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Latino Academy’s “Circulo de Mujeres” emphasizes the importance of mentorship

Alexandra Herrera and Marlene González from LCG and Erika Esparza from the Latino Academy. Photo by Omar Waheed.

The Latino Academy of Workforce Development held its first Circulo de Mujeres event Tuesday evening to inspire local Dane County Latina women for the challenges ahead to better their lives.

The Latino Academy hosted coaches from Life Coaching Group (LCG), based in Chicago, to give Madison Latina women advice on mentorship, entrepreneurship and networking at the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center, 5215 Verona Rd., Fitchburg. Sixteen attendees came out to the event to hear the advice and ask questions about how they can navigate challenges as Latina women in entrepreneurship.

The two life coaches from LCG, Marlene González and Alexandra Herrera, have been traveling around the country giving similar talks hosted by groups like the Latino Academy.

“The whole session today was about how do we share our own stories with purpose and intentionality in how we can come together and learn from each other,” González said. “In our case, it was about our own experiences with struggles and failure and learning to just get up and learn from your own experiences.”

Experiences and failures are a natural part of their journey, but picking yourself up to learn from those experiences helps you grow, González said. A way to help navigate those experiences, and a central theme from LCG talk with attendees, is finding a mentor.

The two from LCG gave advice on what to look for in a mentor. For them, finding someone that helps reach your goals, with a focus on entrepreneurship, is the starting place. González and Herrera pushed for the women to first look at Latino and Hispanic serving groups, like the Latino Academy, to find someone to lead them into entrepreneurship.

“I think a mentor is an inspirational figure that you reflect from, that you can learn from, that you can ask questions, that builds a trusting relationship to learn to walk the path that they have successfully walked,” González said. “But also ask yourself, ‘What can I offer to that mentor to help that mentor with knowledge about the community or knowledge about my business?’”

While finding a mentor is an important step, access to capital to pursue entrepreneurship remains an issue for BIPOC communities. Regardless, Latina women around the nation have been pressing on to open the highest rate of new businesses, González said.

Latino and Latinas are currently the fastest demographic for opening small businesses, according to the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI), a national nonprofit dedicated to science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

According to 2023 Stanford report, only .01% of venture capital funding goes to Black and Latina women founders.  The number of Latino and Latina owned businesses grew by 34% between 2007 and 2019 and grew at a median rate of 25% between 2019 and 2022.

González and Herrera see the continued potential for growth, but it starts with a strong community and learning from mentors.

“That’s mentoring right there. They’re connecting, they’re talking and they’re sharing. They’re learning from each other,” González said, pointing to a group of women who stayed after to speak with each other. “Why is that important? Latinos will be 30% of the population in the next 20 years.”