A Conversation with Claudia Cardozo

Claudia Cardozo

Claudia Cardozo is the founder, corporate coach, and workshop facilitator at InnateFive. She’s passionate about helping leaders create more inclusive teams and organizations –through DEI principles and a Strengths-based development approach– so everyone can embrace their best selves and support each other’s growth and development.

September 9, 2022

[00:00:03.550] – Speaker 1 (Liz)

So I just have a couple, general questions for you that revolve around entrepreneurship, being a Hispanic or Latinx business owner, and working with that population as well.

In your personal life, how do you choose specifically to celebrate Hispanic heritage month?

[00:00:26.930] – Speaker 2 (Claudia)

Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate collectively what it means to be Hispanic and the contributions of Hispanics in this country. I’m at this point in my life where I’m returning to my roots and fully embracing my heritage, culture, and traditions. Most recently, I have reintroduced dancing in my life, I cannot believe I stopped dancing for so many years. Dancing salsa and merengue brings me joy these days. I came to this country 20 years ago and for most of those years I was in a search for assimilation. I was afraid of not fitting in. Today I am standing in my Latino roots and feeling proud of my heritage and my Colombian accent.   

[00:01:43.070] – Liz

That’s awesome. That was a perfect answer.

[00:03:19.270] – Claudia

And I love that we have a whole month to celebrate Hispanic heritage. It’s very empowering.

[00:03:34.960] – Claudia 

Hispanic heritage month is an exciting time for all of us in the Hispanic community to be proud and celebrate our roots. Also, a wonderful opportunity to share with others what we bring to this great nation. Not only our food and work ethic but also our values and lively spirit.   

[00:04:00.610] – Liz

Absolutely. Okay, so you’ve had a long history of volunteering for SEG and working with many of the native Spanish speaking entrepreneurs in our ecosystem. In your experience what have you noticed is their biggest challenge as Hispanic speaking entrepreneurs in the US?

[00:04:25.150] – Claudia

Language barriers sometimes can be an issue, even if you are bilingual. For instance, I speak English fluently yet there are some topics I still prefer to consume in my native language. That’s why I think that the Spanish programming we offer at SEG is so valuable to Spanish speaking entrepreneurs. Also, these curriculums are equitable and meet people where they are. As part of the SEG board and as a workshop facilitator at SEG, I feel proud of the work SEG does in providing programming that is relevant and respectful of people’s journeys and lived experiences. It feels great to know that these entrepreneurs receive the support they need, to navigate a complex system to start or grow their social enterprises in the state. 

In the last few years, I had the pleasure to teach financial education classes for SEG entrepreneurs in both English and Spanish. It was always a very rewarding experience for me to help them understand how to increase their financial wellbeing and increase the chances to access capital. These workshops had a positive impact not only because they were delivered in their preferred language but also because they were culturally sensitive. 

[00:05:49.510] – Claudia

In over a decade working with Latino entrepreneurs I have seen how many of them are unable to grow their business for lack of capital. Many times, they use their cash instead of building credit over time. That’s why financial education and access to capital workshops are so important for startups and small business. 

[00:06:14.520] – Liz

The way we approach it. Yeah, I can definitely see how Americans approach it differently and with a lot of digital currency now as well. I never thought about that.

I went to the Incubadora graduation this past Spring. Many of the graduates said their favorite lesson was learning the financials, so interesting you say that. They said it was their favorite, but also that it was the most helpful.

[00:06:40.110] – Claudia

That’s wonderful to hear. Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding about personal finance because it hasn’t been part of our educational system. Not only for immigrants but also for Americans in general. Even some Finance graduates able to elaborate complex corporate budgets don’t know how to manage their own personal finances. Thankfully nowadays we have so many organizations and financial institutions making financial education accessible. I also feel glad that is now a mandate for high school students in Rhode Island to receive financial education in order to graduate. 

[00:07:45.630] – Liz

I wish that was a requirement for me to have to take one as a student that would have helped so much.

[00:07:50.720] – Claudia

So, you know how it feels.

[00:07:54.130] – Liz

I left high school and thought, I don’t know how to balance a checkbook! So I’m glad to know it’s a law now because that’ll help people tremendously.

[00:08:05.640] – Claudia

Yes, I’m so glad now young people are receiving the information they need to make better financial choices in their lives. Thanks to an amazing collision here in Rhode Island led by the Treasurer’s Office. They rally elected officials and financial educators and supporters across the state to help pass the bill into law in June of 2021.

