The LAA’s entrepreneurship course for Latinas continues to draw strong interest from Atlanta-area immigrants who dream of starting their own business. Since the Latinas’ Economic Empowerment Program ¡Avanzando Juntas! was launched three years ago with a $300,000 seed grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation, some 500 women have taken the course.
The popular course, “Mujeres y negocios,” lasts eight weeks and is offered four times a year. The class, which is free and taught in Spanish, teaches Latina immigrants all they need to know to start their own business. At the end of the course, participants must present a business plan in order to get a completion certificate. Some 52 women have signed up for the new course that starts in April.
“Our participants are Latinas who immigrated to this country as adults,” says Mónica Cucalón, manager of the Latinas’ Economic Empowerment Program. “They face many challenges, including a language barrier, immigration status and the cultural shock of moving to a new country where they don’t know anyone and have to start from scratch.”
Cucalón, who worked as a marketing professional in Colombia for companies such as Unilever, says that the trauma of immigrating sets women back financially. “They want to get ahead and realize themselves as women and as professionals. And our course helps them do just that.”
The course, taught by immigrants who’ve had similar struggles, teaches students everything about starting a business, from raising capital and generating sales to marketing and preparing financial statements. This prepares them to work on their business plan. Many come to the class with the desire to turn their hobby into a business.
“It’s more than a course that teaches them business basics. It’s a space where they feel a sense of belonging, where they connect with other women who’ve had similar experiences,” Cucalón says.
Marisol Meléndez sells soaps she makes in her kitchen.
Many immigrants who have taken the course are already on their way to making their entrepreneurial dreams a reality. They are embroidering, making soaps at home, selling jewelry made by Amazonian artisans, running flower shops, crafting traditional South American cookies known as alfajores and much more.