StartOut Founders Tell Us How Their Heritage Has Influenced Them As Entrepreneurs
By: Pete Holmberg
We bring who we are to our relationships, to our day-to day-tasks, and most definitely to our careers. As entrepreneurs, our missions are born out of life experiences and DNA. With StartOut celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we reached out to some of our Hispanic and Latinx Founders to hear about the role their culture plays in their daily lives and their identity as entrepreneurs.
For Maica Gil, Founder of Heroikka, a digital platform that connects women-led projects and their needs with global networks and social capital, her Latinx heritage can be summed up in one word: Resilience. “I come from a long line of strong, opinionated, and extremely powerful women who were entrepreneurs from the day they were born. The Hispanic community is actually a community full of survivors. We comprise a big percentage of the immigrant community no matter where you go around the world. We are not afraid of going out there and getting those opportunities and bringing our culture into any kind of Entrepreneurship initiative or business that we want to launch. I think what’s key is that we are extremely resourceful and creative with little resources, we make magic happen with very little.”
Oscar Pedroso, Founder and CEO of Thimble.io, a monthly subscription service for kids that teaches robotics, coding, and engineering through STEM kits and live and on-demand classes, became an entrepreneur after a career in public health and higher education. “I am the first entrepreneur in my family. My parents are from Honduras and fled the country to seek refuge during the late 70s. Getting an education was a big deal in my house. Neither of my parents attended college, so it was even more important that their two kids grow up with more opportunities to succeed. After college, I worked as a grant writer and raised funds to support various public health initiatives. Since I speak Spanish fluently, I was also charged with educating the Latin community on diabetes prevention and management. Now with Thimble, while 95% of our customer base are parents, we’re also working with school districts that have a large percentage of underserved students who have never been exposed to robotics or engineering. That knowledge gap creates a communication challenge even when language isn’t an issue. I’m finding that many of our students speak Spanish, so I’m glad I’m able to fix the digital divide by speaking their language, making a cultural connection, and making STEM education more accessible.”
Irma Mesa, Founder of Cafecito, a platform that curates one-to-one coffee meetings for at home workers, makes a concerted effort to keep her heritage front and center. “I think it’s very important for somebody with my background and opportunities to incorporate Hispanic culture into my work life. Pushing a new product forward is never an easy process, and I do feel extra responsibility as an LGBTQ Hispanic woman, but I grew up in a family of extremely strong women who more than prepared me for the task. Growing up, everybody in my family worked two jobs. Seeing my mom, grandma, and all of my aunts in action helped make me the person that I am, and the boss that I am becoming.”
In this year of tragedy, isolation, and widespread fear, people across the globe have sought comfort in food, family and faith. These aspects of life remind us of who we are and they help to define the cultures that help to define us. As we enter the final quarter of 2020, we are seeing signs that the pace of business is getting back to normal, the opportunities for long introspection that were so plentiful earlier this year have given way to fierce moments of gratitude, and that more and more people are leveraging their unique experience to connect with others. In celebrating Hispanic heritage, and all heritages, we open the door to celebrating everyone.