During the last Entrepreneur Training for Success class, our aspiring entrepreneurs worked with their peers and mentors to develop their business concept. Sharmela Karamchandani, the Virginia Lead Trainer, encouraged the entrepreneurs to become “Level Three” businesswomen who own a business, rather than have a hobby, and use their profits to support their lifestyle.
I sat in on a small work group led by Eileen Kessler, a returning mentor who is also president and founder of OmniStudio, Inc, a DC-based creative and web development studio (who also redesigned EWI’s new logo and upcoming website!). Initially without the help of a translator, Eileen and one of the students were having difficulty understanding each other to share business goals and feedback. To my surprise, one of the other students, Nicole Segovia, jumped into the conversation and used her Spanish language skills to bridge the gap to everyone’s relief and delight.
I had a chance to talk with Nicole later. It wasn’t the first time Nicole had provided such a valuable service. Although Nicole once felt hesitant speaking Spanish in public, she gained confidence in her abilities after happening upon a desperate situation in which she could help. In another instance she retold to me, she was the only translator available when a Spanish-speaking mother in her neighborhood needed to call emergency services for the mother’s injured son. After an ambulance arrived on scene, Nicole left feeling as if she could use her skills and abilities to make a difference.
Nicole is originally from Texas and learned to speak Spanish fluently while traveling through Mexico. She also picked up a passion during her journey – a love of cooking Mexican food. Already a week behind her peers, Nicole needed to formulate a business plan that featured her passion, but also addressed realistic concerns like her lifestyle and the business environment. Eileen recommended that she start by researching the industry to discover areas of opportunity. She could interview local café owners and caterers to learn more about their experiences and poll her community to learn about gaps in service she could fill.
Luckily, Nicole has an inspiring example in DC resident and fellow female entrepreneur Pati Jinich of PBS’s “Pati’s Mexican Table.” Like Pati, Nicole can begin to turn her passion into a successful business by building a strong story. She must consider her own unique background and look at her history with an eye towards her future.
For example, Nicole once worked in a State Health Department’s food safety division. She witnessed restaurant inspections first-hand and learned how complicated health regulations apply to local businesses. This knowledge and experience may have seemed inconsequential before joining the Entrepreneur Training for Success program, but now Nicole can use it to her advantage as she builds her own business centered on her love of Mexican food. I’m looking forward to seeing how Nicole’s business plan develops throughout the semester!
A special thank you to photographer Hanadi Karara.
Written by Kimberly Barton, a guest blogger who’s a new Alexandria resident. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and is interested in local programs that empower, educate, and support women. Connect with her on LinkedIn.