Here are 6 Reasons Why You Need the Disability Equality Index (DEI)

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As a person with a visible disability who has spent most of my professional career in HR leading diversity and inclusion, I’m frequently asked to offer an opinion on the merits of completing the DEI.  Knowing how precious resources are to fill out any kind of survey or assessment tool, it’s an important question, where do companies get the greatest return on investment?

Here are 6 reasons why I encourage companies to register for the DEI by January 13, 2017 and complete it by April 21, 2017:

1.)   The DEI is a joint initiative of the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). It was developed by a 20-person DEI Advisory Committee made up of equal numbers of business leaders and disability inclusion advocates.

2.)   The DEI is a transparent, comprehensive assessment of disability inclusion, with all questions visible from the outset (rather than appearing depending on how you answer a question) that recognizes companies that score an 80 or above.  Note:  The names of companies scoring less than 80 are kept confidential.

3.)   While it’s often desirable to seek validation for hard won diversity and inclusion accomplishments, and there may be leaders in your company who seem to have an insatiable appetite for positive PR, it’s necessary to be selective and only choose those that will resonate  with your employees, customers and suppliers as authentically earned.  The DEI will help your company make real progress and provide acknowledgement that the disability community views as sincere and meaningful.

4.)   Unfortunately, it’s rare to attend a disability event that includes leaders from the business community where the speakers talk about the significant market opportunity ($220 Billion in U.S. $3 Trillion globally), and brand loyalty of people with disabilities and their stakeholders; how to include disability-owned businesses in supplier diversity efforts; and where to find top talent who also happens to have a disability. This is puzzling because with any other event focused on under-represented groups, typically you would see all aspects described included.  The DEI is a tool that will help business advance disability inclusion across the business and will continue to raise the bar over time.

5.)    Business leaders have found the DEI to be #morethanascore. Here are some quotes from my D&I colleagues who have participated in the DEI:

“The DEI requires a higher level of thoughtfulness, and many pairs of eyes to understand and address the questions. When various stakeholders across the company review the questions, the questions tell them the story of what disability inclusion really entails. This allowed us to engage in conversations with individuals who might not have thought about these topics as deeply prior to seeing the DEI questions. The process is as valuable as the result.” 

“The DEI is not just a prize for participation, but for doing the real work. The scored outcome is something tangible you can show leadership to demonstrate the fruits of the organization’s labor.  Meaningful outcomes, not just an award, but accomplishments.” 

“To score 80+ on DEI is to be in rarified company with organizations who have made this investment.  As a business to business organization, this also shows our clients who have made an investment that is similar to the one we have made with regards to true disability inclusion that we take this seriously.  If you give everybody a prize for participation, you lose the value and meaningfulness of this. 

“Some of the questions were truly eye opening and challenged us to make some important changes like adding hearing aids to our covered benefits, and designating and training someone in our technology department to focus on accessibility.”

“Questions are thought provoking and cause you to examine and review policies and practices.”

6.)   Beyond all of this, there’s an even more important factor in making the decision to complete the DEI. In my experience as a D&I practitioner, all diverse communities subscribe to the mantra, “Nothing about us without us.” African Americans, Women, LGBTQ, Asia Pacific Islanders, Latinos and Veterans all want to be involved in decisions that are made and strategies that are developed that impact them at work and in the community.

The DEI was co-created by business leaders and disability inclusion advocates. The results of this collaboration is an instrument that presents a reasonable and achievable bar for companies. It’s not all the disability community would have liked to see included, but it’s a great start that has resulted in meaningful improvements in businesses who aspire to be disability inclusive. If a company achieves a score of 80 or more on the DEI, you can be assured that they have made great strides.

Full disclosure, I was on the founding DEI Advisory Committee and continue to serve.  Below are some quotes from some of my colleagues on this Committee who are both business leaders and disability inclusion champions:

“What’s invisible can’t be counted. What’s uncounted doesn’t really matter. The Disability Equality Index is one of the most effective ways to understand how people with disabilities can be visible and respected in the workplace – and for employers to make them count. By taking part in the DEI, corporations signal to all Americans that their doors, their markets and their minds include everyone.”

     Bob Witeck
President, Witeck Communications, Inc.

“If we want to accelerate progress in disability equality, we need to know how to measure success.  The DEI, developed jointly by business leaders and disability advocates, is a great tool that is helping companies learn and grow in this space.”

     Andrew Imparato,
Executive Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities

“CVS Health is honored to be one of the DEI top scoring companies for the second consecutive year. The DEI is not just a great benchmarking tool, it also provides a holistic framework for any company looking to develop a comprehensive strategy for meeting the needs of the disabilities community in the workforce, workplace and marketplace.”

