center ensures business owners are tax compliant.

“All too often, small business owners know their own business and are very passionate and invested in that business,” says IRS Senior Stakeholder Liaison Lelah Martinez. “However, if they overlook the tax management of the business they often get caught off guard during tax season.”

Resources aside, Latina business owners’ drive is at the core of their success.

Krista M. Martinez, President, the National Association of Women Business Owners.

“We don’t give up, pandemic or not,” says Martha Carpenter, CEO and Owner of Pasando Tiempo Winery and Tasting Room. “We think of other ways to keep our businesses going. Many entrepreneurs have applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, and this has helped many small business owners keep their doors open. This pandemic will only make us stronger as businesswomen.”

Shannon Jaquez, Vice President of Albuquerque Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says Latinas are making their mark in the space industry and encouraging young women in STEM.

“We Hispanics love and live our culture, and grew up learning from our moms and abuelitas,” Jaquez says. “We love to cook. It centers us around family so we see an increase in the food and beverage industry. We also love to look our best so we see spas, salons, retail boutiques popping up. Doing what we love means we never work a day in our lives.”

Krista M. Martinez, President of the National Association of Women Business Owners and Krista M. Consulting, says Latinas have historically been creative and innovative—both traits that are helping them succeed.

Shannon Jaquez, Vice President, Albuquerque Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“We find a way. Whether it’s using duct tape or whatever (joking) to make it happen with what you have. Then you reach out to your family, your friends and colleagues who are there as mentors,” Martinez says. She says mentors like Tina Cordova know Latinas “are in it together” and enthusiastically share their wisdom with others.

Patricia Lee Chavez, Owner and President of PLC Enterprises in Albuquerque, says Latinas continue to “blaze those open space trails which we are so adept in crossing.”

Patricia Lee Chavez, Owner and President, PLC Enterprises in Albuquerque.

Latinas learned to utilize technology and build networks to their professional advantage in 2020.

“Latina entrepreneurs punch through that adobe ceiling reaching past those individuals who would have us stay in our lanes while becoming creative in advancing our businesses in these virtual times,” Chavez says.