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By Halley Bondy

For years, #WeAllGrow Latina Network founder Ana Flores felt jumpy in her career. She worked in TV production for some of the best companies in Hispanic media, including Univision and MTV Latin America. Yet, she never felt satisfied for long.

“The word entrepreneurship didn’t exist in the vocabulary yet,” said Flores in an interview with Know Your Value. “I just saw myself as a crazy freelancer. I couldn’t stay at a job. I’d love my job but didn’t feel like I could grow.”

Flores quit her job at MTV after her baby was born. Then, the late 2000s recession hit. Her husband was suddenly out of work, too. It was a very stressful time, but it pushed Flores to finally find her entrepreneurial calling.

“Childcare was too expensive. The only option I saw at the time was to start my blog, and that’s how I started where I am today,” said Flores, who was born in Houston and raised in El Salvador. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

#WeAllGrow Latina Network founder Ana Flores.Courtesy of Ana Flores.

In 2009, Flores launched Spanglishbaby, a blog for parents looking to raise bilingual kids. Once she’d explored the Latina influencer space and learned how to monetize digital properties, she launched Latina Bloggers Connect, Inc., which is now #WeAllGrow Latina Network. Now in its ninth year, #WeAllGrow is a Latina content marketing brand and networking community that hosts annual conferences.

In 2017, Flores was listed in People en Español’s “Most Powerful Women” edition. At age 47, she is a leader and mentor to thousands of Latinas looking to kickstart a new, innovative career like hers.

“There is something magical that happens when we all come to the same room,” said Flores about #WeAllGrow annual entrepreneurship conferences in Long Beach, Calif. “The more we can work together within our ecosystem, the stronger we are.”

Right now, Latinas make 54 cents to every dollar made by non-Hispanic white men even though 53 percent of Latina mothers are the breadwinners of their family. Only 1 percent of executive roles are occupied by Latinas.

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“Latinas, systemically, we have been made invisible,” said Flores. “We don’t have role models that are being really showcased. We don’t have access to money.”

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Flores shared some tips for Latina entrepreneurs looking to make an impact in the face of adversity.

Embrace the value of Latinas.

Latinas lag behind in the upper echelons of the workplace, yet they are a huge driving force in the American economy. Latinos consistently over-index in consuming beauty products, movie tickets, and in their social media/mobile phone usage. Latinos are projected to comprise 52 percent of all homeowners in America by 2030. Flores has built her brand by harnessing the power of the Latina community.

“I believe we’re at the epicenter of culture,” said Flores. “I don’t like to use the word empower, because I don’t have to give you power. You already have the power. We just have to realize it and understand it ... Our culture is part of the fabric of society. We are trendmakers and trendsetters.”

Don’t fall for the glam.

Entrepreneurship is seeing a golden age in pop culture and social media. However, Flores advises budding impresarios not to fall for the glitz and glamour.

“Hashtags like ‘bosslady’ are fun to use, but we’re ‘pinkwashing’ the life of an entrepreneur,” said Flores. “It’s not giving substance to what it really takes. You have to know the skills of creating products, not just relying on brands, not just sell yourself but sell products. For service, you need to know how to do that online and market yourself online.”

Flores said her company almost filed for bankruptcy in 2017. She had to use herself as collateral because she had no real estate and her credit was tied up in personal uses.

“This is not the type of thing that’s taught with the bossgirl hashtag,” said Flores. “You’re going to have to learn more specifics.”

Be ready to pivot.

A crisis hit Flores’s business in 2017 because the industry changed dramatically, she said. Influencer marketing was overtaken by algorithmic, tech-based marketing. Flores knew she had to make changes eventually, but at the time, the company was booming: #WeAllGrow had hit the $2.1 million revenue mark. But, in a flash, it was all gone. Flores had to make major changes in order to keep her company alive, including letting go of most of her staff.

“Even though we led the way, we were left out,” said Flores. “You have to be awake to knowing when pivots need to happen and be able to face those pivots ... Doing a pivot means letting go of something ... Are you set up to take these risks, not financially, but mentally and spiritually? ...I don’t think everybody is ready to be an entrepreneur.”

Find your community.

Latinas need to find support in their community, even if it’s outside of the office, said Flores.

“We’ve had comments on our posts ... saying ‘I have been bullied at work because I wear hoops or because I am too Latina,’” said Flores. “For people who thrive in the corporate environment, I would say, find that community that you’re lacking within your corporate job outside and find mentors who will help you show up every day of being unapologetic about who you are.”

Be a mentor and sponsor.

If you’re in a position to mentor and sponsor up-and-coming Latinas, do it, said Flores.

“We have the responsibility to open doors for others,” Flores said. “Fund the communities and leaders who are doing the work, and make sure that the Latina community is getting ahead.”