As the economy continues to recover the millions of jobs lost during the Great Recession, a big reason for the comeback has been the tremendous growth of small business owners and self employment over the past five years. It appears many who were unemployed decided to stop waiting around for jobs and simply create their own. What's more American than that? In the Latino community, entrepreneurship is a big part of who we are so I'm not surprised that Hispanics are the fast growing segment of small business owners, and Latinas are actually leading the way. Yes, entrepreneurship has become a Latina movement.
According to the Census, Latina-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment of small businesses in America and Latinas control 30 percent of the 1.4 million companies owned by minority women. As for Hispanic-owned businesses, we have seen an increase in the United States of 43.7 percent, which is more than double the overall national rate and according to a study by Geoscape and the U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the number of Hispanic business owners is expected to reach 3.1 million by the end of this year.
I had a chance to connect with a young, ambitious Latina who embodies the Census findings. Angel Mariana Perez is 28 years old who was born and raised in Los Angeles to immigrant parents from Mexico City. When her father came to this great country, he started on the path to the American Dream by sweeping floors and washing dishes, and became a warehouse manager for a company which a decade later became a multi-million dollar company where ascended to executive status. He then made the decision to leave a stable salary to become a self-employed distributor of the company and her mother soon joined him in his endeavor. I always like to say that you shouldn't wait for a door to open - you should build a doorway into the brick wall and then walk through it with a different posture than if you were let in. The older Perezes have lived that philosophy and, as is the American Dream, provided opportunities beyond theirs for their daughter Angel.
Leaping off her parents' shoulders, Angel attended Cal State University Dominguez Hills, and earned a degree in business administration and went into the restaurant business. But soon, she discovered that working for someone else wasn't fulfilling. She didn't like having to be dependent on others during the economic turmoil of the last five years. And then there was that entrepreneurial spirit which she inherited from her parents.
But Angel didn't want to start a small-business (under 500 employees) and worry about capital investment, cumbersome bank loans and taking care of employees. She didn't even want to start a micro-business (under 25 employees). Angel wanted to go back to a time when the salesperson is personally invested in the customer and in the products being sold. She's now a one-person business, which doesn't fit into the "small-business" or "micro-business" model. These one-person businesses are actually called "non-employer businesses" by the Census Bureau. As an aside, I wanted to think of a better name for businesses of one than "non-employer businesses," which sounds so isolated and almost defeated as if they couldn't hire anyone so the last resort was to be self-employed. I want to think of a name which captures the "little" but "fierce" ethos as Shakespeare once described a female character in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
For the sake of this post, let's call the "little" but "fierce" model of self-employment "nano-businesses" (nano is smaller than micro as my scientist friend told me although my use of the term has NOTHING to do with nano-technology companies!). Nano-businesses are attractive because the low overhead and small level of investment can make the business profitable right away. And getting started is immediate. There are more than 20 million nano-businesses which earned $950 billion in 2010. It's also an opportunity for Angel and others to use the nano-business model as a starting point, a source of inspiration, and confidence builder to potentially grow into a micro businesses, small business and way beyond. Start small but think big I like to say.
According to the book entitled Hispanic Entrepreneurs in the 2000s: An Economic Profile and Policy Implications by Alberto Dávila and Marie Mora, "Self-employment provided an increasingly important source of jobs as well as economic opportunity for Hispanics in the 2000s. Self-employment rates among Hispanics were higher in 2010 than in 2000." Was it the economy that drove Angel? Her parents' influence perhaps? Independence and self-reliance? Or was it also a need to be fulfilled in a way, which combines the personal with the professional?
Being connected to the community she came from was certainly a draw along with the other reasons.
"As a kid I didn't plan on following my parent's footsteps but I now realize that I can make a living while helping my community live a healthier and more active lifestyle," said Angel, who is a distributor for Herbalife like her parents. "I wake up energized as a Latina business owner which allows me to take control of my future through hard work, dedication, and integrity. It's a perfect fit for me."
For Angel, the nano-business model works as it does for so many others. I've been shocked by the amount of successful professionals that I know who support their incomes -- and social lives -- by selling jewelry through Stella Dot, storage containers through Tupperware or cosmetics through Mary K. And as the nano-business industry continues to grow, so does the American economy. In a "little but fierce" way.