How One Latina Entrepreneur Is Blazing A Trail For Others
The Latino United States workforce is one of the fastest-growing groups in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Latino labor force has grown more than six times larger over the past forty years, from 4.3 million people in 1976 to 26.8 million in 2016. Still, there are not many Latino’s in leadership roles.
One celebrity stylist and designer, Paola Estefania, a Latina CEO of the clothing brand Humble Hustler and Paola Swimwear, hopes to change that. After migrating to Florida from Venezuela as a young girl, Ms. Estefania committed herself to succeed in the fashion industry.
After starting her fashion career, Ms. Estefania pursued her fashion for haute couture design and created her Paola Estefania label. Her designs include ready-to-wear and evening wear couture pieces. Bridal gowns, swimwear, maternity wear, performance gear for professional female athletes, intricate costumes for world-famous singers and dancers, and she also refurbishes vintage designer handbags into custom garments, like a bomber jacket or a pair of pants.
We spoke about being a entrepreneur, her advice for Latina women looking to make an impact in the face of adversity and balancing motherhood with being the boss.
Latinas in Leadership
Fashion had always been a part of Ms. Estefania’s life. Several years ago, she partnered with the founder of Humble Hustler, Parminder Gyani, and eventually took over the brand to see all operations. “When I first met Parminder, the brand was simply an idea,” Ms. Estefania shared. “I liked the name Humble Hustler, and what it represents, so I started my journey designing and manufacturing, focusing more on the creative side of the business. After our first year launching the brand, I took over every aspect of the company.”
Statistics from 2017 show that Hispanics make up 17% of the labor force. However, they occupy only 4.3% of executive positions in the U.S. Hispanic representation is roughly equal to that of black executives. When asked if she faced stereotypes or overall inequality as she worked towards owning her own company, Ms. Estefania answered, “There are insurmountable obstacles that one faces as a minority trying to make it in such a competitive industry. Still, I have been fortunate enough to have had the same opportunities as any other majority race and male counterpart. Immigrants are not afraid of new challenges. We come to America for a better future not only for ourselves, but for our families. Latina women are paving the way for female entrepreneurs everywhere, and I am proud to be considered one of them.”
When it comes to offering advice to other hopeful Latina women, she advises, “We often must create something out of nothing at all, and that alone can be scary. But it can also give us the courage we need to succeed and be an inspiration to our peers. Being relentless, disciplined, and focusing on your signature, style, and identity is vital. Create a business that is as unique as you are. Most importantly, do as much research as you can in your field of interest. Learning what came before is very important. Study the history of the industry you like. You have to know the past to innovate the future!”
Building the Future Latina Workforce
According to the findings in a Nielsen report from 2013, Hispanic women are a key growth engine of the U.S. female population. They are expected to become 30 percent of the total female population by 2060, while the white female population is going to drop to 43 percent. The report also predicts that by 2060, there will be no single dominant ethnic group. Instead, the female (and total) population will comprise a diverse ethnic plurality where Latinas play a sizable role.
Ms. Estefania is hoping her two-year-old daughter, Sofia, will be one of them. She would love to leave the company to her, as she inspires all of her projects. “I work hard to be able to set the best example for her, and I know how fortunate I am to be able to do what I love,” she explains. “I want my daughter to be proud of her mother and set big goals for herself. Working hard will land you in a better place than when you first started. We reap what we sow, so I have no doubt my daughter will follow my footsteps when she grows up.”
No matter what you’re background is, being a mother and holding a high-level role has been incredibly tricky, given Covid-19 and remote learning. “This year has been challenging for all of us, but we are blessed to be able to spend time with the ones we love,” Ms. Estefania agrees. “For us, moms, our children are our biggest drive and motivation. So, no matter how hard some days might be, we are superheroes! We just have to push ourselves to be the best we can be!”
Paying it Forward
Humble Hustler strives to be a reflection of modern times and the modern woman. This includes the triumphs, set-backs, attitude, and personality of those who wear the clothes. Ms. Estefania feels that what we wear is not just a reflection of who we are but what we have to give in these unique times, especially as we aim to show diversity, equality, and sustainability. It’s for those reasons, 15 percent of the proceeds from Humble Hustler goes to support the Your Guardian Angel Foundation.
“Your Guardian Angel is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to helping my fellow countrymen, women, and children in need,” Ms. Estefania explained. “We receive donations of over the counter medicine, clothing, food, and many other essential products. We send these goods to those in need in Venezuela with the help of my family members, who then distribute these donations to schools, nursing homes, and hospitals.”
Ms. Estefania’s ultimate goal is for every woman wearing her pieces to feel confident, classy, and one-of-a-kind, just like the garments she makes. In speaking with her, it’s clear that the pandemic is much on her mind. Whether it’s her designs, charity work, advocacy for mental health awareness, or philanthropic efforts, she strives to infuse each of these causes she’s passionate about into her work. She also hopes that all of us, after the pandemic is over, emerge as the best version of ourselves.