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The Challenges and Gifts of Being a Female Minority Entrepreneur

minority entrepreneur

As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant who was raised by my Jewish grandmother, I was introduced to the beauty of embracing my unique mix of cultures from a young age.

I’m very proud of who I am and where I come from. A long line of warrior women have allowed me to be the business owner and key figure of Chicago’s business community that I am today, and in all that I do, I honor their courage and the sacrifices they made that have given me the opportunities I have.

Being a minority businesswoman, I’m blessed to have the perspectives that I do. They help me navigate the fluidity that is growing a business and serving others. Yet the reality is that people like me also face unique hurdles in our pursuits of professional success that others who are not in our shoes don’t experience.

Women’s History Month is a natural time to reflect on both the gains women have made in our fight for equality, and the ongoing battles we still have ahead of us. As a minority, this rings true, too. But, as all things, you can choose to be a victim or see the challenge as an opportunity. After all, often times, the obstacle is the way.

In an effort to give voice to the realities of being a female minority entrepreneur, here are some of the challenges and gifts I’ve experienced. 

Challenges as a Female Minority Entrepreneur

Lack of Credibility

Raise your hand if, as a female, or as a minority, you’ve been made to feel less than in a professional setting. Less credible. Less smart. Less capable. As women in business, the reality of being put down, whether intentionally or not, is very real.

For generations, women have been fighting to continue climbing the corporate ladder. Rung by rung, we’re making our presence felt. Yet having to work harder than our male counterparts to prove our worthiness is something I’ve experienced throughout my professional journey.

Less Opportunity

My father was born in Mexico and came to Chicago without connections or an understanding of savvy business dynamics. He did what he had to do to put a roof over my head and food on my plate, and for that I will be forever grateful. His work ethic was admirable. Yet his access to opportunities beyond just surviving another day were similar to those of countless other immigrants – seemingly unattainable. 

In the workplace, employers are still discriminating against people based on their names. In one paper from Hamilton College, researchers found that job applicants “with difficult-to-pronounce names are less likely to obtain an academic or tenure-track position and are placed at institutions with lower research productivity.” They also received fewer call-backs.


For most, the path of professional growth is a lonely one. Feelings of isolation are exacerbated when you’re the only female and/or minority at the table. Much of my corporate career has been surrounded by men who don’t look like I do. A lot of career advice isn’t written by or tailored to people who have had similar experiences to me.

Throughout my life and professional career, I’ve had to forge my own way. While I wouldn’t change it, it was a struggle at times. Finding people who looked like me and who advocated for women and immigrants, and seeking out female executives, has helped me understand there is room for all of us to share our voice, perspectives and cultivate professional success.

Gifts as a Female Minority Entrepreneur

Tenacity and Grit

Much of what female minorities navigate makes them that much stronger. The ability to keep going — no matter what forces are against you — is a deeply engrained trait I carry within me. There is always a way. The possibility of hope and success is always there, and I’ve been blessed with the tenacity to keep going after it and the grit to endure the inevitable trials and tribulations that impact all of us.

Empathy and Intuition

Being different makes you empathetic to others. Seeing the world from an outsider’s perspective clues you in to the subtleties others might miss. As a leader, empathy and intuition are two prevailing traits that can catapult you from good to great.

Being in-tune with yourself and with others makes you a key contributor to the success of whatever you’re involved in. It also makes you a better friend, a role model, a desired colleague, and a respected individual. 

Strength in My Story

The courage and boldness of my grandmothers, one in Mexico and one a Jewish-American, made their families, communities — and me — that way, too. Their stories and the stories of so many women and immigrants throughout history are filled with setbacks and hurdles but also with victories.

I carry their stories with me and honor them, for without the struggles they overcame, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And in everything I do, I am committed to lifting others up as part of the story I leave behind someday.

Jennifer Guzman

As a key figure in Chicago’s business community, Jennifer is dedicated to mentoring small and middle-market businesses, with a focus on women and communities of color. With over two decades in HR and Client/Employee Experience, she has helped businesses from large corporations to family-owned firms.
Her experience at EmPower HR, as Vice President of Client and Employee Experience, led her to establish Bestola Consulting. Her firm aids small businesses in aligning their purpose with their output, streamlining processes, and enhancing people experiences for better delivery and satisfaction.

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