Editor’s note: Since September, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a Pleasant Street tutoring center that opened in late January. Her journey, though, is far from over.
“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed,” said the unusually successful Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987). “If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes’; they will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.’ ”
If those words of wisdom from Luce — the first woman to hold a major U.S. ambassadorial post, also an accomplished journalist, playwright and elected official — don’t ignite a deep desire to take on the world and conquer all of its obstacles, then maybe entrepreneurship isn’t for you.
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For weeks, I have indulged in several case studies about small businesses and what makes them tick – learning the ins and outs of some who possess the highest level of entrepreneurial spirit – and through the tangled webs of oversaturated messages and “go-get-it” attitudes, discovered a simple concept: Women Empowerment.
I capitalize the term because, to me, it amplifies the struggles endured by women-owned businesses and the role of taking on the weight of the world for a simple recognition of capabilities.
Read Giselle’s most recent chapter, The long way home, or scroll down to start from the beginning
There is an image of entrepreneurs, the great ones, through Western Civilization with which I do not identify: strong, tall, well-coiffed white men idolized for their business theories and accomplishments. This is not the image that motivates me.
When I was starting my business, The Learning Hub, I never took into consideration my gender and race. Being a woman of Hispanic descent has never played a factor for me when pondering whether my business would succeed or fail, and while I may be naïve to think that race and ethnicity have anything to do with how quickly you can succeed, every case study I’ve read with a woman CEO or a woman of international background, proved otherwise.
Making it big isn’t about obtaining wealth and cultivating an endless list of accolades. The idea of making it big has transformed, instead, into a concept much larger than myself and my tutoring center.
Making it at all is about making it as a woman. Taking the risks, backlash and enjoying the success, not just for me but for the sake of Women Empowerment.
This past week solidified for me the very essence of Women Empowerment and my place in today’s growing economy.
On Tuesday, April 12, The Learning Hub was selected as one of 12 winners in the StartUp Worcester 2016 competition run by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. The feeling could not be best described even if I had all the time in the world to write about it.
[Acceptance to the StartUp Worcester program, begun by the chamber and its partners in 2014, brings many perks including memberships to the chamber, Running Start coworking and The Venture Forum.]
Standing in a room of young, college entrepreneurs was an experience in and of itself. The room screamed of talent and amazing minds. It embodied the very essence of the entrepreneurial spirit. But most of all, to me, the room was illuminated with gender equality.
Of 15 startup organizations, the room was almost equally split between young men and young women.
It was an immediate reminder of the effort women make on a daily basis to reach the same playing field as men. It was a glimpse of a future where men and women CEOs are considered equally mind-blowing and incredibly brilliant. It was a starting point for the Worcester community to focus its efforts in encouraging small business owners to achieve success regardless of gender.
Becoming a winner was a small milestone for The Learning Hub – something to be used as motivation – but the real winning feeling was the major milestone made for women in business. Winning alongside other women business founders, was a proving moment.
While still in the clouds over winning such a title for The Learning Hub, no matter how small, the week continued to crystallize my feeling fully involved in this Women Empowerment movement, following in the footsteps of luminaries such as Clare Boothe Luce. Discovering her this week was no coincidence. It was sheer good luck, and maybe even a little symbolism.
Luce was an extraordinary woman, far ahead of her time as they say, and with a mind open to the treatment and abilities of women. On a foundation of hard work and her own varied accomplishments, she humbly grew into a torchbearer for the feminist movement. From the shadows of her husband, Time-Life founder Henry R. Luce, she proved the full vision and definition of equality.
On Thursday, April 14, the DCU Center held the 7th annual Worcester’s Women’s Leadership Conference, an event so large you — if you were me, anyway — could leave with nothing less than a sense of drive you never possessed before.
The conference, like others I have attended, was indeed powerful. You could feel the movement within the crowd. Watching key speakers, one after another, chronicle their struggles as women to define themselves in their niche market was immensely inspiring.
The women posed with other leaders for photos and networked among the masses to instill the power of self-worth and self-reliance. It was a movement, for me at least, that made a deep connection to success as a woman.
The events of this week have lit a fire under me and given me more courage to face the obstacles ahead, and not because I dream of success but because I dream of proving a point. Like Luce said, “I refuse the compliment that I think like a man. Thought has no sex; one either thinks or one does not.”
Follow Giselle’s story from the beginning: