The Covid-19 pandemic really took a toll on small businesses in this country, and Latina-owned small businesses, in particular, were hit extremely hard. Perhaps it’s because many Latino-owned and operated companies fall within the construction, hospitality, retail trade, transportation, and warehousing industries, all of which were impacted significantly by the coronavirus and pandemic response.
But prior to the pandemic, Latinos were the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs and small business owners in the country. This is why the pandemic and subsequent shutdown really hurt those businesses and those communities. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and two Latina moms and business owners found a way to help their small business survive and thrive during the days of Covid.
Jessica Soto and Tonatzin Mondragon, two Highland Park moms, found a way to make their “stay at home” life and routine work for them and their career — they moved their laboratories into their kitchens and set up assembly lines in their living rooms. They weren’t just helping their kids with science projects or cooking up family meals; the best friends also brewed all-natural beard oil and cooked up a recipe for success even during tough times.
And the times have certainly been challenging, especially for Latino-owned small businesses.
In order to truly understand the impact of the pandemic on Latino-owned businesses and what it means moving forward, you need to look at the whole picture, including where things stood before Covid-19. Before the crisis, Latino entrepreneurs were the fastest-growing group of small business owners in the country. In fact, over the past ten years, “the number of Latino business owners grew 34%, compared to 1% for all business owners in the United States,” according to a recent Stanford University study.
In many ways, 2019-2020 was a record-breaking year for Latino businesses — revenue of Hispanic-owned companies increased during that time, and credit scores also rose. And then Covid-19 entered the picture, and everything changed.
According to a report from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, “86% of Latino business owners had felt immediate negative impacts from Covid, a rate higher than other ethnic groups.” And for those businesses, it was harder to access capital or receive assistance in the form of PPP loans. NBC News reports that only 6.7 percent of Hispanic business owners claim to be profitable as the country continues to battle the pandemic. Compare that to 14 percent of the general population of small businesses.
Which is why it’s so impressive and inspiring that Latina moms and business owners Jessica Soto and Tonatzin Mondragon made it work. They didn’t just enable their business to stay afloat; they made their business grow.
Their company, Mountain Beast Man Tonic, began with the friends testing products at local farmer’s markets and making hands-on sales at street fairs and neighborhood conventions. But obviously, those kinds of events and personalized trials weren’t possible during the pandemic, so they had to innovate and rethink their business model.
They swapped door-to-door marketing for an online marketplace and found a way to successfully create their products and run their company from their homes.
They credit much of their success to the thriving Latino community supporting them. “Small businesses in L.A., small businesses in Latino communities, are supported. Even though we don’t have tons of money, we have a community that wants to buy it and use it. We are so, so lucky!” Mondragon said.
The Latina moms and business owners also credit their ability to reinvent their business to each other. “We have definitely pushed each other to move past fear. We held each other up, and we have a huge support system of family and friends that have been cheering us on,” Soto said.
Their advice to other Latina entrepreneurs looking to start or operate a home business, especially during these strange and trying times? “Keep going. Do the kids need to eat? Does the laundry need to be done? Keep going! Do you need to work late in the night? Don’t stop, don’t hesitate to second guess yourself. Keep going!” they said. Take it from two successful Latina moms who’ve got it all figured out… just keep going.