At the fifth annual #WeAllGrow Summit, hundreds of Latina businesswomen and future CEO’s gathered in Long Beach, California for a weekend of workshops and panels on how to scale their entrepreneurship goals, small businesses, and personal brands. Organized by #WeAllGrow, the summit hosted its second Wellness Day (think: meaningful networking and keynotes about self-care), artistic performances by Las Cafeteras, a poetry slam by Latinx poets and a panel on representation by cast members of the Starz show, Vida. The summit also awarded its first-ever “Change-maker” award to Yalitza Aparicio, who was the first Indigenous American woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
The weekend was full of panels and workshops led by Latinas who’ve successfully launched their own businesses in e-commerce, the food industry and pivoted their personal online brands into successful “solopreneur” careers. There was a lot to take in, but we’ve rounded up some of the best advice we picked up to help you on your own business journey.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the #WeAllGrow Summit 2019 that will help you grow your business and brand in no time.
You’ve likely heard before that all it takes to launch a career or break into an industry is “getting your foot in the door.” But in order to get your foot in said door, you need to know someone who opens it. And that means you need to focus on your network.
This is especially true if you belong to an underrepresented group. Often, the biggest obstacle Latinas have in expanding their business is the limited network, explained Heli Rodriguez Prilliman, founder and CEO of Lacquerbar, during a workshop on fundraising. Just because there are often so few POCs in senior positions at venture capital firms, doesn’t mean you’ll never meet anyone in (or in proximity to) those positions who wants to help you out. “You want to find your allies…so you can get those introductions,” Rodriguez Prilliman said.
Remember: people want to connect to other human beings. That’s why it’s important to embrace your story and journey, including any struggles along the way. When you share your authentic self with others, it’s easier for them to want to root for you. “What you perceive as your weakness is actually your strength, ” Rodriguez Prilliman said. “All those trials you’ve gone through, that’s what got you here.”
No matter the size of your business, the key to success is the team behind it all. If you’re a solopreneur who’s just starting out, seek out the counsel of other entrepreneurs who are in similar or related fields. If you’re building out a team, you want to make sure it’s diverse in thought and skillset. “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you,” Brittany Chavez, founder of ShopLatinx told attendees at a workshop on branding.
Understand that you won’t always be the smartest person in the room—and that’s totally fine, she explained. By asking genuine questions and being vulnerable about what you don’t know, you give room for others to share their experiences and unique skills. That’s part of the reason why Chavez formed Las Jefas Crew, a collective that uplifts Latina entrepreneurs via experiential events, alongside Julissa Prado of Rizos Curls, and Patty Delgado of Hija De Tu Madre. By creating accountability partners, you leverage each other’s expertise, share resources, and connect each other’s audiences to one another.
When you’re in the early stages of your business, you might not have the luxury of a massive marketing budget. In fact, the only full-time employee might be yourself. So, what do you do when you’re the one ideating products, managing your social accounts, and overseeing customer experience? The answer is you let those customers and followers help you generate free, regular content to share on your social accounts.
Prado told attendees that part of her marketing strategy has always involved getting brand ambassadors so that they publish honest reviews of the hair product line on their social channels. And if you’re worried about not being able to ship products to influencers, simply reshare posts on Instagram and stories from customers.
It’s no secret today we live in a world where top influencers are paid to help promote brands, causes, and products. But when you’re on the other side as a small business and you’re looking to collaborate with influencers, what should you keep in mind? First, understand that just about anybody can be an “influencer.” They don’t need to have the glossy, polished feed that we typically associate with Instagram influencers.
Instead of numbers you should be focused on a hyper-engaged audience, explained Leslie Valdivia, the co-founder of Vive Cosmetics, in a workshop on building an online brand. “Understand that working with influencers doesn’t mean you’re working with someone who has four million followers, it means working with someone whose opinion someone cares about,” she said. For instance, even though Vive Cosmetics is a beauty line, she said as part of their influencer marketing strategy, the company reached out to local poets in the Latinx community because they saw an alignment and overlap in the audiences.