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Cory Arcarese 

According to Reference USA, there are 2,050 businesses in ZIP codes 80910 and 80916. Of those, women own 694, or 34 percent. I would venture to say that most of those are minority women business owners. 

Don’t believe me? Ask Priscilla Williams from Heart to Heart Academy, who opened her doors to provide certified nursing assistant training to students. As a nurse practitioner, she knew that patients did not see providers of color taking care of them. She set out to change that in our community.

Today, Heart to Heart Academy graduates some of the best diverse CNAs in the city. Patients can be comfortable knowing that they will be cared for by culturally diverse caregivers. 

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I stand in awe of the history we are making right now. Southeast Colorado Springs has some of the strongest businesswomen who, despite COVID-19, have persevered. They have stood up to challenges that would have brought others to their knees — language barriers, racism, poverty, post-traumatic stress disorder, single parenting, lack of education and much more.

Yet here they are, standing fierce. I get to call them by their first names. Moreover, I get to help them with their challenges, but I have something very few get from them: trust. 

Trust is what it takes, because so many have taken advantage of these women who have built their

businesses from scratch.

They have learned the hard way what net 90 means. They have learned the hard way to read EVERY word in a lease contract. They have learned the hard way not to have someone else renew your liquor license at a charge of $3,000. (Yes, there is someone charging that to business owners). 

Latrina Ollie, owner of Quar Notary LLC, started her business in 2019. The challenges she has overcome include finding startup funding, finding contractors and making the decision to go full time with her endeavor.

Her advice to other women who are thinking about starting their own business is simple, “Make sure you have a good support system. I have my husband, mom and sisters. And do it for the right reasons. When I decided to do this, it was because my situation at the time did not give me the flexibility to be the mom I wanted to be.”

VIVA Marketing & Consulting owner Moni Hernandez wanted to work for herself after a career in radio. Her challenge? People did not believe that she understood the intricacies of the digital marketing landscape. Geo-targeting, geo-fencing and retargeting, however, turned out to be her niche.

Her close relationships with Spanish-speaking business owners means their digital presence is growing and customers are coming in the door.

“The support of other Latina women like Joyce Salazar and others has made the difference in our company launching,” Hernandez said.

Now her business is off the ground and clients are ready to have VIVA do digital marketing in English and Spanish. Reaching the Latino market has never been easier. 

Loli Villarreal owns Lolita’s Imports at 460 N. Murray Blvd., featuring imports made by indigenous people in Mexico. They are handcrafted and some of the most beautiful items you can find.

To talk to Loli, you would think that business ownership is as easy as breathing. Her husband, Luis, owns Hacienda Villarreal, a Mexican restaurant, and their three sons work there. The entire family of entrepreneurs simply doesn’t know another way to live.

They work hard and pass on the values of business to their family.

Last but not least, tucked away in the Gateway Village Shopping Center is La Reina Del Sur Western Wear. Anne Natalie Howar owns this store devoted to men’s Western clothing. Open since 2011, La Reina Del Sur is a Southeast favorite. Do yourself a favor and go in for a visit. Let me know what you think. Send me a note to cory@coloradoenterprisefund.org. 

Cory Arcarese is a lending officer with the Colorado Enterprise Fund and a senior consultant with the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, focused on Southeast Colorado Springs.