     David L. Casey
VP, Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health

“We are a technology, media, and entertainment company that provides products and services to very diverse communities around the world.  The only way to truly succeed as a competitive and innovative company is to hire and employ a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities.  Inclusion drives innovation.  The questions posed in the DEI force you to take a hard look at your hiring and employment practices and really help you to become better – to be more inclusive, so you can be more innovative and, therefore, more successful as a company.”

     Fred Maahs, Senior Director of National Partnerships,
Community Investment Comcast Corporation

To view the DEI go to:  disabilityequalityindex.org/DEI_survery.pdf

Questions? Comments? Please, let’s hear your views.

For more information, and to register by 1/13/17 go to: disabilityequalityindex.org/register

Beverly Malbranche of Caribbrew Honors Her Homeland of Haiti Through Her Coffee Brand
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Beverly Malbranche wearing a yellow shirt and smiling at the camera

By Nashia Baker, Martha Stewart

Both personally and professionally, Beverly Malbranche has always wanted to make an impact in the world and honor her homeland along the way. To meld the two, she decided to open Caribbrew, her Black-owned and woman-founded Haitian coffee brand. “Once I realized that we used to be a major coffee producer, I felt challenged to revive this lost history and create opportunities through it,” she recalls, noting that she launched the business, based in Passaic, New Jersey, in November 2018.

“I decided to create my own business in order to have more impact and to use my creativity and determination to offer a positive image of Haiti,” she says. “I also wanted to share our gastronomy with the world in some form or shape.” Ahead, Malbranche shares how she took her desire for personal fulfillment and meaningful opportunity and channeled them into her work—and ultimately developed a thriving coffee business that is also a tribute to Haiti.

Increasing Brand Awareness

Malbranche opened her business with $1,000 and built it from the ground up. She turned to Facebook and Instagram to get her company up and running. Through these platforms, she discovered other small businesses and began to learn from them—and started networking offline to build her business, as well. She attended local pop-up shops to continue getting Caribbrew’s name out there, and gained business champions and her first customers as a result.

Producing the Coffee

Caribbrew offers an array of products, but is best known for shade-grown, chemical-free, premium coffee. Malbranche prioritized process when she first started production: Haitian farmers handpick the Arabica beans, which are then roasted in small batches. For those who can’t go without their morning cup of joe, you can shop options like the Caribbrew Dark Roast Premium Haitian Coffee ($15.50, caribbrew.com); it is characterized by its dark, aromatic, heavy-bodied flavor profile. Or, try Caribbrew Medium Roast Kcups ($22, caribbrew.com), made specifically with beans from Thiotte, a mountainous town in the south of Haiti (this roast has hints of chocolate).

“Haitian beans tend to be nutty and mellow in acidity,” Malbranche explains. “[The medium and dark roasts] are both smooth, and while you can taste the nuttiness more in our medium roast, the dark roast has notes of dark caramel and a bit of chocolate.”

Her company’s offerings go beyond coffee, too. Skin care enthusiasts can snag the Coconut Latte Body Butter ($25, caribbrew.com), a Haitian coffee-infused, full body treatment that can reduce stretch marks and cellulite; the Mango Mandarin Haitian Coffee Scrub ($15, caribbrew.com) which exfoliates and decreases facial inflammation, thanks to green coffee properties; and other beauty products, teas, and chocolates from the line.

Brewing with Inspiration

Malbranche’s mission is simple: “I want to create more transparency on the coffee supply chain and create a space for coffee originating from the Caribbean—starting with Haiti,” she says. “I also want to support the ongoing efforts to see more Black- and women-owned businesses in the industry.” As for her customers? She wants them to enjoy exploring her brand and “savor each cup—and also connect with the folks who grow the beans.”

While the entrepreneur has her sights on new goals (the team just launched Caribbrew nationwide via Sprouts Farmers Market and aims to get the brand in more retail locations soon), she has one crucial piece of advice for fellow business owners who are striving for something more. “Give yourself grace and take it one step a time,” she explains. “It’s good to create a roadmap for the vision that you have. That will help you eliminate some activities that do not align with your goals, so you can focus on what matters.”

Click here to read the full article on Martha Stewart.

US Black business ownership sees rise thanks to women, study finds
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woman on the computer using google

By , The Guardian

Black business ownership is surging in the US despite the coronavirus pandemic, research shows, with a rise in businesses owned by Black women.

