Updated: Oct 12
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15th to October 15th every year to honor Hispanic and Latinx culture and recognize Hispanic Americans' significant contributions. The Hispanic American community constitutes 18.7% of the U.S. population and oversees over 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses, contributing more than $800 billion to the economy annually (Joint Economic Committee). These statistics only scratch the surface of Hispanic Americans' profound influence on our culture and country's growth.
Mill Cities Community Investments (MCCI) and Foundation for Business Equity (FBE) are proud to support and uplift Latinx small business owners and entrepreneurs. During this month, we spotlight a few of our many remarkable Hispanic business owners and encourage you to celebrate and support their companies. Together, let us celebrate Hispanic and Latinx cultures and honor the entrepreneurial spirit that enriches our nation.
Click on the business names below to learn more about their stories.
Arka HR Solutions
Arka HR Solutions, a BEI graduate, is a bilingual, multi-cultural, and women-owned HR company that offers dedicated and cost-effective solutions to the operational challenges faced by organizations. Co-founded by Marcela Aldaz-Matos and Andreiná Viera Silva, Arka helps organizations optimize HR practices by connecting business objectives to talent strategy.
Co-founder and CEO Marcela Aldaz-Mato is a business executive who manages numerous U.S. and international teams in the financial services and healthcare industries. Marcela specializes in implementing transformative human capital initiatives designed to advance core business strategies. In 2021, Marcela was named one of the Top 50 Most Powerful Latinas in the US, and she was recently included on Amplify Latinx’s 100 List.
Co-founder and President Andreiná Viera Silva is a serial entrepreneur committed to creating solutions for companies and enabling growth in professional environments. With two decades of leadership experience, Andreiná has managed infrastructure operations for Fortune 500 corporations and higher education institutions. Andreiná is also the founder of a non-profit, Boss Lady, which empowers growth in disadvantaged communities and creates opportunities for women of color.
"Allow me to share what ignited the inception of Arka HR," Andreiná told MCCI. "My unwavering focus on people. My inspiration roots itself in the businesses we support and, most importantly, the individuals within them. When I reflect upon the diverse array of businesses that we collaborate with, my perspective extends beyond the mere workforce. It encompasses the employees, their families, and the ripple effect of economic growth that resonates through Arka's contributions."
Founded in 2019 by Patricia Jorge, Joy Empanadas is a family-owned business that grew from a side hobby to a beloved community eatery. Joy Empanadas uses only the freshest ingredients to serve delicious empanadas, smoothies, and sandwiches.
Patricia shared her story with us. "My love and passion for cooking comes from my abuelita and mother, who were street food vendors in the Dominican Republic. One day, while at the salon, I heard the ladies waiting their turn, complaining of hunger and no food for sale anywhere near. At that moment, I saw an opportunity. A light bulb went off in my head, maybe because of my abuelita and mother's past. The following weekend, I brought 20 empanadas to the salon, and they sold within minutes. From that day, I made empanadas every weekend and sold them at salons, barbershops, and mechanic shops around Lawrence. After three years of selling, I decided to take a risk and open a cafe. So, I developed a business plan and showed it to MCCI. They believed in my plan and vision and supported me with the funding needed to complete my cafe."
Rony Jimenez, a BEI graduate, followed his entrepreneurial dream and established RJ Installations & Design LLC in 2019 with the help of his loved ones. He took this step before the LED lighting trend became popular. Rony has a wealth of experience in the electric and gas industry as a skilled electrician.
RJ Installation & Design specializes in designing and installing home audiovisual systems in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. This includes luxury accent walls, TV mounting, surveillance, CCTV, indoor and outdoor audio, and lighting. The team consists of experienced electricians who prioritize luxury in their work. They take pride in their high-quality workmanship and aim to help you achieve your dream home, whether that means increasing safety or creating the perfect ambience.
Synergy Contracting is a construction company with a difference. Founded and led by Jeysi Zuniga, the company is dedicated to increasing accessibility to the construction industry for women and minorities. With years of experience in the industry, Jeysi understands the challenges facing underrepresented groups in the male-dominated industry. According to Zippia, 52.9% of construction workers are non-Hispanic Whites, and 93.8% are men. Synergy Contracting challenges the status quo and helps to level the playing field and create opportunities for everyone.
As Jeysi told us, "I came to the US at age 20 with $100 in my pocket and no clear destination. At 39, I left a secure job to show my daughter Sofia that you can always start anew, at any age, without drama or harming yourself or others, and create something meaningful from scratch."
Childhood friends and business partners Juan Giraldo, CEO, and Nico Estrella, CMO, co-founded Waku with the goal of creating a positive impact on the economy of local farmers in their home country of Ecuador. They chose to do this through the Food and Beverage / Agriculture Industry as Ecuador grows the highest quality natural ingredients.
Juan and Nico collaborated to produce Waku, a modern version of a traditional tea from the Andes Mountains. They incorporated a centuries-old Ecuadorian recipe, utilized high-quality natural ingredients with no added sugar, and included prebiotics to improve gut health properties. They moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in 2017 to turn their dream into a reality and started Waku with just two flavors. Since its launch, they have produced six different flavors, undergone one brand redesign, and made one formula improvement for optimal gut health. "It takes the same amount of energy to dream big as to dream small," Juan told MCCI. "I'd rather dream big!"
Juan and Nico enrolled in the Business Equity Initiative (BEI) program in 2022. They worked through their challenges and achieved several significant milestones including securing a Whole Foods distribution contract for 22 northeast stores and obtaining $400k of investments and loans. To learn more about their full BEI story, read their BEI testimonial here.