It’s in their DNA: Resilience Makes Austin’s Girls of Color Born Entrepreneurs

Just a little more than a generation away from Jim Crow prohibitions which limited and, in most cases, prohibited business loans, property ownership and access to certain jobs, the original entrepreneurial hubs in Austin are not downtown, but were centered in Austin’s Black and Brown communities.

Excluded from traditional fundraising pathways such as business loans, Austin African Americans and Latinos were the city’s self-starting original entrepreneurs, inventing “hustle” and “crowd-funding”long before the tech boom gentrified these terms.

That “gene” for startups lives on in the city’s current generation of girls and teens of color and Latinitas’ 10th Startup Chica Conference captures that spirit, virtually and nationally this year, on June 5th. Austin’s largest gathering of girls and teens of color exploring entrepreneurial learning, Startup Chica welcomes any girls and girl-identifying students (9–14) from anywhere. Attendees to earlier conferences this year came from 20+ U.S. cities and other countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. This year, girls will create a new media product — anything from their own show to creating their own streaming service.

The event is sponsored by eBay, Dell, Cirrus Logic, Atlassian and T. Kahler Coaching. At other Startup Chica Conferences focused on creating new media, girls and teens have created feminist podcasts, low cost food apps that serve the public and homeless and a Latina run movie studio.

Texas is tied for second nationwide as the state with the fastest growth rate in the number of women-owned firms from 2007 to 2018. African American and Latina women are the fastest growing segment within that statistic, yet access to cash and resources are a pittance compared to the experience of White Males. Of the record-breaking $130 billion in venture capital invested in startups last year, less than 4% went to women of color.

When it comes to getting business loans, only 31% of Black businesses received all the funding they applied for in 2018 compared with 49% of white-owned businesses, 39% of Asian-owned firms and 35% of Latino-owned businesses (2019 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta). And percentages drop further when the focus is just women owned businesses.

How is it possible that women make up more than half of the world’s population, a majority being women of color, yet they are getting the least resources while up against the biggest economic and climate challenges of our lives. We have to redirect our investments,” explains Ruben Cantu, who leads the University of Texas’ Women’s Initiative for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Development (W.I.E.L.D.).

Girls and teens in Latinitas have watched their parents navigate bias and other challenges in finding secure economic pathways in Austin. They see their parents face barriers due to language and U.S. residency and overcome those obstacles and provide a living for them and sometimes extended family.” explains Liliana Cortez, Latinitas Program Director, that is true entrepreneurialism.”

Brooke Turner, program officer at Div Inc, Austin’s diverse startup incubator has been a volunteer coach and mentor at Startup Chicas past, “Startup Chica not only shows young women entrepreneurs what is possible, it lets them experience it first hand. It lets them see what they’re ALREADY capable of. They don’t have to wait until they’re a certain age or have a certain expertise. They’re already able to innovate, to lead, to drive change if they want to.

Turner adds, “The other amazing part of Startup Chica is the experience lets the young women work with women of all ages and experience levels, showing them what the startup pathway might look like, where they can go from here, and that there are women who look just like them doing incredible things.”

Startup Chica Nacional is open to any girl, girl identifying student, ages 9–14, anywhere. Register at www.startupchica.com.

is the Founder and CEO of Latinitas, Austin’s only 100% bilingual STEM education nonprofit, exclusively in underfunded schools serving over 35,000 since 2002.