At the start of the pandemic, Black-owned businesses suffered. Between February and April 2020, Black business ownership dropped by more than 40%, the largest drop of any racial or ethnic group, according to a report from the House committee on small business.

When government aid became available, Black business owners received fewer small business grants than white business owners, with paycheck protection program funds only reaching 29% of Black applicants versus 60% of white ones.

But according to research from University of California Santa Cruz economist Robert W Fairlie, Black business ownership is now up by almost 30% on pre-pandemic levels.

The Biden administration has said a record number of people are starting their own businesses. Women of color are the fastest-growing group of female entrepreneurs.

“At a time when folks are rethinking their lives and choices, it is not surprising that more Black women are electing to become CEOs of their own companies rather than waiting for their intelligence and skills to be recognized at their current firms,” Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures, an agency for Black and brown entrepreneurs, told Business Insider.

Pandemic layoffs could be another factor in the rise of Black business ownership. Job insecurity caused by Covid-related restrictions prompted many people to explore alternative options, including starting businesses.

Diamonte Walker, deputy executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburg Post-Gazette: “Being beholden to corporations and institutions just doesn’t feel like a safe bet in times of uncertainty, whereas the risk of starting a business now starts to feel a lot less than the risk of sitting on a job not knowing when your number is coming up.”

Experts say the emergence of female Black business owners could be explained by Black women wanting more control over their work life.

Millions left their jobs during the pandemic due to inadequate pay, lack of childcare options and debates about remote work, all compounded by systematically low pay and workplace discrimination.

“If you start your own business, some of those obstacles may not be as acute as if you were relying on employment from someone else,” the Wells Fargo chief economist, Jay H Bryson, told Insider.

“There may be avenues that certainly benefit anybody, but proportionally they’d be more beneficial to the Black community than other parts of the population.”

Click here to read the full article on The Guardian.

3 Strategies Female Founders of Color Can Use to Secure Funding
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two females looking at a laptop screen together

By Xintian Tina Wang, Inc.com

Black and Latina women founders received only 0.43 percent of the $166 billion in VC funding dished out to startups in 2020. That’s according to ProjectDiane, a biennial report on the state of Black women and Latina founders by the organization DigitalUndivided.

Two women who are beating the odds are Kelly Ifill, the founder and CEO of Guava, a neo-bank and community platform designed to serve Black entrepreneurs and small-business owners, and Evelyn Rusli, an angel investor and the co-founder and president of baby food brand Yumi. The two sat down with All the Hats editor Teneshia Carr to talk about the best strategies for overcoming the hurdles to getting funding as a female founder of color. Here are three that stand out.

1. Be prepared to hear ‘no’ and keep pitching.
Rusli says she receives probably hundreds of rejections when pitching to investors, but encourages founders to stay positive nevertheless. “I think you have to pitch a lot of investors in the beginning, where not everyone is going to say yes. In fact, you’re going to get many nos,” says Rusli. “For every no out there, there is a yes. If you believe so strongly in your vision and that’s why you took the leap, then you just have to continue to knock on those doors and try to find the angles.”

Ifill agrees and suggests that pitching is a numbers game — by pitching more, you’ll come to understand what resonates with investors best. “Some investors will give you feedback, so you can scrap from your pitch what’s not working and what you need to double click on,” she says.

2. Find a compelling story.
Practice telling your pitch story to get it right and tight. Investors are humans, and they respond to stories that have humane aspects.

“We don’t pay attention to the storytelling aspect of the pitches enough,” says Ifill. “Try to tell stories of the lived experience of people that you’re trying to change or an industry problem that you’re trying to solve. I find that’s [led to] the most successful moments that I have had with investors.”

3. Leverage your network to find the right investor
LinkedIn can be your go-to platform to get to know people in your industry. Rusli urges being unafraid to cold call people you don’t know. “People reach out less than you think they do in general. If an investor finds your subject line interesting, they might just respond.”

Click here to read the full article on Inc.com.

How 3 Black Women Entrepreneurs Achieved Industry Firsts
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Black women entrepreneur Tiffany Mason, founder of Harlem Pilates.

By Rebecca Deczynski, INC.com

Someone always has to go first–but occupying that role isn’t necessarily easy.

While Black women are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the United States, they remain underrepresented in many industries. And especially when it comes to securing capital, a lack of previous representation in an industry can be a barrier.

