Latina among a growing number of unorthodox young entrepreneurs
Evident Empire has gained a reputation as a socially-conscience media service agency in the Houston area. The multimedia marketing company was founded by Jessica Bolaños, an aspiring filmmaker, and her fiance in 2009.
Bolaños, a 27-year-old Colombiana, chose to go into business for herself rather than climb the corporate ladder. She enjoys the flexibility of making her own hours.
“In a typical job, I wouldn’t be able to do many of the things I enjoy. Besides finishing my education, I’m involved in a lot of different community and social causes,” Bolaños said.
The company volunteers its expertise to help nonprofits such as the Down Syndrome Association of Houston and is often found chronicling events, such as immigrant rights marches and Occupy Houston protests.
“My fiance and I enjoy giving back to the community. We want to open up a media studio in the suburbs where the youth can pass the time while having fun and learning new skills,” Bolaños said.
Bolaños didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. As a teen, she worked in the restaurant industry seeking to move into the executive ranks, but at one particular job she encountered gender discrimination from the supervisor. She left the company shortly after and held a series of jobs at other companies before moving into promotions, and finally going into business with her fiance.
“For our economy to thrive in the 21st century, we must set about creating the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Marie Johns, deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Young Americans need to know that starting a business is a viable alternative to going to work for somebody else. There is a clear and urgent need to create more jobs for young Americans, and encouraging business ownership is an important way to meet that goal.”
According to the SBA, a government entity charged with providing support to small businesses, the average age of emerging entrepreneurs is 40, and they are overwhelmingly Caucasian.
Bolaños falls far outside the average demographic for entrepreneurs but hasn’t let that keep her from growing her company.
For young people, the barriers to entry can be steep. They often lack basic business knowledge and capital to start their businesses.
To overcome these obstacles, Bolaños expects to graduate with her bachelor’s in entrepreneurship in 2013 from the University of Houston to supplement the real-world experience she receives through Evident Empire. She also takes advantage of business opportunities through the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization where she networks with other student entrepreneurs and companies to expand her startup.
Higher education isn’t always necessary to startup a successful company, such as the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, who dropped out of Reed College. Ambitious young people can have the right expert mentors and seek out non-traditional forms of financing, such as crowdfunding, so their company can achieve success.
“Young entrepreneurs are the game-changers that America needs right now. (They) are a dynamic resource for national recovery and growth,” said Ellen Thrasher, associate administrator of SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurship Education.
The ADP National Employment Report shows that in 2011 small businesses with less than 50 employees on the payroll created 148,000 private-sector jobs from November to December compared to 37,000 for large businesses that have more then 499 employees.
For Latinos, small businesses are usually a family affair. Bolaños grew up helping her parents with their catering company. After many years and long hours of running their own small business, they have transitioned into more traditional careers. The family experience no doubt set the foundation for Bolaños’ own endeavors.
The SBA has recently made a concerted effort to promote and better support the efforts of young people looking to create jobs and businesses for themselves and others.
From November to December 2011, the SBA held the Young Entrepreneur Series, a program that connects young aspiring entrepreneurs with business advisors and resources to help them grow their businesses. The program reached an audience that included young veterans, urban and rural entrepreneurs.
No dates for a workshop targeting young Latinos have been announced, and the SBA is currently evaluating its next steps with the series. The YES workshops provide people like Bolaños with the tools they need to start and sustain job-creating companies.
“I had people in the media field that advised me to learn business rather than getting a communications degree. Technical skills can be learned, but I wanted to be able to grow my company and live my dream of producing documentaries on important social issues,” Bolaños said.