Originally published at capitalone.com. Capital One ranked No. 22 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.
There are more than two million Latina-owned businesses in the United States, yet access to capital and opportunity remains the largest barrier to market entry and success, according to the National Women’s Business Council.
To support Latina entrepreneurship, Capital One partnered with #WeAllGrow earlier this fall to host the Latina Makers Market and give Latina founders the opportunity to vend and showcase their products to summit attendees. As part of the programming, Capital One Business also hosted an Amigas In Business Pitch Competition where Latina entrepreneurs were invited to share their business pitches on video for a chance to win one of three grants worth $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000.
“Small businesses are the cornerstone of communities across the country, driving innovation for both our local and national economies,” said Brigida Perez, Senior Business Banker at Capital One. “In their roles as entrepreneurs, Latina women are defining themselves and paving the way for the next generation’s success.”
Read on to learn more about the finalists and their businesses:
First Place ($15,000) – Kat Novoa, Babes of Wellness
Within the Hispanic community, mental health and mental illness are often stigmatized topics of conversation, with identity and cultural factors among its barriers to care. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “only 35.1% of Hispanic/Latinx adults with mental illness receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 46.2%.” Enter Kat Novoa who founded Babes of Wellness in 2018, the first “Latina-owned, all-women’s, queer inclusive” wellness gym based in the city of Compton, California. The focus of the gym is to “provide a safe space for women and queer folks to nurture their relationship with health and wellness at the inner section of movement and mental health.”
Babes of Wellness has become a safe haven for women living in South Los Angeles to build and improve physical strength while “simultaneously healing generational trauma, renewing their mindset and connecting spiritually.” Since her opening, Babes of Wellness has grown from 20 to 1,500 active members.
“We help teach women to move their bodies because they love them, not because they hate them,” said Novoa. The grant money will be used to help Babes of Wellness work on entering the Consumer Packaged Goods market, to purchase a commercial fridge and to partner with other wellness brands as a way to elevate the experience of their members.
Second Place ($10,000) – Dani Rodriguez, Neems Jeans
The process of creating trendy, affordable and disposable clothing comes at a huge cost to the environment. An estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is produced annually, according to the environmental news and data platform Earth.org, with fast fashion responsible for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions. As part of a wave of new entrepreneurs taking a more ethical approach to fashion, Dani Rodriguez set out to create custom jeans made from repurposed, deadstock fabric with the mission of empowering customers with the self-confidence they deserve.
Rodriguez’s desire to find a pair of jeans that fit her body type inspired her to start a business rooted in sustainability. The company had a soft launch in March 2020 during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone was locked down at home, which provided Rodriguez the ability to test products and find out what customers truly wanted in a pair of jeans. When a popular news network featured her product, her business took off. In a size-exclusive industry, Neems’ mission to give women and men the power of confidence through jeans custom-made to their unique bodies is something that Rodriguez is deeply proud of.
“Our customers are the 90% of people that don’t fit into the traditional representation of the fashion industry,” said Rodriguez. “Our customers are also folks that are becoming increasingly eco-conscious and aware of the detrimental environmental effects within the fashion industry.”
With the grant money, Rodriguez aims to expand Neems’ eco-conscious footprint and create an “in-person experience” where customers can come in to get measured for their custom jeans and see the whole process.
Third Place ($5,000) – Ana Nuñez, Vida Bars
As a curly-haired person, Ana Nuñez spent her whole life “fighting her hair,” and spent more time flat ironing her curls than embracing them. When her daughter began hating her own curls, Nuñez realized she needed to improve her outlook. As Nuñez searched for ways to maintain healthy curls, she also realized that too much plastic was being used to create shampoo bottles.
Nuñez founded Vida Bars on the belief that it’s possible to care for one’s hair and the planet. The main goal of the company is to create sulfate-free plant-based shampoo and conditioning bar solutions designed for curly and textured hair.
“Loving yourself, taking care of the planet and giving back to the community are core beliefs that guide every decision made,” said Nuñez. “Staying true to them is important because that’s how we make a difference.”
A portion of Nuñez’s profits go towards community commitments like unsheltered populations in Oklahoma City and domestic violence survivors.
With the grant money, Nuñez plans to commit to eco-friendly packaging, stating, “I have a need for containers — it needs to be something that’s biodegradable or that’s 100% recycled plastics. But I haven’t been able to actually get those produced because of lack of funds.”
When Nuñez found out she was a winner in the pitch competition, she exclaimed, “The funds are exciting to have, but just knowing that established businesses like #WeAllGrow and Capital One are willing to give back to my business is a big deal.”