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A list of all panelists in the roundtable discussion.
Graphic: Mónica Hernández/AL DÍA News.

Roundtable discussion: Multicultural women in entrepreneurship

In a talk hosted by AL DÍA and TD Bank, members of the bank and entrepreneurs discussed information, networking strategies, and mentorship opportunities.

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On Nov. 21, AL DÍA and TD Bank hosted a virtual roundtable discussion focused on multicultural women in entrepreneurship, bringing together successful female entrepreneurs and members of TD Bank with experience working with entrepreneurs to discuss the resources available to business owners and how they can access them.

Speaking at the roundtable was Sofia Deleon, founder and owner of restaurant El Merkury; Monica Herrera-Zuniga, budget/grant analyst at Widener University Small Business Development Center (SBDC); representing TD Bank are Jason D. Evans, Manager of Responsible Sourcing & Supplier Diversity and Marisol Medina, VP, Senior Group Manager.

The panel was moderated by Bridgett Battles, the executive presence strategist for The Bridgett Battles Experience.

The first topics of discussion held by the panelists covered the resources an entrepreneur would need to run their fledgling business and where they would get them from.

As Hererra-Zuniga has worked with many small businesses through the SBDC, she knows that the center she works with can provide a wealth of information, support, and training to help entrepreneurs perform the many roles they take on opening a business.

The one center with Widener University isn’t the only one in Pennsylvania. It is instead a part of a network of centers across the state, providing services like translating information to Spanish and English, collaborating with community organizations to put entrepreneurs in touch with community leaders, and fiscal groups like the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Adding on to connecting with chambers of commerce, Evans advises to find and join local chapters to seek information from, such as the African American Chamber of Greater Philadelphia, or the Hispanic Chamber of Greater Philadelphia.

Other fiscal resources include banks, Evan says. The banker that you regularly work with to fund a business can provide their own information and resources, as well.

By building a relationship with your banker, Medina added, they can help educate on how to build cash reserves, establish stable financing, and help brace for any economic downturns, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding the Value of Mentorship

As entrepreneurs are only just beginning their business, the knowledge senior business owners can provide is invaluable for avoiding mistakes and keeping a business running.

Professional networks can provide information about how to work in an industry, but for entrepreneurs they are their own network, Deleon said.

Continuing, she advises to accept mentorship only from those that you trust and have a positive attitude. From her experience in the restaurant industry, working hours on end repeatedly with someone you find unpleasant can be taxing, even if they are skilled.

Mentors are the ones you can turn to to ask tough questions, Herrera-Zuniga noted. These can include big picture questions like what an entrepreneur is working towards, to out-of-the-box questions like why their work is done one way or another and challenge the decisions entrepreneurs make.

But with these tough questions come resources and connections to institutions to help implement the changes that come with knowing what to do to be successful.

WORKING WITH OTHERS

Deleon began her restaurant as a one-woman team, managing several roles normally held by another person or a whole team of people, such as human resources and customer service, all at the same time.

Wearing many hats gave her the experience needed to understand the importance of delegating her work to someone else. 

While some may associate the word with laziness, as an entrepreneur it is a vital act that will allow you to alleviate the burden of doing everything, letting both you and them focus on your responsibilities.

Doing so allowed her to open up a second restaurant, having been careful when selecting a team she trusted to manage the first in her absence.

Networking plays another important role in the work of an entrepreneur, such as helping diverse suppliers break into the market.

Evans frequently works to help connect diverse business owners by seeking them out at networking events hosted by various chambers of commerce. 

For some entrepreneurs, they cannot put in the legwork of making a network of their own, working behind the counter in some cases as they keep their business afloat.

When he gets in contact with them, Evans reaches out on their behalf to members of the Chambers of Commerce and other contacts he knows, looking for relevant connections he can put entrepreneurs in touch with.

Battles made note near the end that forming a relationship of trust between an entrepreneur and their connections opens many doors to information and resources.

While many people are willing to share information and advice relevant to an entrepreneur’s work, it is only on a solid relationship with trust that allows those sort of business connections to grow and flourish.

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