Announcing Prospera’s New Entrepreneur Fellowship

Accelerating Latina led cooperative businesses

Oakland (May 16, 2019) – Prospera Community Development is thrilled to announce the launch of a brand-new Fellowship – a unique, culturally focused program that accelerates the incubation of Latina-led cooperative businesses.

Prospera’s new Fellowship program is modeled after several prominent social impact fellowships that provide seed funding combined with comprehensive support to social entrepreneurs. What’s unique about Prospera’s new fellowship program is that it is dedicated exclusively to lifting up Latina immigrant entrepreneurs who are committed to the cooperative model. 

Prospera believes that when Latinas are at the forefront of our local economies the whole community benefits. Through its education, leadership development and business incubation programs, the organization addresses the unique barriers that Latina immigrant women face including language access, gender & racial discrimination, disenfranchisement, increased isolation and fear due to immigration status, among others. The women Prospera works with are part of the 1 million Latina headed households that live in poverty in the U.S. They work in low wage occupations, often making ends meet with two or more unstable jobs. They very rarely have access to health insurance and have limited to no college education.

Prospera also knows that Latina immigrant women are well positioned to grow and succeed as entrepreneurs. Latinas play an important role in creating new businesses, representing nearly half of the growth of all U.S. Latino-owned firms with. There are more than 11 million Latina owned firms in the U.S generating 1.7 trillion dollars in revenue. In particular, the organization is inspired by Women’s cooperatives around the world that show powerful results –increased income, skills, and autonomy supporting health and well-being for families and entire communities. 

The vision for this fellowship has been in the making for several years and now it’s a reality!” says Maria Rogers Pascual, Prospera’s Executive Director. “We listened to our community of Latina entrepreneurs; we took a hard look at what’s getting in the way of their success; and most of all, we allowed the talent that is unique to Latina immigrant women inspire us…The truth is we could not have arrived here without the support from key funding partners like the W.K. Kellogg FoundationTipping Point CommunityY&H SODA, the California Wellness FoundationLevi Strauss Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation, among others, who have invested in our multi-year community education and entrepreneurship programs. And now thanks to targeted investment by the Akonadi Foundation we are taking this important next step.” 

“Akonadi Foundation is excited to support the unique model that Prospera offers to Latinas in our community. Creating a pathway for Latina women to build their own businesses is a tremendous benefit to the women, to the economy and to all of Oakland. This grant is part of our work toward a racially just Oakland where all can thrive. We are proud to build on the earlier success and see this dream become a reality.” Quinn Delaney, Board Chair.

The fellowship program is an expanded investment in the leadership of select entrepreneurs enrolled in the organization’s most advanced program called Crece(which means “grow”). It targets founding members of cooperative projects that are poised to grow and provide business ownership opportunities for other women. In addition to receiving the ongoing training and technical assistance that is part of the Creceprogram, fellows access increased and tailored industry specific support, 1:1 leadership coaching, access to office space plus a seed grant that will make it possible for them to dedicate a minimum of 20 hours per week to growing the business. As Community Education Director Claudia Arroyo reminds us “this fellowship is about creating equity for Latina entrepreneurs who are juggling multiple demands – launching a new business, caring for a family, working several jobs – all at the same time! Their resilience is amazing but what they need is time and access to investment funds and that’s what we are doing with the Fellowship.” 

After a competitive process, requiring a business plan, letters of recommendation as well as a pitch to staff and the entire cohort of applicants, only three out of seven high-quality applications have been selected to this two-year pilot project. The finalists are Anahi Rojas, Founder of Professional Eco-cleaning, a green house cleaning cooperative in the East Bay, Nancy Rosales, Founder of Pepitos Paletas, a catering of organic and authentic paletas in the Bay Area, and Ana Castaño founder of The Nanny Collective, an online childcare platform that will connect families with nannies in the Bay Area.

The selection process was unique. As Ana Castaño, one of the finalists notes: “this is not a race to see who ends up being the winner. We have a healthy competition in terms of who can be the first to receive help, who has the bigger needs. So, the fellowship means a great deal of responsibility to me because it means that I will not only focus on my project. I will also play a role in breaking new ground for future fellows.”

For the entrepreneurs this program comes at a key moment in the development of their business and lives. Anahi says: “The co-op (Professional Eco-Cleaning) has a future. If I didn’t have the fellowship, I would be back at cleaning houses and I would have to let two workers go. This is how important the fellowship is, not just because it’s changing my life, but because it’s also having an impact on the lives of my coworkers, their children and their future.”

Each one of the entrepreneurs brings a story of resilience, commitment and camaraderie. Nancy Rosales says: “I get really really emotional because it’s just been a journey where you feel like you are doing this on your own, and to know that’s there’s a team, and there’s an organization, and there is funding, and all these opportunities there. Finally, I was able to tap into it. I’m just really grateful.”

This Fellowship is about breaking barriers and making much deserved space for the entrepreneurs. “it’s not just important, it’s absolutely necessary!” says Ana.“There’s a belief that if you haven’t achieved something it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough, but, actually, there is so much more behind that. The Prospera Fellowship, makes it possible to realize a dream that will benefit my entire community.” 

For more information about the Fellowship and how you can get involved contact:

Maria Rogers Pascual, Prospera Executive Director – (510) 695-2269 – maria@prosperacoops.org

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