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Charlotte entrepreneur organizes event to support other Latino small businesses

Claudia Patiño hosts a meeting with other Latino entrepreneurs, advising them as they create their new businesses.
Courtesy of Claudia Patiño
Claudia Patiño hosts a meeting with other Latino entrepreneurs, advising them as they create their new businesses.

After having her two children, stay-at-home-mom Claudia Patiño says she wanted to do something more.

“I wanted to keep being someone. I didn’t want to lose my identity,” Patiño said. “Oftentimes, when we become moms, we lose our identity. We become moms, but we’re no longer entrepreneurs or employees.”

Growing up in Colombia, Patiño said, she would always help her grandmother with baking. So in January of 2019, she launched her business, Lovely Present Bakery House.

She started out selling birthday breakfast platters. Now, she also makes cakes and other baked goods.

“It’s a long journey. I’ve always said it’s never-ending because every day we’re learning something new,” Patiño said. “We start out with one business idea and it keeps evolving and changing.”

And when the pandemic hit in 2020, Patiño said, she had to change her business yet again.

“I had a lot of goals and dreams for my business,” Patiño said. “And then the pandemic hit and everything stopped.”

Patiño said she realized she couldn’t just sit around. She had to take advantage of the situation. So she took to social media to promote her business.

And it worked. She went from 10 orders a month to 15 a week.

“Being an entrepreneur makes you grow,” Patiño said. “It brings out so many skills in you that you didn’t even realize you had.”

As she continued using social media, and as COVID-19 cases started to drop, Patiño realized a lot of new businesses had opened up during the pandemic.

Many of these were owned by Latino entrepreneurs who had lost their jobs and were forced to reinvent themselves.

“I saw the motivation that we have as Latinos to keep going. That’s what impacted me the most,” Patiño said. “That’s what made me say we have to do something with this. We have to work together. I’m not the only one and I think if we come together it’ll be a lot easier to succeed.”

In May, Patiño started using her finance degree and her experience as an entrepreneur to advise others who were starting new businesses.

She teamed up with Antia Perez, another Latina entrepreneur, to host meetings in person and online, creating a network of Latino entrepreneurs.

“The idea was born out of the need I saw,” Patiño said. “There’s people who want to come together to show off their work to the world.”

And that idea is becoming a reality this Saturday when the group hosts its first event, a Christmas Bazaar.

Patiño and more than 30 other Latino entrepreneurs will sell their products and services from noon to 6 p.m. at Middle James Brewing Co. in Pineville.

“It’s a huge commitment,” Patiño said. “You feel like you have a huge responsibility to all these people who believed in you and trusted in you and chose to support you.”

Neyla Santamaria is one of the entrepreneurs who put her trust in Patiño .

She started her business, Neyla’s Beauty Boutique, four months ago. She had to quit her job because child care was too expensive and she couldn’t go back to working in person.

“I never saw myself becoming an entrepreneur because I had to have a full-time job,” Santamaria said. “So in a way, thanks to the pandemic I had the opportunity of accomplishing my dream of owning my own business.”

Santamaria said she saw Patiño post on Facebook about the Christmas Bazaar and she didn’t hesitate to get involved.

“This opportunity is going to be like a jumping-off point for me, and I’m sure it’ll be the same for many of the other entrepreneurs who will participate,” Santamaria said.

Both Santamaria and Patiño say they’re anxiously awaiting the event. Patiño said she’s already gotten requests to host this event multiple times throughout the next year.

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Maria Ramirez Uribe is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte.