Rizos Curls’ Julissa Prado Shares How Her Latino Upbringing Taught Her Essential Entrepreneurial Skills

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With her enviable mane of bouncy, pink-hued curls, Julissa Prado serves as a walking advertisement for the effectiveness of her products. Roughly one year ago, she officially launched Rizos Curls, an all-natural product line for curly-textured hair. In that short span of time, Prado has amassed 52k+ followers on Instagram, received up to a thousand orders per month, and quit her job to pursue her business full time. But though it might look like overnight success from the outside, her growing business is the result of many years of hard work and hard-earned lessons.

As Prado tells it, she couldn’t have reached this point without the help and support of her family and her larger Latino community, who served as the inspiration for her brand. “I always thought when I made Rizos Curls that I’d make something that would work perfectly for textures as diverse as those of my family’s. In the Latino community we have so many kinds of hair textures – wavy, curly ringlets, coily textures. I have tías that fall under all of those categories. I wanted to make something that allowed us to fall in love with our natural hair,” she explains.

For Prado, Rizos Curls has been a family affair – from consulting with her brother on her business plan, to running her fledgling company out of her parents’ and uncle’s houses, to learning key lessons about how to budget & save from watching her own father run his restaurant business.

Below, she explains how her upbringing helped her develop her entrepreneurial spirit and the skills to build a DIY business.

Your company is directly inspired by the Latino community – can you talk about how the idea came about?

I grew up in very predominantly Latino communities and neighborhoods [in Los Angeles]. I have a huge family, and when we were very young we all lived in one apartment building. Almost every unit was a different family member, so that can give you an idea of the culture and the environment that I grew up in. Growing up, I always saw how so much of my community had textured hair – they had wavy, curly, coily hair, a variety of textures. But they went to great lengths to straighten it, and not embrace it. There was a lot of self-hate around their hair. There was always this notion of ‘your hair is not done until it’s not curly.’

I remember the exact moment where I realized “Oh no, I can’t do this my whole life.” I was going to a quinceañera and my older cousins straightened my hair. Back then, in the hood, we didn’t have flat irons yet, so what they did was put my head over an ironing board and use a clothes iron. My hair was burning! I remember being over that ironing board and thinking “We’ve got to do better than this, we’ve got to figure out a way to feel good about our natural hair.”

So that’s where the idea first started. Even at a young age, I was aware that so many of my insecurities were connected to my inability to embrace my natural hair and myself in my natural state. Once I learned to love my hair it allowed me to love myself, and I wanted to create that feeling in my community. Rizos Curls is not just about the products. We’re a trifecta of the Three Cs: curls, community & culture.

What pushed you to make the leap and turn this interest into a career?

I’m very close to my [older] brother, and he’s the one who helps me a lot with Rizos. We’re very opposite. I’ve always led with my heart and emotion, and he’s ruled by logic. So when I decided I really wanted to go forward with this Rizos idea, I went to my brother with my business plan. I was still pretty young, around 15, and I presented the whole plan to him. He did all this market research – which years later, in business school, I learned is very important when you’re starting something new. Understanding your market, understanding the size of the demographic you’re targeting. He did that research on his own and was blown away. He couldn’t believe a product like Rizos Curls didn’t exist already.

Time passed, I went to college and grad school, and everything I learned, all the business acumen I acquired, all reaffirmed that I had to take this leap. Everything pointed me to, “You’re lucky no one’s jumped on this opportunity yet.” But it took me four years to figure out my product formulas, and I beat myself up a lot for taking so long. I was juggling it with getting a masters, working a full-time job, and maybe I just needed to trust the process. There were many times in that four year process of testing formulas that I didn’t get the results I wanted, and felt like giving up.

Continue onto Remezcla to read the complete article.

Alex Rodriguez: From Baseball Star to Business Supernova

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MLB player Alex Rodriguez attends the 2017 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center on December 4, 2016 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize)

By Brady Rhoades

Did you know that Hispanics contribute $1 trillion to the economy every year?

Two years into his second career as a business executive and baseball analyst, Alex Rodriguez—always a student, always a numbers cruncher—knows all too well.

And he’s looking ahead.

“I think… we should be having really smart conversations on how to double that number,” he said.

Rodriguez was one of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history, finishing his career with 696 dingers and winning a World Series with the fabled New York Yankees, but this is A-Rod 2.0.

Owner and CEO of A-Rod Corp. Investor. The first Hispanic to swim with the big fish on Shark Tank.

Rodriguez has gone from baseball star to business supernova.

“When people think about my career, they think about the championships, the RBIs, the home runs, but what they don’t realize is that I’m fifth all-time in striking out, so that means I have a PhD in failing,” Rodriguez, 43, said. “But I also have a master’s in getting back up and that’s what America is all about: getting back up, not getting defined by your mistakes. That’s what I try to push and encourage.”

Rodriguez, the father of two daughters, started A-Rod Corp, a private holding company with multiple businesses in the United States and Latin America, when he was 26. His motivation? “Fear.” He’d already seen too many players go broke.

His first investment was in a type of infrastructure he knew all about from his modest childhood: rental properties.

New York Yankees vs New York Mets -
New York Yankees batter Alex Rodriguez reacts after striking out at Shea Stadium, Saturday, May 19, 2006, in Flushing, New York. The Yankees lost 7-6. (Photo by Jim Rogash/WireImage)

“We find ’em, we vet ’em, we underwrite ’em, we close ’em, we manage ’em, and then we rehab ’em,” he said. “We buy in secondary markets where job growth is growing. Millennials don’t want to own a house. They want to own an app. The last five or six years have been very healthy in the multifamily apartment sector.”

Today, A-Rod Corp owns or manages about 20,000 properties in 12 states and has branched out to fitness centers and automotive dealerships. The man who made hundreds of millions in his playing days also invests in Google, Amazon, Facebook, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, among others.

He espoused his investing strategy on his first appearance as a guest judge on Shark Tank.

“I always invest in jockeys, not horses, because business—like sports—is just about people and I always tell people that I want entrepreneurs and partners with a PhD, not from Harvard or Yale, which is nice, too, but I mean poor, hungry and driven. I want entrepreneurs that are scrappy, that are gritty, and that can think outside the box, and that are winning players.”

Rodriguez retired from Major League Baseball after the 2016 season, and after Sports Illustrated named him one of the 30 most influential Hispanics in sports. The shortstop/third baseman won three MVP awards, was named to 14 all-star teams, and knocked out 3,115 hits in a 22-year career.

He was known for putting up staggering numbers; he was also revered as a student of the game.

He had been in business for years while he played for Seattle, Texas, and New York. He even took marketing classes at the University of Miami and value investing at Columbia University.

Now, it was time to do a deep dive into business. Rodriguez did what he’d done in sports: stepped into circles of greatness.

He asked questions. He listened.

His mentors include Lennar CEO Stuart Miller, JPMorgan Asset Management CEO Mary Erdoes, billionaire Warren Buffett, and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who once said Rodriguez’ most impressive quality was “incessant curiosity.”

Rodriguez has never forgotten—and always applied—a simple lesson about business he received from Buffett: Never personally guarantee any debt and never hold too much cash, but rather put your money in great businesses.

Buffett also taught him that you can be a great businessman and a great guy.

“Always be a gentleman,” Buffett told him.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, BARBARA CORCORAN, MARK CUBAN
SHARK TANK -“Episode 901” – Sharks include; Alex Rodriguez, Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban. Photo: ABC/EDDY CHEN

“That was simple, but it was genius,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez first appeared on Shark Tank in 2017 and is returning as a guest judge for its tenth season.

As usual, he looked like a natural, as if he’d been swimming in those waters all his life. Truth be told, his success is a result of hard work and preparation.

He says starring on the show with the likes of Mark Cuban, Daymond John, and Lori Greiner is a thrill.

“Of course, being the first Hispanic on Shark Tank is something to be really proud of,” he said.

In one of his investment victories, Rodriguez teamed up with Cuban to invest $150,000—for a 15 percent stake—in an Ice Shaker business, which sells insulated bottles that are an upscale version of plastic cups used to mix up protein shakes.

Chris Gronkowski—brother of famous New England Patriot Rob—said Ice Shaker sold about $80,000 worth of shakers in the first few months after he, Rob, and his three other brothers appeared on Shark Tank.

Rodriguez has stayed involved in baseball, honing his skills as a broadcaster for FOX before ESPN named him their lead analyst in early 2018. During his playing days, Rodriguez was versatile enough to switch from shortstop to third base when he joined the Yankees. As a broadcaster, he seamlessly goes from color commentator during games to studio analyst.

“It’s an exciting time in baseball and now I get that front row seat to tell that the story,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has proved to be studied, insightful, and articulate in his off-the-field role. Listen to him for ten minutes and you’re bound to learn something about the national pastime. Recently, in a studio appearance on the morning sports show Get Up!, Rodriguez named the five greatest hitters he’d ever seen.

His take went viral. Many agreed. Many disagreed. Nobody questioned his baseball acumen, or his reasoned arguments, however.

For Rodriguez, life is never business as usual. There’s parenting, and there’s giving back to the community.

Rodriguez has spearheaded the Alex Rodriguez All-Stars in Education Scholars, offering hundreds

Alex Rodriguez on the phone doing business
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 11: Baseball player Alex Rodriguez attends the annual Charity Day. (Photo by Mike McGregor/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)

of thousands in scholarship money to those determined to be the first in their families to earn a college degree.

He also premiered a TV show called Back in the Game earlier this year, designed to help athletes who are down on their luck, financially speaking. His co-star? Former NFL great and current TV superstar Michael Strahan.

“Michael and I, something we’re really passionate about is taking athletes who have run into some bad luck … [and] lend a helping hand and hopefully they can get back on their feet,” Rodriguez said. “If you look at the data, they suggest that a lot of our players are going bankrupt way too soon. You make 90 percent of your money between age 20 to 30. Less than 5 percent of our guys in the major leagues have a college degree. What happens from age 30 to 80?”

Alex Rodriguez seems to have packed several lifetimes into his 43 years. And he’s come a long way from his early life as a child of Dominican immigrants who was raised by a single mother and had to move every 18 months “because the landlord would raise the rent.”

He was born in New York City and spent time in the Dominican Republic and Miami, Florida. He has never forgotten his Hispanic roots.

In 2005, amid confusion about his ethnicity, Rodriguez stated: “I want to say it out loud. I am Dominican.”

He has gone the extra mile to help Dominican baseball players thrive in “The Show.”

When Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, he and Jennifer Lopez visited the country and raised more than $30 million to help victims and rebuild infrastructure.

His mission is to improve financial literacy among Hispanics and athletes in general.

What comes next for A-Rod?

If past is prologue, as Shakespeare said, he’ll surprise us with yet more accomplishments.

If humility is wisdom, as Proverbs says, he’ll continue to grow wiser, because he’s got two secret weapons named Ella and Natasha.

“My girls are great at making fun of dad,” he laughed. “They’re never impressed with anything I do. I love that.”

 

Four Companies That Are Getting Diversity & Inclusion Right – And How They’re Doing It

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Not that long ago, Diversity & Inclusion was viewed as a sort of “icing on the cake” issue – companies knew that having a team dedicated to these issues was a good thing to have, but not totally necessary to the bottom line.

Thankfully, that viewpoint has shifted over the past few years, as more and more data is showing that diversity and inclusion is actually correlated to value creation and a company’s profitability.

Therefore, companies are realizing (some more quickly than others) that focusing on total societal impact is fundamental to driving long-term financial success. But how do we measure total societal impact? What factors do we take into account, and how do we quantify and measure that data? One approach to tackling this problem has come from Thomson Reuters, who recently released its 2018 list of the Top 100 Most Diverse and Inclusive Organizations Globally.

The team behind the annual D&I list looks at more than 7,000 companies across the globe and ranks them according to how they’re doing based on environmental, social and governance data spread across four key pillars: Diversity, Inclusion, People Development and News Controversy. Companies that score the highest across all measures are awarded a spot on the list.

It’s not easy to become a leader in Diversity & Inclusion, but it’s well-worth trying. Many companies who have invested in D&I practices over the years have seen significant growth and financial gains as a result. Here are four of the top leaders in D&I, as well as an overview of what they’ve been doing right over the past few years to help them gain this ranking.

Accenture PLC: In 2017 alone, Accenture added 1,800 employees of diverse backgrounds, up from approximately 1,000 in 2016, and increased the number of women in their workforce from 36 to 37%, with a goal of hitting 40% by 2020. The company also hired 750 veterans and military spouses, bringing them halfway to their goal of hiring 5,000 by 2020.

Medtronic PLC: Medtronic has made an effort to develop a series of robust diversity networks and employee resource groups for their employees across the globe. Their networks include the African Descent Network, Asian Descent Network Hispanic Descent Network and the Medtronic Women’s Network. They also have 12 Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which are built to engage employees around shared interests and affinities.

Diageo PLC: In addition to boasting 50% female representation on their board and 40% on their executive committee, Diageo has also set goals of hitting 35% female representation on their senior leadership team by 2020, with a goal of 40% by 2025. They’ve also launched Plan W, a program that’s part of Diageo’s 2020 sustainability and responsibility targets which aims to build thriving communities by empowering women. As of 2017, Plan W has empowered over 315,000 women through learning, and indirectly impacted more than 1,700,000 people and is building thriving communities across 17 countries.

Gap Inc: In addition to business resource groups and advisory boards designed to provide opportunities for cross-cultural learning, mentoring and relationship building among employees, they’ve also launched ASCEND, a program devoted to developing an inclusive, diverse workforce and a pipeline of future leaders. ASCEND is designed to help minority leaders realize their potential and achieve their career aspirations through mentorship, building opportunity and individual capability building.

Continue on to Forbes.com to read the complete article.

Spanish-speaking SoCal residents can now enjoy the FREE comedic and educational “SoCal Yard Transformation” guide

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picture of a yard resource book in Spanish

Riverside, CA – Western Municipal Water District’s (Western) new handbook, the SoCal Yard Transformation guide, is now available in Spanish. The landscaping guide is free and available to Western customers, as well residents throughout the Santa Ana Watershed. 

The Spanish version was developed in response to the more than 1.5 million Hispanic/Latino residents in the watershed region.

This landscaping guide offers full-color illustrations, and covers topics such as water, planning, soil, planting, utilizing native plants, irrigation, and sustainability. It was written by experts in an easy-to-understand manner and includes a dose of humor. Assisting local homeowners to strive for sustainable water use, the SoCal Yard Transformation English and Spanish versions provide important recommendations on how to create permanent water-saving landscape changes. With California’s cyclical drought conditions, homeowners now have a helpful guide to adapt their yard to be water wise.

“With such a significant demographic of Spanish-speaking residents within the Santa Ana Watershed, we wanted to provide a version of the book for those who prefer to read in Spanish. We want our Spanish-speaking residents to know that upgrading their landscape doesn’t have to be expensive or troubling, but rather it can be fun and rewarding in surprising ways,” said Pam Pavela, Western’s water resources specialist, handbook editor and co-author. “Adjusting your home’s landscape can increase your property value and save money on your water bill.”
SoCal Yard Transformation’s seven simple chapters break down everything that homeowners need to know to create a lasting transformation:

  • Water: Where it comes from, how it gets to the tap, and the true cost to the customer
  • Planning: A simple guide on how to design a water-efficient landscape
  • Soil: The foundation of all landscapes, and the life it contains
  • Planting: The who, what, where, when and why of planting and care of plants
  • Natives: Why these plants are important
  • Irrigation: How to irrigate efficiently, covering topics such as scheduling, troubleshooting, and how to make improvements
  • Sustainability: Creating a holistic, long-term landscape

The book was made possible by the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality, and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Proposition 84). The handbook can be picked up at Western’s office at 14205 Meridian Parkway in Riverside. For more information, or to request your own copy, please call 951.571.7100 or visit wmwd.com and search “SoCal Yard Guide”.

Employees of diverse business owners are more likely to receive robust benefits packages

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New Nationwide survey reveals more than 80 percent of both African-American and Hispanic business owners of companies under 500 employees indicate they offer some form of employee benefits.

As unemployment rates remain low across the country, strong employee benefits packages are a key driver of both recruitment and retention. Diverse business owners — specifically those owned by Hispanics and African Americans — appear to be leading the way, as they are the most likely to offer benefits that can increase employee satisfaction.

According to Nationwide’s fourth annual survey of U.S. business owners with 1-499 employees, 85 percent of African-American business owners and 81 percent of Hispanic business owners say they offer some form of an employee benefits package — well exceeding the broader business owner market (64 percent).

“We treat our employees like family,” said Natasha Pongonis, a native Argentinean who is co-owner of Nativa, a Nationwide-insured independent multicultural marketing communications agency based in Columbus. “That’s why these survey results weren’t that surprising to me. They reinforce the fact that diverse business owners are diligent not only in job creation, but also in job security.”

Across every benefit category included in Nationwide’s survey, more African-American and Hispanic business owners indicate they provide more benefits to their employees than the general population of business owners:

  • Medical insurance: Offered by 62 percent of African-American business owners, 52 percent of Hispanic business owners and 41 percent of total business owners
  • Dental insurance: Offered by 48 percent of African-American business owners, 43 percent of Hispanic business owners and 25 percent of total business owners
  • Paid time off: Offered by 45 percent of African-American business owners, 40 percent of Hispanic business owners and 33 percent of total business owners
  • Workers’ compensation: Offered by 40 percent of African-American business owners, 43 percent of Hispanic business owners and 33 percent of total business owners
  • Life insurance: Offered by 38 percent of African-American business owners, 38 percent of Hispanic business owners and 22 percent of total business owners
  • Retirement benefits: Offered by 37 percent of African-American business owners, 37 percent of Hispanic business owners and 27 percent of total business owners
  • Vision insurance: Offered by 34 percent of African-American business owners, 34 percent of Hispanic business owners and 20 percent of total business owners
  • Short-term disability: Offered by 23 percent of African-American business owners, 24 percent of Hispanic business owners and 17 percent of total business owners
  • Long-term disability: Offered by 20 percent of African-American business owners, 19 percent of Hispanic business owners and 14 percent of total business owners
  • Domestic partner benefits: Offered by 13 percent of African-American business owners, 17 percent of Hispanic business owners and 8 percent of total business owners
  • Pet insurance: Offered by 4 percent of African-American owners, 7 percent of Hispanic business owners and 2 percent of total business owners

“Employee benefits help business owners take care of their most important asset: their employees,” said Syed Rizvi, Nationwide’s chief specialty insurance officer. “And when it comes to caring for their employees, diverse business owners appear to be among the most generous. From retirement plans to workers’ compensation and even pet insurance, they are more likely to invest in their employees’ futures and personal well-being.”

Continue onto PR Newswire to read the complete article.

This is what it’s like to be one of the few Hispanic women leading a company in 2018

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Latinx leaders are still relatively scarce, but those we spoke to are blazing a trail for others to follow.

As we round out National Hispanic Heritage Month (which runs from September 15 to October 15), celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, Fast Company spoke to Latinx leaders to acknowledge their contributions and recognize their opportunities and challenges.

The challenges are not insignificant with under-representation across the board. Although the Latinx workforce is one of the fastest growing–increasing from 10.7 million in 1990 to 26.8 million in 2016 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11 CEOs lead companies in the Fortune 500 and only 3.5% of Fortune 500 board seats were held by Latinx executives in 2016. The Alliance for Board Diversity says that represents just a .5% increase between 2010 and 2016. Hispanics have the highest rate of new entrepreneurs, but at 12% they have the lowest rate of business loans from financial institutions among all other firms. Hispanic women-owned businesses represent nearly half of all Hispanic firms. However, access to capital, a major facilitator of business growth, isn’t available to them as readily, according to a report from Stanford. And Hispanic women’s equal pay day–the additional number of days in the year they have to work to equal a white man’s pay–isn’t until November 2.

Despite these significant challenges, Latinx leaders continue to blaze a trail for others to follow. Here’s what they told us about the opportunities they’re leveraging to make a difference.

“MY CULTURE RELEASED ME FROM THE FALSE PRESUMPTION THAT THERE WAS ONE RIGHT PATH.”

The biggest challenge is the invisibility of our community in all of the narratives of leadership. We are rarely present. The Latinx folks who have traveled the path are so few, far, in between, and hidden. You rarely get the benefit of learning from the pathbreakers.

For chunks of my upbringing, I resented having one foot in the world of my cultural heritage and one foot in the American experiment but my career helped me deeply appreciate it. Straddling both worlds gave me such a unique lens on what it means to carry different perspectives as a result of different life experiences. It helped me see and grow people for what they could be instead of molding them into a bootleg version of myself. My culture released me from the false presumption that there was one right path.

–Karla Monterroso, CEO, Code2040

“I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE A NATIONAL CONVERSATION.”

As a Latina business executive at a high-growth tech company with a strong consumer brand, I have the opportunity to influence a national conversation. Our country is grappling with so many issues that affect the Latino community: immigration reform, refugee rights, political representation, and voting engagement, and the reality is that those making, executing, and influencing policy are likely to listen to strong members of the business community. Every time I have an opportunity to speak or write something that will be publicly shared, I ensure I am speaking to these issues in some capacity.

It’s no surprise that there is not equal representation of Latinx leaders in the tech industry. This means we are working extra hard to show up everywhere our community needs us. I wear a lot of hats at Lyft–from a VP on the Lyft Business team, to the executive sponsor of our Latinx ERG group, to the company’s representative at events or meetings where the insights from a Latinx executive might be helpful. I also advise a VC fund that is focused on supporting Latinx entrepreneurs–it’s the only VC fund I know of that is focused specifically on this–and while my participation is extremely rewarding, it requires a lot of time and dedication. I feel responsibility for this work, because every voice matters.

–Veronica Juarez, Area VP of Social Enterprise at Lyft

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

5 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs

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Hispanic Woman Business Owner

1  Transparency.
Operating with transparency used to be a luxury versus a necessity but, now, it’s quite mandatory. Millennials, in particular, who wield a tremendous amount of influence and purchasing power, make buying decisions based largely on the provenance, manufacturing processes and overall business practices of a particular company.

Because millennials are now the largest population in the United States, to say that transparency will drive how businesses are perceived is an understatement, at best. However, the good news is that establishing and maintaining transparency doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply communicating regularly with honesty and unequivocally holding yourself, your staff and your company accountable will go a long way toward fostering goodwill with not only consumers and prospects but also with vendors, strategic partners and your industry at large.

2  Loyalty.
It used to be that only airlines had “loyalty” programs. Now, everybody from giant corporations like Pepsi Co. to mom-and-pop corner coffee shops have some sort of loyalty program. And rightfully so. Every industry faces new competition on a daily basis and customers are understandably price sensitive, often buying from whoever has the best sale or perks. However, what loyalty programs really come down to is creating that coveted repeat customer. For instance, airlines offering free first-class upgrades or hotels upgrading size of the room for elite travelers often creates an allegiance that trumps price point. This principle can be applied in every business. If you’re a service company and a client is at the end of his or her agreement, offer a specific service at a discount or another deliverable with a high perceived value. Those who do business online can easily build an awards program that fosters a faithful following.

3  Crowdfunding.
The ugly truth is if you need a loan, chances are extremely high you won’t be able to get one. In fact, the recent small business study also revealed that the majority—a full 61 percent—of those who tried to get a favorable loan were unable to do so. Venture capital and private equity funding is equally, if not more, difficult to come by. While some types of capital are actually easier to procure, the interest rates are usually more aggressive, often prohibitively so. Instead, focus on crowdfunding and non-traditional lenders, such as Bond Street, Kabbage and Deal Struck. According to Massolution’s 2015CF–Crowdfunding Industry Report, global crowdfunding was anticipated to be more than $34 billion. A revenue source of that size is simply too big to ignore and not tap into.

4  Pay-for-Play Social Media.
Facebook was among the first to implement the “pay-for-play” model by removing organic reach and focusing on paid advertisement. Since being acquired by Facebook, Instagram is destined to follow. Pinterest and Twitter are also both currently growing into their pay-for-play systems and will likely make it difficult for pure organic reach as well. Unfortunately, this means entrepreneurs will need to increase their social media budget. However, Facebook’s paid ads have been shown to reach a significantly greater percentage of users than organic posts, making paid ads well worth the investment. However, social media shouldn’t only be leveraged as a form of advertising. Rather, social media is an ideal way to handle customer service in a way that not only improves marketplace loyalty but also your company’s transparency endeavor.

5  Instant Gratification.
Simply put, if you don’t offer some form of instant gratification, your prospective customer will likely go somewhere that does. This truth is particularly problematic for businesses that require information from customers, such as insurance or financial services. Having prospects fill out contact request forms to be contacted later on for products or services is becoming less and less effective in the “Age of Impatience.” To be competitive, you need to deliver to the customer instantaneously in some way, whether that be with the information they are seeking or some other deliverable that will satisfy them in the moment and keep them interested for a longer term. Even just offering quicker and more efficient processes for dealing or transacting with your company is certainly a form of instant gratification. At every available touchpoint, strive to impress the customer—an incredibly effective way of evoking that gratified feeling. No matter what industry you’re in or what type of business you run, you can still make a profit, no matter what the current economic outlook happens to be. That begins with giving customers what they want, how they want it and in a way that’s more sensitive to marketplace vs. company needs.

Source: americanbusinessmag.com

About the Author
Brian Greenberg is a multi-faceted entrepreneur who has founded and currently
spearheads an assortment of successful online businesses. He currently co-owns
and operates multiple entrepreneurial companies with his father, Elliott
Greenberg, which have each flourished for over 10 years, including Wholesale-JanitorialSupply.com, TouchFreeConcepts.com and TrueBlueLifeInsurance.com.

Latino Baseball Players Build Their Brand Through La Vida Baseball

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In Latino countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic, baseball is king.  Kids grow up playing it, and the chosen ones who live out a dream to play in the Major Leagues, become icons.

In America, those players play in a foreign country.  They face challenges such as language barriers and the hardship of playing far away from home.

Throughout history, Latino players have become iconic stars.  In the 1960’s it was Roberto Clemente. Recently, David “Big Papi” Ortiz has been an icon both in the U.S. and in their home countries.

La Vida Baseball is here to raise the profile of these Latin players, and grow their brand in the social media age.

“Baseball throughout the Caribbean region, throughout Venezuela, northern parts of Colombia, is something that connects Latinos across nations, even as we take great pride in the work of those players from our own homelands and countries,” said Adrian Burgos, editor in chief of La Vida Baseball. “There are these moments of transcendence. For example, seeing a Francisco Lindor, who leaves Puerto Rico as a teenager for Florida and when he returns and hits that Home Run, the roar of the crowd is a roar that was so much about connection across a generation. It is similar to those Cubans who see the success of the Gurriel brothers and of Puig and Cespedes. Whether they’re on the island or they’re in the U.S., they take pride, ‘That’s one of us.’”

La Vida Baseball is a website that runs features on Latin stars. The site also profiles future stars. They also do not shy away from issues of prejudice and any other stories that would pertain to a Latin player or be of interest to fans of said players.

“The goal of La Vida baseball is to serve what we believe is an underserved market and create a sense of community for the Latino baseball fan by celebrating baseball,” said Jay Sharman, creator, and CEO of La Vida Baseball. “Creating that nexus of baseball culture and identity. We just saw that there was just an unmet need there and it seemed logical to all of us that it wasn’t being served and that we could engage a critical mass of fans around subject matter that they cared deeply about. If you can do that, there’s usually business that follows.”

The website does run ads and is a business.  The question though, is how does La Vida Baseball properly measure success? If people love Jose Altuve of the Astros, does that mean the mission statement is working?

For us, we look at engagement,” said Sharman. “If you step back and look at the digital media publishing landscape right now, there’s still a lot of lip service given to the size of audience or size of followers and things like that. We are really about people engaging with the content consistently on a daily basis. Whether it’s Javier Baez or Jose Altuve, what we want to do is find an angle on what’s going on in the baseball world that isn’t being covered by the major sports media companies. That tends to be the human interest stories, at that intersection of culture and Latino baseball.”

La Vida Baseball is in partnership with the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Storytelling is what the Hall does best, and they can help with the production of content.

“There are multiple ways that we measure our success,” said Burgos. “We do look at our social media follows on Facebook and on Twitter and on Instagram and how our audience is growing that way. But another measure of success is, we look to see how the players themselves are engaging our content. Are teams sharing our content? We will always produce quality work, but do the players find it compelling?”

Burgos added, “ A few weeks back, we posted a graphic of Yadier Molina with the Puerto Rican flag as a backdrop. And Yadier re-posted that on his Instagram. All these other players were commenting on how beautiful it was. It’s like, one person is like, “Who did that?” And it’s like, it’s La Vida (Baseball). Part of how we measure our success is both by the audience and also knowing, that the players make time to share our work, to sit with us, to talk with us and help them tell their stories.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Want to Grow Your Minority Business Enterprise? Look Abroad!

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When it comes to exporting, many minority businesses are reaping the rewards of selling internationally, while other firms have yet to explore sales.

In the below question and answer, members of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Access to Market Business Development Team, George Mui and Gabriela Morales discuss exporting and how these businesses can take advantage of U.S. government export resources to successfully navigate their first or new export markets.

Why should minority-owned firms consider exporting or expanding into new foreign markets?

Ninety-five percent of the world’s potential consumers live outside of the United States, so minority-owned firms that want to grow in size, employees, and revenue should absolutely consider exporting to at least one country. Many minority business enterprises (MBEs) are part of a diaspora community and have a distinct advantage in conducting business in their home countries. Those MBEs can leverage their understanding of the language and business culture to export and expand into their native countries and the surrounding markets.

What do you see as the potential to increase minority-owned business exports?

Only a small share of U.S. businesses export, which includes minority-owned firms. But studies have shown that minority businesses are twice as likely to export as non-minority-owned firms. In addition, among all U.S. export firms, 59 percent sell to only one foreign market. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, minorities compose 37 percent of the U.S. population and are projected to grow to 57 percent of the population by 2060. This means a growing potential for more MBE startups and exporters.

