I am a woman. I am an immigrant. I am Hispanic … born and raised in Mexico. I am a proud mother of two and, for the past 10 years, an entrepreneur. All of these titles together would make my success story a statistical anomaly for any woman in 2018.

It took me seven years to receive a paycheck from my business, Half Moon Empanadas. More than 10 banks declined to finance our outpost at Miami International Airport. After a couple of evictions and the word “no” became a constant. I responded the only way I knew how: I worked hard, I dreamed high and I never hesitated to ask for what I needed. I reached out and found some doors that opened. I am pleased to say that Half Moon now has 10 locations in South Florida and, in 2017, our airport location was the best seller per square foot. More importantly, we offer employment to more than 50 people, 70 percent of whom are women.

My story is a work in progress. Success didn’t come overnight. When it did, even looking back on the hurdles I overcame, I still felt that I wasn’t successful enough. I am not sure how much it was my overachieving self, or just what we all feel as women.

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Young American Leaders Program at Harvard Business School, thanks to Knight Foundation and The Miami Foundation. After a session where I gave my opinion about the importance of the private sector to any city’s success, a woman from the Seattle cohort came to me and said:

“Hey girl, do you realize you are brown, Hispanic, an immigrant and a woman? And you are a kick-a** entrepreneur?”

Pilar Guzman, CEO and owner of Half Moon Empanadas, stands behind the business's display case at Miami International Airport.

This was an inflection point for me. I realized the power of my words and of my example, and the responsibility I had to my community and to other businesswomen like myself. I decided that I was going to OWN MY SUCCESS and that I would share my story with other women.

There are about 27 million firms in the United States. Thirty percent of these businesses are owned by women, but only two percent break $1 million in revenue. Those owned by men are 3.5 times as likely to reach that million-dollar threshold. We can change this statistic if we put heart and hard work into our vision and believe in ourselves. Our voice matters. It is okay to ask for the opportunities we know we’ve earned. It is okay to negotiate for the salary we believe we deserve. It is okay to be a working mom; our kids will grow up proud of who we are as we lead by example.

 Mentors and hard work are key. Institutional support is important. But no other factor is more important than the realization each woman has her own value. If you’re a female entrepreneur in Miami, there’s a network of organizations and successful women here to support you and help you scale your business. I am honored to serve as a mentor for some of them, including: WIN Lab Miami, FIU StartUp Food Lab and The Idea Center at Miami Dade College. Nonprofits like Venture Café Miami are also helping build a connected environment for women business owners to prosper.

My vision for Miami is one where we are a more inclusive community. My vision for all women is that we each realize our power so that we are heard, so that we take more seats in the C-suite, so that we build more businesses and grow them. My vision for our children is that they will have better opportunities than we did. I believe strongly that entrepreneurship is an equalizer for any issue such as gender, income or race. It is a building block for creating the community we want to live in. I ask everyone reading this to engage other women, to mentor them, to support and participate in our programs.

We must be intentional about it. That is the only way that we will create true, lasting change.

Pilar Guzman is CEO of Half Moon Empanadas and a member of Miami Fellows Class X.


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