Celebrating Latina-owned Businesses Amid the Pandemic
By: Maria Rios, NWBC Council Member
Latina-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States. They drive economic development and are integral parts of their communities. According to the American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, Latina businesses have grown at a rapid annual rate of 10% over the past year.
This National Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans from September 15th – October 15th, let us shift the conversation and celebrate the contributions of the Hispanic community. Now more than ever is the time to recognize the people and businesses who are enriching main street commerce across the country.
Women business owners, entrepreneurs, workers, and employees are at the forefront of this coronavirus pandemic, providing essential services that keep our communities and economy afloat.
Recent data analysis reveals that one in three jobs held by women has been designated essential as the nation has grappled since March with various restrictions enforced to curb the spread of the coronavirus. While many professionals have transitioned to working from home, essential workers like doctors and nurses continue to risk their lives to take care of Americans during this pandemic. Data from the American Business Survey reveals that the health care and social assistance industries are two of the top sectors for women-owned businesses.
Delivery drivers, housekeepers and sanitation workers, grocery store associates, transit workers and waste management employees also perform key tasks in keeping our communities going. They, and the companies they support, are also risking their health and safety to serve our country. In particular, Hispanic women entrepreneurs and business owners have navigated the complexities of capital and work/family conflict to carve out a crucial role during this national emergency.
When coronavirus first reared its head in the country, I immediately began preparing for its impact on my family, my business, and the families of my employees. As the Founder and CEO of Nation Waste Inc., the first multi-million dollar female Hispanic-owned waste removal company in United States history and one of the largest minority-owned companies in the state of Texas, and a member of the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), I started preparing my employees and sharing best practices with other women in business. A week later, I adjusted equipment orders to fulfill the changing demand caused by the pandemic. Although 67% of our commercial clients were deemed non-essential, the demand from restaurants and churches for hand wash stations and portable bathrooms to continue serving customers, increased drastically.
Minority business owners have been hit the hardest by COVID. It can be difficult to navigate federal resources and assistance, especially during this unprecedented time. Data found that minority-owned businesses lacked relationships with SBA approved lenders, which can make it even more difficult to obtain funding. NWBC’s quick pivot to an online platform has allowed us to reach a broader audience and disseminate information on federal resources and assistance such as Economic Injury Disaster Loans and the Paycheck Protection Program. Nearly 70% of all PPP loans went to small businesses with fewer than 10 employees—an important metric, since the average Hispanic-owned small business employs 1-4 people. At the onset of the pandemic, sharing resources and connecting women in business to experts was crucial. It allowed me to better prepare my employees and implement more safety precautions.
As America continues to fight this pandemic on all fronts, my hope is that people will not forget to highlight the female founders and entrepreneurs, especially Latina business owners, who are stepping up to do their part and those essential women-owned businesses who will continue to empower and support each other.