In 2016, MBDA created four export centers to provide technical assistance and business development services to generate increased financing, contract opportunities, and greater access to new and global markets for MBEs. The MBDA Export Centers, located in Chicago, Miami, Sacramento, and San Antonio, are also designed to help identify, screen, promote, and refer MBEs to export resources.

What would you say to MBEs who may view exporting as too burdensome, so why bother?

That’s a common belief that prevents many companies, particularly MBEs, from exporting. Exporting doesn’t have to be burdensome. With improved logistics options, global connectivity, e-commerce, and the availability of federal government export assistance, exporting is more viable than ever. There are a plethora of resources available to help, including U.S. Export Assistance Centers. If you have a track record of selling in the United States—one of the world’s most open and competitive markets—that’s a good indicator that you can become a successful exporter. We encourage MBEs to partner with other MBEs to conduct business globally. For example, a partnership between two Chinese American firms can leverage language, business, and cultural understanding to export to China.

Do minority-owned firms have certain attributes that would make them successful exporters?

According to the Census Bureau, minority-owned firms are six times more likely to conduct business in a language other than English and three times more likely to generate 100 percent of their revenues from exporting compared to non-minority-owned firms, regardless of size. Overall, MBEs are uniquely positioned to expand their business operations through exports.2

Are you seeing any trends in terms of regions or markets for minority-owned exporters?

How about types of products or services? MBEs are taking advantage of the increased bilateral trade opportunities between the United States and China, in addition to other countries in Africa and South America for U.S. agricultural products and “Made in America” manufactured products. We’ve also seen a trend toward online business and e-commerce platforms, which have a diversified line of products and services that can be delivered to international markets. These platforms create expanded opportunities for minority-owned firms to export, particularly in the business consulting and educational arenas.

From your experience, what are some challenges minority firms face in getting started in exporting?

The challenges we see most frequently are typical of many new businesses: Where do we start? How do we get paid? How will we finance exporting? Who should we reach out to for help? There are a number of federal and state agencies that offer access to technical assistance. When deciding whether your company is ready to export, there are a number of things to consider: internal resources and capabilities, top management commitment to exporting, and a clear export strategy. To overcome these and other challenges, it is important for companies to conduct their due diligence and utilize the resources offered by the federal government entities, such as the MBDA Export Centers.

In the past, the ability of MBEs to access working capital financing programs has been a major challenge. Have you seen this trend changing in recent years?

MBDA is working closely with EXIM Bank to provide its clients the access to trade financing they need for global transactions. The MBDA network of business centers and export centers are also exploring alternative financing solutions, including venture capital, equity investment, and foreign direct investment.

The U.S. government offers a wide range of export resources. Could you describe MBDA’s partnership with the International Trade Administration (ITA)?

Our national network of 40 MBDA Business Centers coordinate and collaborate with ITA to leverage the resources that we each offer to the clients we serve. When coordinating trade missions, MBDA partners with ITA to provide certification of trade missions. We also collaborate with ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service and its worldwide network of commercial service officers domestically and internationally. The U.S. Commercial Service supports export counseling, business matchmaking, market intelligence, trade show support, and more. MBDA Business Centers and Export Centers coordinate with the national network of more than 100 U.S. Export Assistance Centers, where the ITA U.S. Commercial Service, Export-Import Bank, and SBA International financing staff often collaborate to provide a one-stop shop for MBEs to start or grow their global footprint through exporting.

Source: mbda.gov

Orphan to Leader

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Dan Esterly

Being both young and Hispanic can feel daunting in America. Adversity can create obstacles and discourage young Hispanics from dreaming large. However, some young Hispanic-Americans are shattering the status quo. One of those people is Dan Esterly.

If you’re from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, you may be familiar with Esterly’s work. At the age of 28, he is a business owner, Ph.D. student, radio host, and is heavily involved in Pittsburgh’s non-profit community. Esterly wasn’t always a success story. He was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and was given a two-day life expectancy from malnourishment at the orphanage. Despite the pessimistic health outlook, he was adopted and was raised in Pittsburgh. Esterly also battled depression and alcoholism in his young adult life.

After much adversity, Esterly was able to rise above the initial cards he was dealt. He entered the workforce at the age of 13, started college at the age of 16, and began graduate school at the age of 21. In 2008, Esterly saw an opportunity to start actively buying stocks. He was able to outperform most financial professionals and was sought after to advise financial professionals. Esterly stated, “My first experiences in consulting were accidental. A fund manager from Boston called me for input, simply from word-of-mouth from the Pittsburgh business community. I was truly flattered and stunned, because of how young I was.”

Esterly went on to earn an M.S. in Professional Counseling and an MBA in Healthcare Management. He attributes his education to building the foundation for his business in consulting. “I needed to master both fields to thrive. Business has various human elements, and counseling has a lot to teach us about organizations. The same principles that apply to group behavior also enhance an organization’s well-being.”

Esterly then went on to work as a lobbyist in biotechnology. One of his projects raised more than $34 million from the federal government to fund drug research. Regardless of his occupation, Esterly has always focused on increasing financial value for companies.

