FIU Business Now Magazine Spring 2024
Latina Business Leaders Showcase Expertise
(L to R) Panelists Myrna Sonora, regional vice president, South Florida, Prospera; Isabel Halliday, senior business consultant, Chase for Business, JP Morgan Chase; and Marcia North, senior stakeholder liaison, IRS Communications and Liaison Division.

Latina Business Leaders Showcase Expertise

Showcasing the collective expertise of a network of Latina business leaders and corporate players, the LATINA Style Business Series celebrated its 25th anniversary, arriving at FIU Business in fall 2023 for its final stop of the year.

The seminar, held in partnership with the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center and Blackstone LanchPad at FIU Business, featured panels and experts from fields including insurance, taxes and community resources. Throughout the day, participants shared their stories, from their greatest challenges to their biggest victories and everything in between.

"My first tip to success is to learn to break barriers," said Sabaa Tovar (MBA '22), a seminar panelist and entrepreneur. "As a Latina, you maybe grew up with a young mother who was not a business owner, a stay-at-home mom. I had to learn to break the limitations of my cultural background."

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Francis Hondal (MBA '94, BBA '88), a board member of Bath & Body Works and Equitable Holdings, spoke at the seminar.

The LATINA Style Business Series, with assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration, supports Latina entrepreneurs by providing leads that can be converted into collaborative opportunities. Since its launch in 1998, the conference has been held in 154 cities, with over 40,000 participants.

"I think in a vibrant community like Miami, naturally, we want to support entrepreneurship. It is the backbone of growth in the U.S.," said Francis Hondal (MBA '94, BBA '88), a board member of Bath & Body Works and Equitable Holdings. "We have such a commitment to help advance the dreams of everyone, whether you're an entrepreneur or someone in corporate, in business, out of business, and that's the exciting mandate of FIU."

Honoring some of the local women who laid the groundwork, LATINA Style presented several awards. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Elaine Miceli Vasquez, president of El Heraldo de Broward, and the Community Award to Myrna Vaca, director of community relations at the University of Miami Health System. Arminda Figueroa, CEO of Latin2Latin Marketing + Communications, received the Latina Entrepreneur of the Year award.

FIU Business alumna Rebecca Olavarrieta (BBA '09) was a nominee for Entrepreneur of the Year. Seventeen years ago, she took over her brother's business, Rocco 4x4, an automotive customization shop specializing in off-road vehicles.

"I try to showcase that if you're doing what you are passionate about, you're always going to be having fun," said Olavarrieta. "And if you can make a little bit of money, it's even better. I think it's the American dream."