“During the time I was building my business, I was generating tons of money, but I just couldn’t get funded,” says Robin Wilson, founder of home textile brand Clean Design Home (originally called Robin Wilson Home). “I remember going to a seed capital group and showing how successful my business was, and a woman said, ‘I don’t know any brands like yours–I’m not trying to be racist or anything.’ I said, ‘I can’t really unzip myself and become something I’m not.’ So I was out.” After years of bootstrapping, Wilson became the first Black American female founder of a global, licensed hypoallergenic textile brand, and now has several successful companies under her holding company, A Blue Egg Corporation.

Wilson is just one example of the Black women entrepreneurs succeeding in spite of systemic barriers. Inc. spoke with her and two others to find out their best takeaways for strategizing, connecting with investors who get you, and achieving “firsts” in their respective industries.

Make the connections you can
By day, Rada Griffin is a senior software engineer for NASA, working on a project that will send the first woman to the moon in 2024. But in her off hours, she’s the owner of Anissa Wakefield Wines and Alabama’s first certified Black female winemaker. In 2006, the Huntsville, Alabama-based entrepreneur started a catering business on the side and quickly developed an interest in wine. “Back then, you really had to know someone in the winemaking business to get some insight about it,” she says. After years of self-study, she launched her business in 2017, releasing her first vintage of wine the following year. She became a certified winemaker in 2021, after she completed an online program through Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration.

Of the more than 8,000 wineries in the United States, about one-10th of 1 percent are Black-owned, Phil Long, president of the Association of African American Vintners, told Bloomberg in 2020. Finding people who are open-minded to diversity and inclusion, Griffin says, has been key to her success. She connected with a few other Black women winemakers working in Napa, where she produces her wine. “I’ve come across some really, really great people who have kind of taken me under their wing,” she says. “If you don’t reach out to people, if you don’t go talk to people and understand what it is that you’re doing or what you need to do better, you’ll keep making the same mistakes.” Griffin says that the support she’s gained from her network has made all the difference–she turns to her fellow winemakers for advice and inspiration.

Turn “no” into a learning opportunity
Tiffany Mason, founder of Harlem Pilates–the first Pilates studio in Harlem–recently won a $30,000 grant from Squarespace to put toward her business. But fundraising previously wasn’t easy. For that reason, she bootstrapped her business, running lessons from her apartment for about two years before she started looking for a brick-and-mortar space in 2019. After approaching a few banks, she got approved for a small personal loan, which allowed her to take the next step in opening her business.

“I got a lot of noes,” she says. “Eventually, you understand that noes are feedback to help you get better. It’s important to take those responses and learn how to refine your messaging.” On her part, Mason says that early noes taught her to become more confident in her pitch, being “loud and proud” about owning the only Pilates studio in her neighborhood. While trying to secure her initial bank loan, Mason says that she took a more passive approach, and didn’t really emphasize how significant her business was for her neighborhood; when she applied for Squarespace’s grant, she went in the opposite direction–to great success.

Understand the power of branding
Wilson started her career in the corporate world at the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. When the company went public in 1999, she gained the financial opportunity to pursue her real passion–so, she went to NYU to get her master’s in real estate finance and launched her business, Robin Wilson Home. Over the years, she’s faced ups and downs, and particularly had a hard time garnering VC interest. “As a woman and a person of color, there’s real fiscal inequality,” she says.

But in the summer of 2020, she saw sales of her 2015 book Clean Design tick up, amid increased calls to support Black-owned businesses. Around that time, she had a conversation with an old business school professor, who advised her to change the name of her business to help expand her appeal.

Click here to read the full article on Inc. Com.

SkyPoint FCU Closes $7 Million Investment from the U.S. Treasury’s Emergency Capital Investment Program
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Businesswoman analyzing finances

SkyPoint Federal Credit Union (SkyPoint), a premier, member-owned financial institution, has recently closed on a $7 million investment as part of the U.S. Treasury’s new Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP). This investment increased SkyPoint’s net worth which will allow for growth and expansion of their lending portfolio.

The ECIP initiative is designed to provide access to capital for communities, businesses, and individuals traditionally excluded from the financial system, particularly those that have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. SkyPoint will use the funds to provide financial products for small and minority-owned businesses and consumers in low-income and underserved communities. The credit union already has a long history with members in this demographic.

“We’re very proud to be selected for this program that looks to address some of the long-standing inequities in our financial system,” said Jim Norris, CEO of SkyPoint. “SkyPoint has always been focused on helping underserved communities, and this investment will give us a solid foundation to expand our services and help more people.”

SkyPoint is evaluating ways to broaden its portfolio of lending programs to communities most impacted by the COVID pandemic. The credit union is also planning to add business accounts and lending programs this year that will complement its financial service offerings for consumers.

