Team Boss Ladies story
When Victoria Bradley, Jack Diazdeleon, Esmerelda Martinez Mata and Iris Rivas came together for the Social Innovation Challenge, they were prompted to think of ways to support underrepresented minority entrepreneurs and business owners.
Their fuel for the project was close to home: the Boss Ladies, as they called themselves, come from a diverse area of Dallas, and their school district is one of Intuit’s Prosperity Hub School Districts. The student body there is 71% Latinx and 21% Black, with 42.8% of students enrolled in bilingual and English language learning programs. Roughly 85% of the student population comes from low-income households. “The problem of closing the gap to entrepreneurship for minorities was something that captivated my attention, as I am dedicated to helping my community of immigrants and minorities succeed,” Esmerelda said.
In their research, the Boss Ladies discovered the disadvantages that minority entrepreneurs face, including limited educational resources and financial capital to get their business started, as well as challenges associated with race and immigration. As they progressed, the lessons they learned during the Design for Delight portion of the challenge shaped their strategy. “ I learned the importance of customer empathy and it is something we took into account during every step and process we took,” she said. “Without being able to understand the customer or seeing the issue through the lens of the customer, it is impossible to create a solution and a product that completely satisfies the customer,” Esmerelda said.
The team’s solution was Mentme, a networking community of mentors and mentees that provide educational support, growth opportunities and business advantages for small business entrepreneurs. They took inspiration from LinkedIn, which allows professionals to showcase their experience; Nextdoor, which connects neighborhood hubs and facilitates the exchange of goods and services; and ULVMS, a platform for mentors and mentees to connect. Though none of these apps were comprehensive, components of their visions helped the team optimize their product.
“I have seen how detrimental not having access to mentors or people that understand certain aspects such as governmental procedures and permits can be to a minority entrepreneur,” Esmerelda said. “With our product, we aimed to close this knowledge gap while creating an opportunity to network.”
Esmerelda will be going on to Washington in St. Louis, where she will pursue her BSBA in Accounting. She intends to continue her advocacy work for underrepresented groups to close generational and educational gaps in minority communities, and she hopes the Boss Ladies will come back together one day to further develop their product. Regardless of the path she takes, the lessons she’s learned from the Social Innovation Challenge will empower her along the way.