What is #WeAllGrow Latina? Meet founders Ana Flores, Vanessa Santos
Ana Flores created #WeAllGrow Latina out of necessity.
The Houston-born, El Salvador-raised Latina worked in television production for Univision, MTV Latin America and other Spanish-language networks for 15 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
But when her husband was out of work and the cost of childcare became too expensive, in 2009 she and a friend began blogging, launching SpanglishBaby, a blog for parents raising bilingual and bicultural kids. Within a year, Flores was able to monetize blog posts for about $40 and found herself building “a small community” with fellow ambitious Latina bloggers. Soon she was actively pitching ideas to brands, connecting them with the 25-30 Latina bloggers and influencers from her online community.
“And that’s what became Latina Bloggers Connect in 2010, with no money, with no resources,” Flores told TODAY. “I saw a path — a support system of people that were willing to open doors for each other.”
Six years later, Flores rebranded Latina Blogger Connect as #WeAllGrow Latina, a Latina-owned, self-funded website that elevates the voices of Latinas and provides them with the resources — and inspiration — they need to succeed.
“We really make it a point to hire within our community, because that is how we build socio and economic power,” Vanessa Santos — who joined #WeAllGrow as a partner and co-CEO in December 2021 — told TODAY.
#WeAllGrow aims to shift a mentality of lack to a mentality of abundance. Flores and Santos believe that to see one woman grow doesn’t mean that it’s going to take away an opportunity for another.
Through #WeAllGrow, Flores and Santos champion “amigahood,” or sisterhood. And it’s working: Their website is about to hit 20,000 subscribers, or “amiga members.” The free online community is available for English or Spanish-speaking Latinas and offers original content, mentorship, wellness sessions, resources, connections, access to virtual and in-person events like the annual #WeAllGrow Summit, plus exclusive perks created to support entrepreneurs, creatives and professionals.
Before being a part of #WeAllGrow, Santos worked as a global brand strategist, investor and motivational speaker. Just like other “amiga members,” she was drawn to Flores’ community after attending the #WeAllGrow’s Summit in 2019. Santos described the experience as the “spark that changed the course of my life.”
“It was the environment that I was seeking… that I didn’t know I needed,” Santos said. “And then once I was there, I was just like, ‘How can I have more of this in my life?’”
She left her corporate job to immerse herself in #WeAllGrow Latina. Around the same time, Patty Arvielo, the co-founder and president of New American Funding, acquired a 50% majority stake in #WeAllGrow, helping Flores on her mission to support the website and its mission.
“It’s just a great privilege to be able to do this everyday and co-create with women that I look over to my left and right, and I’m like, ‘OK, not only are they badass mujeres, they’ve done this, they get me and they know where I come from, and our opinions are valid,” Santos said. “That to me is is beautiful, and that’s what motivates me.”
Latino entrepreneurs make up one of the fastest growing groups of small business owners in the U.S, according to the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship report from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. They are also creating businesses six times faster than other racial or ethnic groups.
“If we all waited to be financially stable, we would not launch,” Flores said. “We’ve always had great ideas, and we’ve always had the want and the know-how to do things. We just haven’t had the right funding, the right network and right opportunity, the right sponsorships, etc, to get it to that level.”
A McKinsey study reported in Dec. 2021 that Latina founders run nearly 2 million businesses in the U.S., yet they receive less than 2% of venture capital funds.
Santos said that the appropriate and proper funding is something that is missing for Latina entrepreneurs. “It’s so disproportionate how we contribute to our global GDP (gross domestic product), and what we shift culturally and the ripple effect that we have. It’s so disproportionate to the opportunities and funding resources and partnerships that are available to us.”
From the beginning of her blogging career, Flores made it a point to learn the ins and outs of monetizing her blog and collaborating with brands. She and her team continue to do that. Additionally, among their biggest aims is to encourage companies to spend their dollars beyond just Hispanic Heritage Month because — as Santos noted — “we are Latinas 365 days of the year.”
“We are in charge of the purse strings every single day of the year. So spend with us, support us and give us the resources we need so we can continue to grow.”
Through their digital platform and in-person events, #WeAllGrow is helping Latinas turn their ideas into realities. Earlier this year, they launched Las Founders. The Los Angeles-held event for entrepreneurs sold out and had over 400 attendees taking in panels and conversations with Latina entrepreneurs about how they got their start.
And in September, the organization hosted the sixth annual #WeAllGrow Summit. The first summit was held in 2015 and focused on content creation and networking. As the years went by, it’s become bigger and more interactive, with Forbes including it as one of 19 Conferences Every Creative Should Attend in 2018 and 2019.
This year’s sold-out event, held in Palm Desert, California, welcomed over 600 attendees ready to “heal, commune and grow” — which also happen to be the organization’s three pillars.
After a two-year break amid the pandemic, the three-day event included panels, activations and events with a variety of speakers, entrepreneurs, executives and more sharing their secrets and tips. “With Love” showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett, actor Julissa Calderon, model Denise Bidot, singer Carla Morrison and the head of content for Vogue México & Latin America Karla Marinez de Salas were among the women in attendance.
“We create these safe spaces and containers, we allow people to be who they are, as they are,” Santos said. “And we need that in this world, and that is why the summit is such a beautiful, sacred space and our amigas community is also a beautiful, sacred space.”
The impact of the summit, they said, has been abundant, with attendees telling them for weeks after how the experience changed their lives. Some have told them they’ve even quit their jobs to start businesses, left their partners, come out to their family, or taken the next steps to kickstart side hustles.
In 2016, to accompany their summits, the #WeAllGrow team launched the Latina Makers Market as a way to highlight and offer Latina founders the opportunity to sell and showcase their products. Julissa Prado, founder of the curly haircare line Rizos Curls, was an attendee and a 2022 summit speaker; she says that “sharing space with that many powerful like-minded Latinas was life-changing.”
Santos and Flores know firsthand that it can be daunting to take the big leap from dreams to reality. Santos is all about the power of manifestation and writing down one’s goals in a journal.
“Anything is possible… Dream big and then actually do something after it so that you can get there.”
Vanessa Santos on the power of manifestation
“I always write down the things that I want to accomplish, my desires, because they come to you for a reason — it’s not because it’s not unattainable,” Santos said. “The more you write about it, the more it can come to fruition. You need to be your No. 1 cheerleader, you have to be full of yourself, and then anything is possible. But dream big and then actually do something after it so that you can get there.”
Flores added that it’s crucial to stay connected to your intuition and the “why” behind your vision. She said that once you understand those reasons the risks are easier because at the end of the day, that risk is just going to be met with a lesson on the other side.
It’s all a learning experience, the duos emphasized. The businesses they see Latinas building are breaking the mold and include meaningful values like “joy” and ultimately, Flores said: “happiness.”
In the meantime, Flores and Santos have “audacious goals” for #WeAllGrow Latina in 2023. They will double down on their editorial mediums and expand and partner with organizations to create “thought provoking and joy-inducing campaigns and opportunities for our community.”
“We are truly intentional with who we bring on to speak,” Santos said, “and making sure that the marginalized communities that don’t necessarily get a platform…we make sure that we give them an opportunity to have one.”