Latinas are leading the business growth and entrepreneurship in the US. One of those Latina business leaders is XL Alliance CEO, and World Economic Forum Leader Lili Gil Valletta. She co-created Dreamers Ventures, an investment accelerator for Latino/a inventors and entrepreneurs, with best-selling author Bob Circosta. They’ve partnered with entertainment and lifestyle retailer HSN for a groundbreaking pipeline program called Project American Dreams.
This competition will capture the entrepreneurial spirit of Latinos in the United States, while following their real-life journey going from start-up to stardom. Presented by U.S. Bank, HSN will air live the finale of this “Beyond the Tank meets Make Me a Millionaire Inventor” program, in hopes to inspire and educate all dreamers, regardless of their background.
In MoneyMío‘s first weekly interview highlighting Latino/a entrepreneurs and business leaders in the United States, Marlena Fitzpatrick had an amenable chat with Lili Gil Valletta to learn more about Dreamers Ventures and Project American Dreams.
MF: How much time did it take to bring Project American Dreams into a reality?
LGV: Project American Dreams has been almost a year in the making, to ensure the right alliances were established under the Dreamers Ventures umbrella, and to have a best in-class network of mentors, resources and access to capital for Latino/a inventors.
MF: What makes HSN the fitting partner for this program?
LGV: HSN is a unique multimedia retailer that allows people to tell their stories, demonstrate live, and sell across media platforms. HSN has already turned entrepreneurs into superstars, with their powerful reach of over 94 million households. They depict stories of women entrepreneurs like Joy Mangano, and haircare entrepreneur Lisa Price— creator of Carol’s Daughter— who was propelled on HSN. These are the stories of everyday women with a dream, with a personal story and drive inspired by their families, and a fearless desire to create and innovate. And I want to now find and help launch the Latina Joy!
LGV: While the increase in the number of Hispanic businesses outpace all others by 15 times, less than 1% of Latino/a owned businesses report getting venture capital and angel funding, and 42% are rejected by banks and commercial institutions. Instead, 68% of us start on our own, by ourselves, often draining our own savings and credit cards; which stalls growth and makes us earn 27 cents to the dollar of revenues of other small businesses!
This is not only a bad business proposition to Latino/as, but to the American economy that depends on small businesses to create 60% of new jobs and drive growth. And these numbers became a new rallying cry for my team and I. We embarked on a mission to create a platform that would be part of the solution. This is important because participants will gain access to networks, mentors, resources and the unique opportunity to launch your product taking it from startup to stardom.
LGV: Besides the growth in population size Latino/as represent, Latinas in particular make over 80% of the purchasing decisions at home and are growing as small business owners. U.S. Latinas are embracing entrepreneurship with the number of Latina firms rising 46% from 2002 to 2007, faster than Latinos (33%) and faster than total female (20%) businesses.
MF: What’s the best advice you could give all Latina entrepreneurs?
LGV: There are several points I’m always bringing to Latinas’ attention:
- Let love for your idea, product, or company and purpose drive you; not money. The money will follow when your heart is in the right place.
- Know your numbers, market size, competitive landscape, projections, sales, and have a forecast. You can’t wing your way into success without numbers; that will make you run blind
- Network, network, network! There are numerous resources for women and Latino/a entrepreneurs and many time entrepreneurs simply don’t show up. Chambers of Commerce, SBA resources, minority councils, etc., they are all available in every city across American offering services many times for FREE.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for money. Angel funding is a fancy term simply for getting money from friends and family. If you believe in what you are building, leave pride aside or the need to impress, and simply ask. And when you are ready with a business plan, go to institutions for help. Make tapping into your personal savings and credit cards a plan B or C.
- And last but not least, never ever forget where you come from. Forgetting where you come from may limit the vision of where you are going. Stay authentic, anchored on your Latinidad (because that makes us unique after all) and pay it forward to elevate others and the generations ahead.
MF: Thank you for speaking with MoneyMío and congratulations! We can’t wait to follow the program and cheer the winning Latino/a entrepreneur.
Follow Lili Gil Valletta @
Follow Project American Dreams @
Editor’s Note: A longer version of this interview appeared here.