Launching a new business is worth it
By Ana Radelat
Together, taking a risk, during risky times, Elia Quintana and Jennifer Arce have embarked on a new business venture. In the midst of the pandemic, they plunged into the competitive world of Washington D.C.’s consulting industry, and founded Cima Strategies, named after the Spanish word for mountain peak. They chose the name because their goal is “to help companies reach their peak when it comes to their business priorities.”
Cima Strategies was founded to advise organizations in achieving equity in the workplace, enhancing stakeholder engagement, and developing the leaders of tomorrow. Quintana notes many companies grew more eager to better understand and engage diverse communities, particularly after the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman touched off a national discussion on race and social justice.
“A lot of companies had an awakening,” she said. “Many were reflecting on their overall approach to diversity and the urgency of the moment prompted leaders to reimagine ways their institutions could show leadership on this issue.”
While there are several companies that aim to help businesses attract and retain minority employees and sell themselves to minority communities and consumers, very few are Latino-owned. Even fewer are Latina-owned, so Cima Strategies is unique in that way.
More and more Latinas like Quintana and Arce are taking risks that are inherent to being an entrepreneur.
A recent study by the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, in collaboration with the Latino Business Action Network (LBAN), reveals that Latino-owned businesses are becoming the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. small business sector. Much of the growth in the number of new businesses among Latinos has been driven by women. According to the study, Latinas represent 40% of all Latino business owners, and the number of Latina-led firms grew 20% in the five-year period that was studied.
Quintana and Arce said they want to help organizations that want to change their image, culture and/or messaging, and communicate more inclusivity. Quintana explains the triple-bottom line approach to services Cima offers. One is helping companies shape and carry out their stakeholder outreach, philanthropic activities and grassroots efforts. The second focuses on messaging. “How do you talk to a community?” Quintana asked. “Messaging is really key.” The third is designing dynamic client events, an area in which Arce possesses extensive professional experience.
Arce brings a strong background in both the public and private sector. Her professional career spans a variety of industries where she has assisted in developing and advancing community affairs and stakeholder engagement strategies, through public policy, business development, and regulatory initiatives. Arce’s event production experience includes social, corporate, non-profit, and government events. She is a graduate of The George Washington University (B.A.) and The Johns Hopkins University (M.A.)
Quintana has two decades of experience, serving as an advisor to Fortune 500 corporate executives on their multicultural marketing messaging, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and outreach to stakeholder groups. She has served on the advisory corporate boards for several non-profits such as the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), the National Urban League (NUL), National Hispanic and Black State Caucus State Legislators, US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), and currently the Hispanics in Energy (HIE), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). Quintana is a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara (B.A) and University of California, Riverside (E.M.B.A).
Quintana and Arce met at a networking event ten years ago and the two powerhouse Latinas quickly became great friends. Last summer, they had a “brainstorming session to see how we could meld,” Arce said. “We naturally fell together because of our shared values, and of course our professional experience.”
Arce agrees with Quintana that American companies are experiencing a watershed moment, seeking to build inclusive work cultures, in a real way. “At the end of the day, what we are
trying to do is better support companies in building bridges,” she said. “Companies have
been more reactive than proactive, and now they want to be proactive.”
Quintana said that both their professional backgrounds, supporting companies and addressing the needs of diversity stakeholders, prepared them to establish Cima Strategies, which officially launched in January. “Our diversity of experience and rich knowledge, serving communities of color is extensive,” she said. “I thoroughly appreciate that so many companies are willing to address their limited understanding of our communities – and want to do something about it. We started Cima Strategies to help companies define how they want to get there.”
American consumers, who are increasingly Latino and Black, demand more transparency and commitment from companies. “Consumers are being more vocal about it and are holding companies accountable,” Arce said. “Companies are seeing the business value, pushing them to reevaluate their positions and approaches when engaging their consumers.”
Quintana and Arce are actively meeting with company representatives interested in boosting their diversity and inclusion business objectives. “We’re ready for business,” Arce said.
Their biggest obstacle right now? “Obviously getting our name out there,” Quintana said.