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Helping Emprendedoras Thrive

AARP supports Latina entrepreneurs

By Yvette Peña

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My mother is an Afro-Latina immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Growing up, she worked several jobs to raise my brother and me while trying to save enough to start her own business. 

My mother grew up as part of a familia de emprendedores at my abuelito's hat factory in Santo Domingo where even my tias, the Peña sisters, worked. When she moved to the United States, she brought her enterprising spirit to New York City with hopes of achieving the American dream—one that comes with many opportunities, but also challenges. She had to work harder to achieve certain goals, but her dreams, tenacity, and drive kept her strong and resilient along her entrepreneurial journey. 

After years of mucho esfuerzo, she started her own small business—Las Tres Estrellas Bakery—despite not being proficient in English nor being a baker. What she did have, however, was a lot of passion and perseverance. Within a few years, her bakery grew into a well-known business that helped pay for college tuition for my brother and me. 

Watching my mother strive for her dreams and accomplish them instilled in me the importance of fostering a "sí se puede" mentality. Now, my family’s legacy powers my work. As the Vice President of Audience Strategy in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at AARP, I am fortunate to have a role that allows me to support women like my mother—Latinas who work hard, open small businesses, and thrive as entrepreneurs. 

As a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, AARP elevates these kinds of leaders and aims to support their business journey. The Small Business Resource Center for People 50+ is a platform that houses research, resources, workshops, and a directory of available grant opportunities for entrepreneurs. Additionally, AARP offers online courses that teach the fundamentals of starting a successful venture.

AARP also provides tools to help boost financial health. For example, in-language resources like AARP Money Map™ help individuals manage unexpected bills and debt as they juggle to balance work, family, and finances. The online tool is free and can help guide individuals toward a brighter financial future in just a few simple steps.

AARP also created the “Meet the Founder” series, a collection of podcasts that elevate the stories of successful leaders in the community to inspire other entrepreneurs. 

Being a business owner requires dedication and time. However, external factors such as language barriers and lack of access to services and capital can create added challenges for Latina entrepreneurs. Combined, these factors can negatively influence their chances of success. This is why at the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at AARP, we advocate to alleviate disparities and systemic obstacles to help small business owners succeed. Many of our efforts are directed toward Latinas across the country who represent nearly half of all Latino businesses, which account for almost two million of all small businesses in the United States. 

Entrepreneurship can be a freeing and rewarding path for many, but starting a business can also be daunting—especially for those confronting disparities related to age, background, race, or ethnicity as well as other obstacles. AARP aims to alleviate barriers by supporting Latinas, like my mother, so they can navigate the challenges and opportunities along their entrepreneurial journey.

Yvette Peña is Vice President of Audience Strategy in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at AARP.

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