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AccessLatina Announces Second Round of Competition

By on December 7, 2016

SAN JUAN — AccessLatina, a business acceleration program billed as the first platform of its kind geared for Latina entrepreneurs in high-growth industries, announced its second round of competition Wednesday at an Audi dealership in San Juan’s Kennedy Avenue.

Apart from its focus on Latina businesswomen, the acceleration program is unique in that it aims at three broad industry segments that are catalogued as high-growth: Steam (acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math), social innovation and agriculture, explained Lucienne Gigante, co-founder of AccessLatina along with Marta Michelle Colón.

“Investing in businesses that are led by women, and in high-growth industries, is a viable solution for job creation and economic growth on the island,” added Gigante, who also founded Animus, a platform that likewise caters to women entrepreneurs. Colón, who has also founded several innovation programs such as Buena Gente, stressed AccessLatina’s approach in helping emerging companies export their business successfully abroad.

AccessLatina co-founders Marta Michelle Colón and Lucienne Gigante

AccessLatina co-founders Marta Michelle Colón and Lucienne Gigante (CB photo/ Yoel Parrilla)

Finalists and winners of the AccessLatina competition are slated to receive more than $100,000 in capital and resources, which include training with top talent and networking opportunities. Winners get $25,000 in capital each, access to an individualized mentorship program for six months, an analysis report of their respective business in collaboration with Georgetown University Graduate School of Business, and an opportunity to make a presentation before Golden Seeds, one of the leading angel investment firms in the United States.

The competition is open to businesses that register between $50,000 and $1 million in sales annually, with at least two years of operations and with a Latina businesswoman having at least 20% ownership in the company. Registrations are open at www.accesslatina.org until Jan. 19.

Judges in the competition comprise players in a wide swath of the business sector, and are mostly taken from AccessLatina’s robust support network, which include the McDonough Graduate School of Business, the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, among others.

The platform, which was founded little more than two years ago, also sets itself apart due to its multi-market approach, meaning it not only covers Puerto Rico, but also stateside jurisdictions with a large Latino population, including Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York.

For the second edition of AccessLatina, the scope has broadened further to include Texas and Massachusetts. “When we held our first round of competition, we received submissions from Latina entrepreneurs in these jurisdictions, despite the program being only open for Puerto Rico, Florida, Washington and New York,” Colón told Caribbean Business. “This made us applaud the initiative by these businesswomen, but it also spoke volumes about the need for this type of platform, to the point that we’re considering expanding to two more markets in future editions.”

The program’s focus on businesses that register sales from $50,000 to $1 million is also a telling reminder of how difficult it is to boost an enterprise beyond a certain point. As it turns out, most companies that fall into this sales bracket find themselves in a difficult position: they are too big to benefit from emerging business incubators, yet often cannot raise enough capital and resources to grow further and expand into other markets, Colón explained.

The eight finalists and two winners of AccessLatina’s first round of competition held earlier this year, in which 216 businesses participated, took part in advanced workshops with business leaders in New York City were granted more than $500,000 in free publicity for their companies, and together have generated more than $1.2 million in revenue.

Matilsha Marxuach, whose environmentally friendly bags company ConCalma was one of the co-winners of AccessLatina’s first edition, said the program was vital in helping her business achieve a much stronger presence online.

Finalists also benefited greatly from the program, among them Sasha Delgado, director of I.S.L.A. Inc. a language education center, who was able to move the company’s offices to a better location in San Juan’s posh Milla de Oro district. Meanwhile, Cindy Cruz, founder of natural food seller Agropek, saw her business grow six-fold after joining the program.

Several of the program’s collaborators—among them Oriental Bank, Fundación Tres Monjitas and Grupo Guayacán, a business incubator and accelerator—will offer special prizes to the upcoming winners. Latin Media House has joined this group and will offer advertising space in several of its publications. Other AccessLatina partners include Audi, Telemundo and L’oreal.

AccessLatina co-founder Marta Michelle Colón, Latin Media House's Félix Pola and AccessLatina co-founder Lucienne Gigante

AccessLatina co-founder Marta Michelle Colón, Latin Media House COO Félix Pola Rivera and AccessLatina co-founder Lucienne Gigante (CB photo/ Yoel Parrilla)

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