Short takes on two Latinas who have persevered
Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series engaging real Latina entrepreneurs and capturing insights on what it takes to make it in today’s competitive landscape.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing two bright and unique Latina business owners in very different industries. The first Lynn Ponder founded Peliculas Ponder and most recently a social media venture called webcitygirls//. The second is Maria Fischer the CEO and Founder of Bientech International, a technical, scientific and professional services solutions provider for national and international customers in defense, government, commercial and academic sectors.
Lynn Ponder – Serial entrepreneur and Twitter powerhouse
Lynn Ponder was born and raised in Puerto Rico and started two self funded entrepreneurial ventures in Miami, Florida. The Huffington Post recently named her a Twitter PowerHouse. Having known her for a very long time, I was not surprised.
In 1999 she founded a Hispanic business called Peliculas Ponder, a production company devoted to servicing the growing U.S. Hispanic advertising market. While she had great success with this business, more recently she felt the need to reinvent herself in the face of an industry that is experiencing tremendous change. In 2010 Lynn founded webcitygirls//, a multicultural social media brand with an interactive social platform that connects with consumers. After establishing this new venture she decided to bring on her sister Linda as an on camera personality. Lynn had grown to love the spotlight too and became part of the on camera team as well.
You might say that webcitygirls//, much like its founder and driving force is in a constant state of evolution and growth. Her company webcitygirls// was initially founded to educate, inspire and entertain audiences about new media. Since then it has morphed into a full-fledged social media platform including an on the go social press team. After securing a long track record of working with Fortune 500 companies, Ponder has recently joined forces with Ford on Escape Routes, an interactive Reality Series airing on NBC and Mun2 as a social media contributor.
Botta: What advice would you give Latinas starting their own business in today’s economy?
Ponder: Be focused and follow your dreams by working hard and not paying attention to all the negative noise around you. The positive energy that you invest in your own business is what makes you prosper and progress.
Botta: Have you experienced any discrimination as a Latina?
Ponder: Yes, when working in Los Angeles in the early 90’s I experienced discrimination I believe was due to landing a great job after arriving from Puerto Rico. I was not welcomed by colleagues that I presume felt they deserved my position.
Botta: What was the best advice you received when you started your business?
Ponder: Work hard, know your audience and have a good product to offer.
When asked Ponder – what’s next? She responded her only limitation is time availability and imagination – I say, “stay tuned”, I doubt she will be running out of either anytime soon.
Lynn Ponder / www.webcitygirls.com / Twitter: @webcitygirls / @ponderful
Maria Fischer – CEO and Founder of Bientech International
Maria Fischer was born and raised in Colombia. Following a successful career as an engineer in the male dominated defense industry, she founded Bientech International, in San Diego, California.
Maria Fischer is a scientist and a force to be reckoned with. She started her career in the International Defense sector as engineer designing and building communications systems for the Aerospace sector. When asked about her experience as a Latina in the Defense industry, she laughed and went on to say, in the early 80’s they had to get over the shock that I was a woman and not only that the first Hispanic woman engineer in the Defense industry.
To date Maria has amassed a deep list of accomplishments and many accolades to match. She’s a fierce proponent of educating women as a means of empowerment, having served in academia as a University adjunct professor and on various local, national and international Boards. As a member of the National Defense Industry Association, small business committee in Washington DC, her efforts have been recognized as instrumental in the October 2010 passing of the Federal Procurement Program for Women 8m . This law secures the rights all women in the U.S. to equal access to government contracts. Fischer is also a big on giving back; participating mentoring programs to promote the sciences amongst young Latinas.
Botta: Tell me about your first entrepreneurial business?
Fischer: There came a time when I needed to find more of a life, work balance including focusing more on my husband and two young sons. I love the Defense Industry’s technology focus, the sense of mission and working with the best and the brightest on exciting projects. My efficiency skills in managing large projects, made me realize that I could deliver those services directly to the user, while building a company that provided a family friendly environment.
Botta: What is the best advice you received when you started your business?
Fischer: Don’t give up. The best advice for my life as an immigrant: My grandma’s farewell when I left my native country as a very young woman: Bloom where you are planted – Mija, florece donde te plante la vida.
Botta: What have been your biggest business challenges as a Latina?
Fischer: Perhaps that there is no clearly defined path, there are virtually no mentors or women or colleagues, Latinas, business owners/contractors in the engineering or technical fields in Defense. With very few Latina engineers to begin with, the social perception of success as a business owner in the field for someone with my profile does not exist yet. A risk averse customer will not want to give a contract to a woman and more so to a Latina. I hope to change this perception, as our country needs the talent of all in order to remain competitive and successful.
Botta: What advice you give Latina starting your own business?
Fischer: A phrase attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.
Lynn and Maria represent many outstanding Latina entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their respective industries and communities while balancing family life. The success achieved is inspirational and they are blazing a path for future Latina entrepreneurs to come.