In 2016, Esterly decided to diversify his business. He founded Public Waves, LLC, which eventually became a successful consulting venture. “I have had clients from Texas to Pennsylvania. It’s truly been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my entire life.” Currently, Public Waves, LLC serves clientele including the Energy Innovation Center Institute, Community Liver Alliance, Water4Life Mozambique, and CSD Engineers, LLC. He provides consulting services ranging from workforce development & economic research to other organizational services.

Esterly also is a full-time doctoral student at Point Park University’s Ph.D. program in Community Engagement. “It’s somewhat of a leadership degree with a research focus on benefiting the community. The Pittsburgh community helped me to succeed and I am constantly looking for ways to give back.” He hosts a radio show through Point Park University, called Behavior Business, where he invites guests on the show from both the business and mental health community. Esterly also continues to self-manage his portfolio and consult on other larger investment portfolios.

In 2015, Esterly established a charitable investment fund called Esterly Fund. To date, the fund supports 17 non-profits in Pittsburgh. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Glade Run Foundation and Ten Thousand Villages Pittsburgh. “I truly don’t think my life would have turned out this way in Honduras. It’s surreal sometimes to think of my journey and how different things could have been. I am grateful for every day on this earth and hope to give back ten-fold.” Esterly is considered a young rising star in the Pittsburgh business community.

At the age of 28, Esterly insists he has only just begun. “It’s been my experience that businesses don’t care what race, nationality, age, etc. you are. If you can provide value for a company, companies will value your service. That’s the beautiful thing about America. You really can create or re-create your life here.”

 

Wilson Cruz: Advocating for LGBTQ+ Youth

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Wilson Cruz and fans

It hasn’t been an easy road to success for actor, activist, or self-proclaimed “actorvist” Wilson Cruz. It was scary to play Ricky Vazquez on My So-Called Life in 1994, one of the first LGBTQ+ characters on television. But Cruz, as he says, “had the benefit of the ignorance of youth” that allowed him to go for the roles where he could represent both of the communities he comes from.

“Every actor has something that they have to work against, and this just happens to be mine,” he said. A true trailblazer, he knew that what he was doing will eventually make it easier for someone else to pursue this career as well.

“There weren’t many openly gay actors of color that I could really look to at that time, and I loved the idea of being able to be that for someone else.” Knowing this helped him enter auditions with the thought that he had an army of people—who he hadn’t even met—rooting for him.

Cruz hasn’t settled with being a trailblazer only television, however. In 2012, he joined GLAAD, an organization dedicated to supporting representation and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in media. The work he did with GLAAD made him more practical and less idealistic, though no less passionate about activism. The day-to-day work the organization did was hard and took time but, in the end, a difference was being made. Though he no longer formally works for GLAAD, Cruz still has a role in many of their projects and loves to help when he is needed.

Currently, his activism goals include supporting all minorities and advocating for LGBTQ+ youth. Panel speaking at GLAADCruz feels that there needs to be more unified support across identities. The best way to protect the progress that has been made and continue to move forward is for minorities to stand in solidarity and support each other. He is also passionate about supporting queer youth and making sure they are safe and protected at school. He is on the board of directors for GLSEN, an organization dedicated to making sure K–12 students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community are safe and treated with respect.

Photo: BEVERLY HILLS, CA –  (L-R) GLAAD Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis, Megan Townsend, actors Stephanie Beatriz of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ and Wilson Cruz of ’13 Reasons Why’ and ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ creator/executive producer of ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ Peter Nowalk, Lena Waithe of ‘Masters of None,’ and executive producer of ”Wynonna Earp” Emily Andras . (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Cruz advises youth considering coming out to build a network of support first, to ensure that no young person faces the prospect of being homeless or forced to drop out of school. Before coming out to the people around you, it is important to have an adult you can trust for support because Cruz’s first concern is for the safety and mental health of the community. And, for those who are not aware, he also advises reaching out to the local LGBTQ+ support systems in your area. Many major cities have an LGBTQ+ community center with a youth program and can be found on LGBTCenters.org.

Cruz is also an advocate for Puerto Rico’s relief, particularly as we head into another hurricane season. For his last birthday, he utilized Facebook’s feature for donations and was able to raise $10,000 for the Hispanic Federation in support of Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief. He encourages everyone to consider supporting the efforts and cause.

As an actor, Cruz has made great strides, bringing the first openly gay character to life in the Star Trek series. Most of the time, roles are not written specifically for an LGBTQ+ Latino male, but Cruz considers it his job to convince the casting directors otherwise. He has to give them the option of choosing him and has to show them he is just as powerful, funny, and moving as the person they have in mind, and he enjoys that challenge. Cruz feels that has become the job of creative people of color “to change people’s idea of what’s powerful and what’s funny and what’s beautiful.” It’s not an easy task, but through his career, he has managed to do just that.

Photo: Premiere Of CBS’s “Star Trek: Discovery” – Red Carpet Angeles, California.  (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images)

Moving forward, Cruz has many projects through which he will continue to represent the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities. The second season of 13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix, season two of Star Trek: Discovery production is underway, and he is the co-executive producer of the upcoming documentary Out of the Box, which will explore the history of LGBTQ+ in television and how they have been represented, as well as how it has evolved and impacted culture and politics. With every project, role, and movement, Cruz continues to empower minorities and pave the way for more representation and equality.