To wrap up Hispanic Heritage Month, DealmakeHers, an invite-only community of influential female executives, hosted a “Celebrate Latino Disruptors” forum on Friday, moderated by MSNBC’s Daniela Pierre-Bravo and Forbes’ Maggie McGrath .
At the forum, six Latino founders, including the Ceremonia founder grandma rivera; Co-founder of Little Bird Bianca Gates; Co-founder of Latin American Fashion Summit Estefania Lacayo; Co-founder of Curamia Daphna Mizrahi; Co-founder of Wondermind Daniela Pearson and Cuyana co-founder Carla Gallardotalked about their respective careers, how they scaled their businesses despite higher barriers to entry and funding, and the path to creating a racially equitable business ecosystem.
To kick off the discussion, Pierre-Bravo spoke with McGrath about her recently published book, The Other, which is intended as a guide for women of color navigating the workplace and draws from Laver herself uplifts her experience of learning from a career as a Chilean immigrant and DACA recipient that he suffered microaggressions and inequities in the workplace.
“My story is that of many young, hardworking women. No one wants to be called ‘the other’,” Pierre-Bravo said, adding that one of her most important realizations to date is, Falling into a false sense of unworthiness early in her career, and by staying silent at work at key moments, not only did she fail to express her opinion, but she hurt herself and others from similar backgrounds.
Pierre-Bravo said: “I realized it wasn’t just about me – my ability to be in a room, to occupy that space and to use my voice, was about all generations after me.”
This sentiment was echoed by the panel of speakers, with many of the founders present highlighting how important the helping hands of other women have been in helping them progress in their careers.
Before founding Birdies, Gates spent many years in marketing at Facebook. She detailed how she introduced herself to the company’s then-COO Sheryl Sandberg when she joined the company, and to Gates’ surprise, Sandberg immediately invited her to dinner.
“[Sandberg] Gates hosts these monthly underground dinners at her house where she invites women in Silicon Valley to connect and have conversations,” Gates said, adding that the effort is not just about networking — it’s a Fostering spaces for meaningful dialogue, one outcome of this work is a professional network that can be used for future development.
Rivera also stressed the importance of developing supportive relationships with other female professionals, adding: “I find it interesting to have peer mentor relationships because they go both ways. As someone’s mentor, I might feel It’s uncomfortable, but I love being someone’s advocate and friend.”
“Invest in the people around you. Those are the leaders of the future,” echoed Lacayo, who also spoke of the importance of not only being willing to make a leap of faith in one’s own career, but also working hard to ensure that once that happens Do it and you will be rewarded.
That’s exactly what Lacayo did, calling Vogue to apply for an internship after one of her university professors told her she was unlikely to get a work permit as a Nicaraguan immigrant.
About 10 days after the call, Lacayo took the bus from Boston to New York for her new gig with the publication. Now co-founder of the Latin American Fashion Summit, the executive aims to increase opportunities for Latin American designers and brands while promoting talent in the community.
When Pearson was in college, she launched her newsletter, The Newsette. As the only staff member at the time, she worked on the newsletter every day before class at 10 a.m., and by the time she graduated, she had amassed more than 100,000 subscribers.
Earlier this year, she co-founded Wondermind, a mental fitness platform, with Selena Gomez and Mandy Teefey. Wondermind sends subscribers a newsletter with mental health and wellness resources, articles, and more.
“Our pre-IPO valuation was $100 million,” said Pearson, now one of the richest self-made women in America, according to Forbes.
Rivera, whose father was a hairdresser in Chile, like many people of color who grew up in a predominantly white region, was not always comfortable with who she was, and she described how she now uses her own Business as with the world.
“I spent my entire childhood fleeing my culture, and now I dedicate my adult life to honoring it, owning it and sharing it with the world, and Ceremonia is my platform,” she said.
Gallardo, co-founder of accessories brand Cuyana, says one of the keys to her success is focusing on building best-selling products, one at a time.
“We’ve always considered profitability to be our north star,” Gallardo said. “We produce goods that sell at 90 percent, so we don’t have such a big investment in inventory that we’ll have to liquidate and lose money later.”
Dafna Mizrahi, co-founder of tequila brand Curamia, described how she used her culinary background and heritage to start her company, which she said contrasted with the prevailing cultural vibe of celebrity-backed tequila brands.
“I’m originally from Jalisco, Mexico. We are the kings of tequila — that’s where tequila was born,” Mizrahi said. “We’re women-funded and women-founded, and in a male-dominated industry, [many recent tequila brands] Coming from Hollywood; it’s a challenge, but also exciting, and we’re continuing to develop. “
The founders also talked about the importance of partnering with the right investors—Latino, Black and female founders are more likely to struggle than other entrepreneurs.
“Angel investors play a very important role in this [Ceremonia’s] ecosystem,” Rivera said, adding that angel investors are especially beneficial for companies in their relative infancy, when it was harder to get larger VC funds.
The event is sponsored by Bank of America, Palladium Equity and JP Morgan Chase.