How These Black and Latino Entrepreneurs Leverage Technology and Community to Succeed

How These Black and Latino Entrepreneurs Leverage Technology and Community to Succeed
Four Black and Latino entrepreneurs share their advice on how they grew their businesses and took their passions global.
by Maya Rollings Aug 02, 2023 — 4 min read
How These Black and Latino Entrepreneurs Leverage Technology and Community to Succeed

For most business owners, reaching back and uplifting the very communities that raised them and creating opportunities for future generations are key motivations. For Black and Latino business owners, in particular, these are principles to live by. After all, only 4% of Black-owned businesses survive the start-up stage, even though 20% of Black people in the United States start businesses. The Latino community also faces similar challenges, with being half as likely as their counterparts to receive funding despite being the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs in the country

These inadequacies are why Square implemented Forward. Increasing access to capital, financial literacy, and mentorship for early-stage Black and Brown business owners can go a long way in shifting these realities, helping to ensure present and future success and moving marginalized businesses forward. While the accelerator program featured a number of mentors, including Ayesha Curry and Rosario Dawson, the inaugural forum featured four blossoming business owners:

Troy Millings and Rashad Bilal, co-owners of “Earn Your Leisure,” a media platform that focuses on business, finance, and entrepreneurship.

Manny Portuondo, CEO of Cervecería La Tropical and founder of Three Palms.

Calyann Barnett, NBA wardrobe stylist for stars including Dwyane Wade. She also founded The Shop Miami and serves as creative director for CounterPoint, a private label apparel brand for the Utah Jazz.

These business owners shared learnings, advice, and stories that have been crucial to their journey in order to equip the next generation of entrepreneurs for success. Here’s what they had to say:

Technology is more important than ever for businesses.

As the world evolves, technology has become more innovative, creating even more opportunities for businesses to grow with efficiency. With investments in five technology platforms that prioritize automation — including Square — Portuondo runs one of the largest brewery manufacturers in the state of Florida with just four people.

“All these platforms are cloud-based, feed-based, super affordable, anybody can do it,” he says. “And because of that, we’re super efficient, super profitable, and really without automation I would need 50% more people.”

Bilal cites a similar effect with another kind of technology — ChatGPT. “ChatGPT is something that I use every single day, and that’s my favorite app in the world. I use [it] to create content, get YouTube titles, and descriptions,” he says. With more time to focus on the heart of the content, Bilal is able to create more impact and better serve (and grow) his audience. 

“What technology has done is allowed for us to have impact globally,” co-founder Millings adds. Millings and Bilal’s strategic use of technology platforms like ChatGPT, YouTube, and more have helped “Earn Your Leisure” gain reach in places across the world, including London and Ghana, and over two million followers and subscribers across platforms. 

Proper planning leads to efficiency.

Whether it’s a business plan or a social media marketing plan, careful planning for your business can give you a leg up and better efficiency down the road.

Take content marketing, for instance. Bilal prefers to take a more strategic approach. When it’s time to produce a 90-minute episode for their podcast, Bilal splits the content into bite-sized pieces. That helps retain, and in most cases, grow their audience. 

“We can put the whole episode out and then we can put a 10-minute highlight section and put that as an episode for Study Hall,” he says. “And then we got even a shorter version, which we call Cliff Notes on Sunday. Now we can cut the pie up into five different ways, seven different ways.” He adds, “I feel like in business you got to squeeze as much juice out of the lemon as possible. And so many times business owners, they leave a lot on the table. They do all of this work, and just for one event.”

He cites comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his titular comedy series as inspiration. “He’s still getting paid for that show 25 years later. When we produce content, we keep that in mind … we try to make sure the topic is timeless,” he says. And that timelessness can create longevity for your brand.

Growth is a team sport. 

These business owners shared another gem about growth: It can’t be done alone. While in most cases, conceptualizing a business may take one or two people, growing and scaling often takes many relationships.

“When you see a lot of these companies and they get $100 million valuation, $500 million valuation, it’s not that these companies are superior. It’s the relationships that they have,” says Bilal.

In fact, it’s relationships that took Cervecería La Tropical global. Portuonodo sold a majority of the company to Heineken in 2017. That move ensured the legacy of a brand that originated in 1888 in Cuba under his great-grandfather. Through this venture, Cervecería La Tropical has access to 180 countries throughout the world, according to Portuonodo, bringing his family’s vision to life in a way that never seemed possible.

However, Millings and Bilal admit that opening up your business to others can be tough. When the two men started “Earn Your Leisure,” they were adamant about staying independent. They thought all of their hard work had contributed to their growth and it would be the very thing to carry them further. They were quickly corrected. “You don’t take money because you need it. You take money so you can scale,” Millings recalls being told.

He also shared that the key to taking money is to make it a relationship. When actor, comedian, and television host Steve Harvey invested in “Earn Your Leisure,” Bilal said he cared less about the money and more about what he could learn from the partnership.

“You could only go as far as the own information that you have, so you have to work with other people. You have to utilize their resources. That’s really the cheat code to actually accelerate quicker,” he says.

However, Barnett added an important caveat. Business owners should be cautious about their investors. “It’s not just about taking the money, it’s making sure that the investors, they have your best interest [at] heart,” she says.

Community is everything.

Community is ultimately what it all comes down to for a number of business owners from marginalized groups. “For us, the only thing we have is community,” says Bilal. Whether it’s through back-to-school events or hiring efforts, entrepreneurs who have been marginalized realize the importance of their position and prioritize uplifting their communities. Barnett shares that when she hosts pop-up events she intentionally leaves floor space for brands by people of color so that they can tell their stories. 

“Because part of [it] is like, yes, you may get picked up by a Nordstrom’s, but how much is Nordstrom’s really picking up, one or two or three pieces? How do you then tell your story? How do you show the full girth of what you have, the full spectrum of what you can do?” 

Her decision to help brands created by people of color own their story shows how community creates opportunity and is crucial to the progression of Black and Latino business owners.

“You either invest your time or your treasure. It’s not just about the money. It’s about your time in terms of who you want to help and what communities you want to help,” Portuondo emphasizes.

Maya Rollings
Maya Rollings is an editor at Square where she writes about all things customer experience, from building a solid customer base to leveraging tools and technology that meets them where they are in their journey.


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