Two Latina Accelerator Founders Share How You Can Build The Best Startup

A little over two years ago, Lucienne Gigante and Marta Michelle Colon came together to start Access Latina. Together they envisioned an accelerator that would elevate Latina-owned businesses and create direct funnels to the resources they oftentimes have difficulty accessing.

“We are focused on finding ways to fill the gaps Latina business owners face, such as limited access to capital and mentorship,” explains Colon. “As we’ve seen with our 2016 alumni and their remarkable achievements, Latina women represent key engines of economic growth.”

The way Access Latina works is that it takes in a cohort of up to 10 startups and leads them through the accelerator process. Participants have the opportunity to pitch their business to Golden Seeds and are in the running to gain more than $100k in capital and resources.

In addition to being an early-stage company, Latina founders have to own at least 20% of the company, and the company must be rooted in either the STEAM, social innovation or agriculture industries. Access Latina is currently accepting applications for its second cohort.

Gigante and Colon shared some secrets on what makes a great startup, why being risk averse is something you should let go of and what differentiates winning Access Latina companies. 

 

 

Vivian Nunez,  

 CONTRIBUTOR

I focus on telling the stories of trailblazing Latinas.  

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

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Image courtesy of Access Latina.

A little over two years ago, Lucienne Gigante and Marta Michelle Colon came together to start Access Latina. Together they envisioned an accelerator that would elevate Latina-owned businesses and create direct funnels to the resources they oftentimes have difficulty accessing.

“We are focused on finding ways to fill the gaps Latina business owners face, such as limited access to capital and mentorship,” explains Colon. “As we’ve seen with our 2016 alumni and their remarkable achievements, Latina women represent key engines of economic growth.”

The way Access Latina works is that it takes in a cohort of up to 10 startups and leads them through the accelerator process. Participants have the opportunity to pitch their business to Golden Seeds and are in the running to gain more than $100k in capital and resources.

In addition to being an early-stage company, Latina founders have to own at least 20% of the company, and the company must be rooted in either the STEAM, social innovation or agriculture industries. Access Latina is currently accepting applications for its second cohort.

Gigante and Colon shared some secrets on what makes a great startup, why being risk averse is something you should let go of and what differentiates winning Access Latina companies. 

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Vivian Nunez: What was the biggest lesson you learned from Access Latina’s first cohort?

Marta Michelle Colon: That Latinas are great at identifying new opportunities, that they keep up gracefully with the accelerating pace of change in their business, create systematic approaches to encourage and support each other and build extremely agile organizations.

Nunez: What should a Latina entrepreneur keep in mind when starting to build her company? 

Lucienne Gigante: As any other entrepreneurs, Latinas should know their numbers, surround themselves with a strong advisory team and understand their market.

Nunez: As Latinas prep to submit their AccessLatinas applications specifically, what do you look for in a company?  

ColonFrom a business viewpoint: we look for traction, high growth potential and we like to see that they’re using their human and financial capital at its best. From a personal viewpoint: we look for entrepreneurs who have a great ability to stay laser-focused on their goals, find ways to make a significant mark, and are fully committed to their business evolution.

Nunez: What have the most successful Access Latina initiatives had in common? 

ColonThey have grit, resilience, empathy and an incalculable commitment to their business success. They also recognize that success is never final and failure is never fatal , so they work very hard, without distraction towards their end goals.

Nunez: What’s the biggest hurdle that Latina entrepreneurs have to jump over?

GiganteI can highlight three main challenges: access to capital, access to networks and meaningful connections  that can open doors to key differentiators such as expertise for advisory boards. These are challenges and gaps that Access Latina aims to fill because we’ve seen firsthand the difference capital and resources can make in a business with high-growth potential. Latinas are opening more businesses than any other demographics in this country. Similarly, women get 4% of VC money. A combination of capital and mentoring can surely turn a profitable business with potential into a million dollar scalable one. If we invest in thousands of them, it results into an injection to any economy and driver of growth.

Nunez: What’s your number one tip for Latina entrepreneurs? 

ColonThat talent is just the beginning of a successful business and to always stay authentic to who you are, stick to what you believe in and behave accordingly.

Nunez: How do you advise Latinas to unlearn old habits with money and learn to ask for what they deserve/what their value actually is? 

GiganteOne of our finalists, Victoria Flores, co-founder of Lux Beauty Club – providing high-quality hair extensions at affordable prices via a subscription based model — always says, “I am not afraid to ask for money. I want to make money and build a great company.”  That is something we need to be fearless about and digest it because if we don’t create wealth for ourselves and others, how are we ever going to make a real impact for our community and the economy? We need to move beyond surviving, we need to thrive.

Nunez: What’s the best defense against impostor syndrome? 

GiganteImpostor syndrome usually comes from within, from our own insecurity when facing certain situations. I find that a strong sounding board can be friends or advisors that can very quickly snap you out of that place of fear into a place of strength. A bit of perspective helps as well.

 

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