Michelle’s Road: What Motivates Latino Entrepreneurs?

Seven years ago, Michelle Matta started A Turtle Loves Me, her own promotional materials company with a $10,000 loan from Accion. Now, her business, which sells anything from hats to coffee mugs to jackets, has over $1 million in revenue.

How Michelle got there is a story of motivation and perseverance. In 2007, Michelle’s youngest, her daughter, was in high school, with college on the horizon. Knowing that she and her husband would soon be empty-nesters, Michelle considered what to do with her extra time. With her husband’s encouragement, she started A Turtle Loves Me.

They now run the business together with her daughter-in-law, and the five stars in the business’ logo represent their immediate family of five, including three children. “I was really nervous about starting my own [business], but I’d worked in the field already and been very successful,” Michelle says. “My husband said, ‘Why not do that for yourself?’”

Entrepreneurs like Michelle start small businesses for many reasons. A 2011 study by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company found that 89 percent of Hispanic entrepreneurs started their business to provide financially for their family, 66 percent to follow their dreams, and 31 percent to provide jobs for their family.

The study also found that Latino entrepreneurs are driven by these various factors at higher rates than the general U.S. business owner population. For example, only 19 percent of businesses that were surveyed overall report starting their business to provide jobs for their family.

For Michelle, becoming an entrepreneur and small business owner runs in the family. Her grandfather owned a trucking business while her mother runs a housecleaning business. Her sister owns several small businesses, one of her brothers is a world-traveling singer, and her other brother owns a part-time appliance servicing business. Michelle’s family shares a similar story with many of the 2 million Latino business owners across the country that work to strengthen their businesses and secure their future.

Michelle now wants to grow her business to save and prepare for retirement. Despite working 70-80 hours a week on top of studying to obtain a business degree, Michelle wouldn’t change a thing.

“I love it,” Michelle says. “I’m not complaining. I can’t sit still.”

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