Latina Hope Encourages Women Entrepreneurs

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Latina Hope Encourages Women Entrepreneurs

Businesswoman Elizabeth Aguilera Davis, left, and Laura Robles of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce at a recent meeting of Latina Hope. (Courtesy)
Businesswoman Elizabeth Aguilera Davis and Laura Robles of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce at a recent meeting of Latina Hope. (Courtesy)

The spark of an idea to start a business can come from anywhere.

It can be an example someone has demonstrated in inspiring budding entrepreneurs to set off on their own, or turning a passion and love of a hobby into a business.

The seed of a business may even come from a dream.

Rosie Castillo dreamt of bright angels fluttering all around her, with one brighter than the others. Shortly after she awoke that morning, Castillo learned her son had died overnight. Today, she makes angels of all types to inspire, sooth and comfort those who are grieving for the loss of a loved one.

“They call me the angel lady,” Castillo said as she displayed rows of her glittering creations.

Castillo’s story is one of many of the Latina Hope Program, a project managed by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. The program seeks to facilitate and encourage what the chamber calls “micro-entrepreneurs” in helping their businesses grow.

The program’s focus is on Latina businesswomen in the McAllen area. Castillo, who lives in Edinburg, makes and sells angel pins along with a variety of other products that include rosaries and wreaths. Marie Anguiano’s specialty is crocheting, including intricate hair bows and Bob Marley-style hats that are popular with college students.

Castillo and Anguiano are products of the Latina Hope program, and both women point to the inspiration and knowledge gained from the chamber’s initiative.

Latina Hope has sharpened up my presentation skills on selling,” said Anguiano, who lives in McAllen. “I’ve learned about marketing and listening to customers and not just doing what I want to do.”

It is the sort of awareness and improvement of skills that Latina Hope strives to achieve, said Jorge Sanchez, the director of business development for the McAllen Chamber.

“You can really see the change in our attendees,” Sanchez said. “We see them develop on a personal level as they are creating their own businesses.”

Latina Hope launched in 2012 and averages 50 attendees at its twice-a-month meetings. The program, with the support of Wells Fargo and the United Way of South Texas, is made up of three components.

The first component features financial literacy as taught by Wells Fargo bankers. Bookkeeping and budgeting revenues and expenses in business operations are among the topics covered. McAllen businesswoman Elizabeth Aguilera Davis serves as an inspirational speaker and coach for the second part of the program. The third component includes workshops on how to make products and participants practice their sales pitches and discuss marketing.

Rose Castillo displays her angels. (VBR)
Rose Castillo displays her angels. (VBR)

“You have to define your market, develop a marketing strategy, and where and how you’re going to sell it,” said Davis, who owns two small businesses in McAllen. “My message is that 80 percent of your success is who you are, your personality, and how you project and communicate with your customers.”

It is a message that has gotten through to Anguiano.

“We’re learning, we’re looking for new things, sharing ideas, and helping each other out,” said Anguiano, who owns Rio View Creations. “I always learn something new.”

Sanchez, the chamber business director, sees the program evolving and including workshops about social media and how to utilize Facebook pages to promote products. Latina Hope has both a Facebook page and a website that feature the products made by the women entrepreneurs.

Castillo knows her products and their origin shows that selling something an entrepreneur creates can go beyond dollars and cents. “An angel is a gift for every occasion,” she said. “I like to give an angel and say, ‘This is an angel you have in heaven.’”

Ricardo D. Cavazos is a journalist and business executive who has over 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and publisher and is currently managing allied health schools in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo. Working for Freedom Communications, Cavazos served as editor of The Monitor for eight years and was publisher of The Brownsville Herald for 14 years. He also served as publisher of the Valley Morning Star for one year and launched two Spanish-language publications - El Nuevo Heraldo and El Extra. He is an Edinburg native currrently living in Harlingen.

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