“We know with higher prices for almost everything, families can be worried about making big investments like a car or a home. And entrepreneurs may be nervous about starting or expanding their businesses,” explained Norris. “As part of the ECIP, we’re well-positioned to give families and companies access to the capital they need, especially groups that historically were not able to easily receive funding.”

Over the long term, the funds will also help SkyPoint grow and continue its role of helping foster financial opportunities and inclusion in low-income and traditionally underserved communities.

About SkyPoint Federal Credit Union (SkyPoint)

SkyPoint is one of the premier financial institutions serving Montgomery County, MD; Frederick County, MD; Arlington County, VA; Alexandria and Falls Church, VA; and the District of Columbia. SkyPoint is a Community Development Financial Institution and a designated Juntos Avanzamos credit union. To learn more, visit www.skypointfcu.com

Meet The Latina Founders Of A Specialty Coffee Company Dedicated To Celebrating Latin American Heritage
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Casa Dos Chicas Café Founders Ana Ocansey-Jimenez and Oneida Franco

By Girl Talk HQ

For all of us coffee drinkers, we’re used to getting up in the morning, reaching for our favorite mug, and pouring ourselves a cup of joe without giving a second thought to where our grinds originated from. We need the caffeine to kickstart our day, and then we’re on our way!

But what if we told you there was a brand of coffee that takes great care to share with its customers where the coffee is sourced from and how it is made, making it part of their brand identity? That brand is Casa Dos Chicas Café, founded by accountants and mothers Ana Ocansey-Jimenez and Oneida Franco.

These two finance experts turned coffee connoisseurs have added “Entrepreneur” to their list of powerful titles as the founders of Casa Dos Chicas Café, a brand of The Whole Kitchen, which was also founded by the Latina duo.

Casa Dos Chicas Café offers organic, single-origin, specialty coffees sourced mainly from small, family-owned farms or multi-family cooperatives across Latin America and the Caribbean including the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. Through Casa Dos Chicas Café, they are dedicated to celebrating Latin American heritage while promoting equitable, sustainable practices along the entire coffee supply chain.

We loved the sound of this company (and it made us immediately want to drink a good cup of coffee!) so we had the chance to speak with both Oneida and Ana about the origins of the business, how they are working to lift other Latinas in the business world, and why representation is important to them.

How did you two first meet and decide to go on this entrepreneurship journey together?

We met in New York City while working together in corporate accounting. We hit it off and quickly became friends! Soon enough we began a tradition of drinking Cuban cafecito in the breakroom during the afternoons which continued for the next 4.5 years.

We decided to embark on this entrepreneurship journey when we saw how we could impact people’s lives while fulfilling our own. Ana put our first financial model together and we said “Let’s do this!”

Can you tell us where the idea for Casa Dos Chicas Café came from, and where your love of coffee originated?

The idea of Casa Dos Chicas Café was nurtured through the building of our friendship, sharing our cultures through foods, and drinking cafecito during our time at work. We even purchased an electric greca/moka pot to make the afternoon brews, which we still have and will soon be framed.

We went our separate ways as we continued to develop our careers but stayed in touch. We would continue to see each other often for lunch and would of course enjoy our coffee and dream of the future. The love of coffee came from our families tradition, we have countless stories that our Dominican and Mexican parents shared with us and we now share with each other.

Ana had been taking different coffee courses and learning as much about specialty coffee as possible. Through that we made great connections with people throughout the supply chain. We saw the inequalities throughout it and decided we wanted to influence and do our part. This along with showing people how the third wave of coffee is changing the coffee scene, we saw a gap where we could educate on what specialty coffee is, why it is special, and how they too can have it and enjoy it.

This new venture is part of The Whole Kitchen brand. Why is expansion important to your business, and why should all entrepreneurs keep expansion in mind as they climb the ladder of success?

The Whole Kitchen is the mother company and it was a concept that Oneida had been developing since her daughter was 2. We loved it!

Change is good and growth is natural. It is not easy, but it is important to always strive to grow and expand because if not the business will begin to fizzle and can die. Growth does not necessarily mean just the revenue line, it comes in various places, from impact, knowledge, the service getting better towards the customer, using technology better. There is always room to grow.

We were only able to host one The Whole Kitchen event because COVID hit. We had to hold and that is when our focus shifted in launching Casa Dos Chicas Café as a brand of TWK. Expansion is important, but knowing when to pivot if something is not quite going as planned with what you are doing is vital. Planning ahead and having a vision is imperative. What are some of the cultural traditions you are both bringing to CDCC and excited to share with customers?

