Latinx Leaders Change Their Communities Through Edupreneurship
By: Johana Muriel Grajales
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Latinx or Black-led ventures receive less than five percent of philanthropic investments in America – if you break that out into what the Latinx community receives, it’s just a fraction. Considering Latinos account for 24 percent of all new entrepreneurs, the numbers don’t add up.
Latinos for Education wants to fix that. That’s why we just hosted our first-ever Latinx Edupreneurs Pitch Competition. An “edupreneur” is an entrepreneur who works within the education sector. At Latinos for Education, we seek to amplify Latinx edupreneurs who work con ganas to change the status quo through innovation and entrepreneurship.
After a national selection process, ten finalists traveled to Boston from across the country on October 25-26 and pitched their ideas to an esteemed panel of judges and a diverse audience of educators and community leaders. More than $75,000 in cash and in-kind rewards were given out during the event including a grand prize of $20,000. Unlike most pitch competitions, all the finalists left receiving a minimum of $1,500, a virtual membership to Impact Hub, and the opportunity to attend LearnLaunch’s Across Boundaries conference.
Beyond seed funding, we provided these education innovators coaching from established entrepreneurs, as well as access to networking opportunities with philanthropic professionals and workshops led by industry leaders.
It is hard to explain the sentiment felt in the room during this two-day event. The energy exuded a collective pride among over a hundred people as they cheered in awe of these Latinx leaders. Their determination to make an impact in their communities and with students was loud and clear:
- $20,000 Grand Prize winner Lisa Maria Rhodes and her start-up, ALAS, will provide 542 more immigrant and court-involved youth with increasingly equitable legal, educational and economic access.
- $15,000 Runner-up Katherine “Leiva” will invest this seed funding on her start-up, FitLit, which aims to instill a growth mindset in all “fitlitters” and help them make reading and exercise integral to their daily routines.
- Other finalists are working to promote bi-literacy and close the achievement gap among Hispanic students; improve relationships between communities, schools, and families to positively affect student outcomes; and much, much more.
These inspiring leaders are just a handful of the Latinx edupreneurs who are primed to make a significant impact in education and other arenas – if they are given the resources and opportunity.
HOW DO WE MAKE SPACE FOR LATINX ENTREPRENEURS?
First: Both private and impact investors must recognize our value. According to a recent study by Morgan Stanley, just 13 percent of white, male venture capitalists (VCs) place a premium on investing in multicultural founders, but 88 percent of all venture capitalists acknowledge the experiences of minority entrepreneurs are a key advantage for success. By overlooking multicultural entrepreneurs, our country is missing out on new vantage points that can lead to transformative innovations..
How can investors start to prioritize multicultural outreach? One of the most significant issues they must rectify is as simple as broadening their networks. The vast majority of venture capitalists find entrepreneurs through their existing relationships. Diversify the network, diversify the introductions to entrepreneurs. In order to invest, they must first connect.
Second: We must build more bridges to help Latinx edupreneurs understand the game and ask for what they need. When it comes to edupreneurship, for Latinx leaders overcoming the lack of diversity may be two-fold: willingness to ask and awareness.
- In a recent study Talented, Passionate & Underrepresented: Investing in Latino Edupreneurs, the NewSchools Venture Fund reported fewer than one-quarter of Latinx edupreneurs believe funds from philanthropic organizations or investors would be available to them. Many of the Latinx edupreneurs who do ask for funding request smaller grants than other edupreneurs. The NewSchools venture fund hypothesizes funders may have interpreted these relatively small requests as naïveté or lack of ambition. We know Latinx edupreneurs think big. It turns out that asking big might be the next step.
- Overall the NewSchools Venture Fund report concludes there is very little familiarity with philanthropy, which is not limited to impact investment. A study from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative shows less than one-third of Latino entrepreneurs who ask for funding from government or financial institutions have prepared the necessary materials, such as a financial plan or current balance sheet. This is not because Latinx entrepreneurs aren’t talented, rather because we don’t know what we don’t know. This underscores the need to build more robust systems of support for Latinx edupreneurs.
Overcoming these hurdles to make space for Latinx edupreneurs takes real intention. Collaborating is the way to pave the success of the next generation’s Latinx leaders. That’s why the Latinos for Education Pitch Competition is important and why we celebrate the positive response received from our partners and the community. In just a few months, and through coaching, training, and seed-funding, we foresee this cohort of Latinx edupreneurs move forward without hesitation to take their startups to the next level.
In the words of one of the winners, Lisa Maria Rhodes, “Participating in the Latinx Edupreneurs Pitch Competition has been an active rewriting of narrative with inspiring edupreneurs from across the country and Latinos for Education,” As Latinx Edupreneurs like her build momentum, they build our future. We are proud to be part of it.
About Johana Muriel Grajales
Johana Muriel Grajales is Director of National Strategy and Innovation at Latinos for Education. In this role, she manages the design and implementation of national strategy tied to growth and innovation imperatives to ensure more Latino leaders and edupreneurs are at the front of closing the education gaps facing the Latino community. Johana’s career has been driven by the belief that if every person is given access to the supports and resources to fulfill their potential, we will be able to address the complex and diverse issues we face as a society.