[00:08:31.710] – Liz

That’s awesome. So, this is kind of the opposite of the question I kind of just asked. What would you say is a positive attribute or a skill that you have noticed that Latinx or native Hispanic speaking entrepreneurs have that differs from non-Hispanic entrepreneurs?

[00:09:06.880] – Claudia 

One of the things I appreciate about Hispanic entrepreneurs is that they’re very resourceful. It may be also an attribute of being immigrant or coming from immigrant families. Many of them see opportunities everywhere and find creative ways to reach their goals and dreams.   

[00:10:20.130] – Liz

Yeah, I totally see that. I mean, at least from my experience, being a native born American, it’s a lot more worry and pressure to do well. So, because of that perhaps I don’t take risks as quickly, so I can totally see the difference.

[00:10:57.300] – Claudia

Just going to jump in and get out in a way. Figure out with resourcefulness. Because once you’re there, you just learn how to swing right. And you’re so eager to!

[00:11:21.970] – Liz

What’s a favorite memory that comes to mind from working with a past SEG incubadora participant.

[00:11:31.090] – Claudia

I have connected in a special way with many female entrepreneurs. I enjoy helping them to embrace what’s right with them. We are in a world that keeps us focusing on what’s wrong with us and what we lack. I love to help my mentees to embrace their talents and lived experiences. Once they embrace who they are, it is easier to recognize what they are not, and to identify complementary partnerships or systems to support them with their business goals. Once you fully embrace who you are there is nothing standing between you and your goals and dreams. 

[00:12:45.110] – Liz

That makes a lot of sense! Okay, what is one way that you believe society can best help engage and support Latinx entrepreneurs?

[00:12:58.530] – Claudia

The best thing we can do is support them by buying their products and services. Also, by being curious about the culture and asking questions in a respectful way. Not assuming that because I am Latina my favorite food is burritos and tacos. I do enjoy them but my favorite food is Indian. I love Indian spices. Don’t ask questions that come from stereotypes you have about a specific culture, instead find out how their American experience is shaping what they like and how they show up in the world today.

[00:13:45.810] – Liz

Yeah. There’s so much more than just the basics of what Americans know about Hispanic culture. I think that’s a great point.

[00:14:57.880] – Liz

Like the stereotypes of what might be presented! Okay. What is one piece of advice you would like to give to Hispanic entrepreneurs looking to get their businesses started? Or even a question you might get asked a lot from them.

[00:15:18.690] – Claudia

Planning is important. What are the resources you need? To whom should you reach out for advice and guidance? It’s also important that they understand themselves. What are their talents and strengths? What are those skills and talents they don’t have and they need in their business? What are those skills  they are committed to acquire to be successful in their business? And what are those skills they will outsource so they can focus their energy on what they do best? 

[00:17:38.530] – Liz

It’s interesting you say that I’ve encountered a few entrepreneurs in my time at SEG, and some of them say that they wished they cared a little bit more about the little things. At first, they were excited about the big picture or what their business was going to be when it was launched, but maybe not so much of the tasks that they didn’t want to do or the tasks that they didn’t think were as important actually ended up being really important.

[00:18:08.170] – Claudia

When you go into business you are passionate about the product or service you offer, not necessarily about managing the finances and other daily tasks of running a business. That’s why it’s very important that you are very clear about what it is that you are very passionate about and what are those things that you need to delegate.

[00:18:50.570] – Liz

Okay, I have my final question, which is a more fun one, just to get to know some of your personal interests. In terms of Hispanic businesses, these do not have to be an SEG businesses so that you don’t feel like you’re picking favorites or anything. Is there a local Hispanic owned business that you like supporting or that you like to visit? It can be a restaurant or even an agency.

[00:19:57.730] – Claudia

There are so many Hispanic restaurants I love! I have a few favorites on those days. I crave Hispanic food. A Hispanic business I would like to support more is The Heal Room, I love their message on low waste lifestyle and ethical self-care. 

[00:21:29.070] – Liz

Oh yes this is an awesome place!

[00:21:36.150] – Claudia

And their mission is so needed in these times of excessive materialism. I’m excited to see two Latinas committed to promoting healing for individuals, communities, and the planet.     

[00:22:28.130] – Liz

They do great design work too and their whole space looks beautiful.

[00:22:34.790] – Liz

But that pretty much closes out my questions, so I’m going to stop recording! Thank you so much for your time and answers.

Liz Connell | Communications VISTA