We have many things brewing (pun intended)! One of them is bringing back traditional Latin American ways to prepare coffee – of course you will see Mexico and Dominican Republic first. We partnered with Colamo Café, an artist from DR that makes the most beautiful traditional cafeteras. We will have our collaboration for sale soon on our site.
Through our work and offerings, we are highlighting at-home coffee preparation methods and the attentive cultural traditions that our mothers, tias (aunts), and grandmothers taught us when it comes to serving our guests. We are bringing back the moment of simply pausing during the afternoon while having a cup of coffee. The western culture often leaves us tired after a long day with no opportunity to simply sit down and have a conversation along with a cup of coffee.

Click here to read the full article on Girl Talk HQ.

Latina-Owned Candle Business Captures the Scents of Childhood
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Latina-Owned Candle Business Captures the Scents of Childhood

By Génesis Miranda Miramontes, NBC Los Angeles

Who can forget the smell of a Saturday spent cleaning, as the sound of music blasted in the background: the smell that filled the air and made you get up knowing you would have to grab a broom and help out?

Or perhaps you recall the smell of hot chocolate and pan dulce as you sat around the table hearing your comadre’s latest chisme.

What if you can relive those memories by lighting a candle in your room? While you fold that pile of laundry you’ve been putting off.

Marcella Gomez, a mother, nurse and cancer survivor from Downey is the founder of Oh Comadre Candles, a Latina-owned business that quite literally captures those memories in a candle.

“Oh Comadre Candles celebrate life through a Latina’s eye. The candles are intended to evoke emotion, comfort, memory, or even a laugh,” Gomez said.

Gomez started her business online in 2014 as a form of therapy, and time away from the nursing job she had at the time. It was a way for her to disconnect from the stress of a work day and help distract her, she explains.

In October of 2020, Gomez was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has since received treatment and has been in remission.

She says she would like her story to be an example of the importance of taking care of your health and seeing your doctor.

“Take care of yourself like we take care of others,” Gomez said. “If your best friend told you they found a lump, you would drop everything and help your good friend seek medical attention. Why not do the same for yourself?”

Since starting her business, Gomez has gained over 76,000 followers on Instagram and has recently opened her first storefront in Downey a couple of months ago.

“I have nothing but gratitude for anyone taking the time to walk through our door. It’s an awesome feeling that any small business can relate,” Gomez said. “I couldn’t believe the amount of support the shop recieved. I still can’t believe it. Someone please pinch me.”

Gomez says it was a long process to find the right formula for her candles. Then in 2016 she received her first online order.

“I could not believe someone purchased it from me. I thought it was a joke because the order came on my birthday. Fortunately, it was the first of many orders to come,” Gomez said.

Most Latinos can relate to the scents of Fabuloso, Vaporub, Pan Dulce, Abuelita Hot Chocolate, Horchata, and even Jabon Zote.

These are the scents of childhood and the day to day that bring happiness and can now be enjoyed in your sala.

Click here to read the full article on NBC Los Angeles.

Rihanna is now worth $1.4 billion–making her America’s youngest self made billionaire woman
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Rihanna on the cover of Professional Woman's Magazine. Rihanna attends a Fenty event in February 2020 in an orange turtle neck. she is now america's youngest female self made billionaire.

By Megan Sauer, CNBC

The youngest self-made billionaire woman in the U.S. didn’t grow up in a Manhattan high rise or the Hollywood Hills. Instead, Rihanna amassed her fortune from her own music and entrepreneurial ventures.

Recently, the 34-year-old singer and Fenty Beauty CEO graced Forbes’ annual list of America’s richest self-made women for the third year in a row. She ranked 21st overall, and is the list’s only billionaire under age 40. Some of Rihanna’s $1.4 billion net worth is from her successful music career. Most of it is from her three retail companies: Fenty Beauty, Fenty Skin and Savage X Fenty.

In March, Bloomberg reported Savage X Fenty lingerie was working with advisors on an IPO that could potentially be valued at $3 billion. Rihanna owns 30% of that company. She also owns half of Fenty Beauty, which generated $550 million in revenue in 2020. The other half of the company is owned by French luxury fashion conglomerate LVMH.

The numbers are impressive, but Rihanna has said that her focus isn’t on valuations and accolades. In 2019, she told The New York Times’ T Magazine that because she never planned on making a fortune, reaching financial milestones was “not going to stop me from working.”

The nine-time Grammy Award winner also said she wants to give that money away to causes that matter, anyway. “My money is not for me; it’s always the thought that I can help someone else,” she said. “The world can really make you believe that the wrong things are priority, and it makes you really miss the core of life, what it means to be alive.”

In 2012, Rihanna started a philanthropy fund, the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF). It aims to “support and fund groundbreaking education and climate resilience initiatives,” according to its website.

One of its first initiatives, which launched a year after the foundation began, raised $60 million for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS through sales from the singer’s lipstick line with MAC Cosmetics. And in January, CLF paired up with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s #SmartSmall initiative to donate a combined $15 million to 18 different climate justice groups.

That money is meant for organizations “focused on and led by women, youth, Black, Indigenous, people of color and LGBTQIA+ communities” in the U.S. and Caribbean, according to CLF’s website.

“At the [CLF], much of the work is rooted in the understanding that climate disasters, which are growing in frequency and intensity, do not impact all communities equally, with communities of color and island nations facing the brunt of climate change,” Rihanna said in a January statement.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Renowned Latina chef helps spread word about free summer meals for kids, teens
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Renowned Latina chef Lorena Garcia wearing a red chefs uniform while smiling at the camera

By Edwin Flores, NBC News

Latina chef, author and TV personality Lorena Garcia is partnering with a national nonprofit group to let families know there are free meals available for children and teenagers as more people face hunger and food insecurity amid high food prices.

“We’re really trying to raise awareness, particularly this summer, about the meals that are available — parents and caregivers can find free summer meal sites right in their neighborhood,” the Venezuelan American chef said about No Kid Hungry, a campaign by the nonprofit group Share Our Strength based in Washington, D.C., which helps feed children and teenagers across the nation.

Even before the current issues of inflation and steeper food prices, the Covid-19 pandemic fallout resulted in a loss of jobs or reduced hours for millions in the country, leading to more families struggling to put food on the table, according to an analysis by Feeding America, which focuses on equitable access to food.

In 2020, food insecurity for Latinos increased by more than 19%, with Hispanics 2.5 times more likely to experience food insecurity than their white counterparts. Latino children were more than twice as likely to live in food-insecure households than white children, according to the nonprofit group.

Additionally, census data indicates that 1 in 6 Latinos live in poverty compared to 1 in 16 non-Latino whites.

Parents and caregivers can find a free summer meal site by texting “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 304-304 or by visiting the group website’s free meal finder. The free meals provided are for youths 18 and younger.

Summer marks the hungriest time of the year for children since school is no longer in session and there is less access to daily, reliable meals. The No Kid Hungry summer meals programs reach 16% of children nationwide.

García said some of the summer meal programs are providing up to 750,000 meals a day to feed children and teenagers throughout the summer.

“The help is there, we just need to make sure that people know that this program is out there,” Garcia, who joined actor and TV cooking personality Ayesha Curry and rapper Big Freedia as No Kid Hungry partners, told NBC News.

As families grapple with the issue of meals in the summer months, millions of students could lose access to free and reduced-price meals after Congress failed to extend the federal Child Nutrition Waivers — introduced during the pandemic — which are set to expire June 30 after two years.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

7 Latina-Owned Secondhand Shops That Promote Sustainability
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7 Latina-Owned Secondhand Shops That Promote Sustainability

By Tess Garcia, Refinery 29

Like many immigrants, Latines have a complicated history with secondhand shopping. Some of us grew up parsing through thrift stores out of necessity. Others were raised to avoid them at all costs, viewing shiny, new things as symbols of success. In recent years, an alternative school of thought has emerged from both ends of the spectrum: more and more, Latine shoppers of all class backgrounds are embracing pre-owned clothing for its prices as well as sustainability and style points.

“Growing up first-generation in a super white community, I couldn’t comfortably sit in one group or the other. I used clothes to express myself,” Mexican-American Isabel Robles tells Refinery29 Somos. Upon entering her teen years, this meant exploring the once-taboo worlds of thrift and consignment stores. “As I grew up, I grew more comfortable with my individuality, and shopping vintage and secondhand gave me the opportunity to pull pieces and style myself differently from everyone else.”

Others, like Moises Mendez II, shop secondhand as a way to honor their elders’ values. “My mom, who is from the Dominican Republic, is the biggest believer in ‘if you can get it for cheaper, why not?’ She also does her best to be environmentally conscious,” he explains. “Because I saw those two things growing up, they’ve been instilled in me, and I feel like I’m fulfilling them by shopping secondhand.”

No matter your motives for buying secondhand, it’s also a great way to support Latine entrepreneurs. Below, we’ve rounded up seven Latina-owned vintage and thrift stores that will change the way you shop. Keep reading to learn how each founder got their start, how they feel about sustainable shopping trends, and more.

The Plus Bus — Los Angeles, California

Co-Founded by Marcy Guevara-Prete

Image from The Plus Bus vintage store
Origin Story: “My business partner and I had so many clothes. Not only did we want those clothes to go to other happy homes, but we wanted a place to come and actually have a shopping experience in person. It’s so stressful and feels like such a disparity that the amount of options for our straight-size counterparts are just so abundant, yet there’s just nothing for plus-size shoppers. But we have money to spend, places to go, people to see.”
On Sustainability & Personal Growth: “When we started the store, sustainability was not on my radar. But it has become so important to me and such a central part of our business. Not only do we know fashion is a huge polluter of the planet, but I care about my wallet, I care about investing in brands that do care and are trying to be ethical. I really try to shop out of The Plus Bus, and I’ve been able to do that successfully for almost three years now.”

Current Boutique — Washington, DC

Founded by Carmen Lopez

Image from Current Boutique vintage store
Origin Story: “Growing up, my mother and I would visit la segunda for treasures every weekend. I saw an opening in the market to make consignment shopping cool, modern, and on-trend. At 28 years old, I saved enough money to launch my business, Current Boutique. My parents, especially my father, didn’t support my decision. No one in our family worked for themselves, definitely not a woman. I started with a lease on a small brick-and-mortar storefront and grew it to three. Now, it’s evolved into a national e-commerce consignment website.”
On Attention to Detail: “I was brought up to know that everything has value and I should cherish my belongings to make them last. We tell our customers to bring us natural fabric items made from cashmere, silk, linen, and cotton. Not only do they hold their value, but their new owners will get repeat uses, which is the key to circular fashion.”

Poorly Curated — New York City

Founded by Jamie Espino

Image from Poorly Curated Vintage Store.
Origin Story: “As a kid, my Tata would take me thrifting. We’d go thrifting and we’d go to lunch. After college, I started applying to jobs at bigger fashion companies, but then I realized none of these places shared my beliefs. The more I thought about how I’d be spending my time, the more I was like, ‘I should just try to do vintage full time.’ Now, it’s about to be six years. I love what I’m doing with Poorly Curated.”
On the Cost of Fast Fashion: “At the end of the day, vintage is a very sustainable way of shopping, especially compared to disposable fashion, which is mostly made by people of color who aren’t getting paid fair wages. Why would I want to contribute to people who look like me not getting paid fairly? Also, when it comes to climate change, it’s always poor communities of color that tend to be affected. Why would I do that to myself, essentially?”

Fresa Thrift — Denton, Texas

Founded by Anisa Gutierrez

Image from Fresa Thrift Vintage Store
Origin Story: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I opened my store, Fresa Thrift, but during the lockdown, I decided to quit my full-time job and just jump into the store full time. It was a combination of what I loved and needing to love myself.”
On Owning a Business: “I’ve always had a boss, so it’s hard for me to see myself as my own boss. As a Latina in the workplace, I was the one who said, ‘I’m going to put my head down and work.’ I wasn’t around a lot of people who looked like me, and I wasn’t going to give them a reason to look down on me. For my mother and my grandmother, starting a business was never an option or a thought. For me to do it and have them say, ‘You make it look so easy,’ it’s nice to hear. It makes me wonder: What would their small businesses have been?

Debutante Vintage Clothing — Pomona, California

Founded by Sandra Mendoza

Image from Debutante Vintage Clothing
Origin Story: “I had amassed so much vintage for myself to wear that I had to start selling some of it. In 1998, I started flipping things on eBay and realized, ‘Wow, I can make some money.’ Eventually, it grew into my business, Debutante Vintage Clothing.”
On Generational Shifts: “When I first started my business, my parents were like, ‘Eso trapos viejos, ¿vas a vender?’ It’s only been this year — and I’ve been in business since 2005 — when I showed them my shop, and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s nice here. It’s organized.’ As immigrants, they wanted everything brand new and shiny. I’m so proud that younger people are embracing secondhand and even mending and repurposing. As a business owner, inventory has become a lot harder to source [laughs]. But as a social movement, I’m so happy.”

Click here to read the full article on Refinery 29.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. WIFLE 22nd Annual Leadership Training
    August 8, 2022 - August 11, 2022
  4. LA County Women’s Leadership Conference
    September 1, 2022
  5. Commercial UAV Expo
    September 6, 2022 - September 8, 2022