Charlotte Latina Entrepreneurs Complete Cornell University Certificate Program
Sil Ganzó launched her nonprofit eight years ago.
The Argentina native had been working at an after-school program for refugee and immigrant children for years. It closed in 2013, which motivated her to open a similar program called Our Bridge for Kids.
She now works with over 150 families and has a staff of around 20. But she says she didn’t see herself as a businesswoman until recently.
“I didn't realize I was a Latina entrepreneur,” Ganzó said. “Actually, until probably three months ago.”
That’s when she started the Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship, a partnership between Bank of America and Cornell University.
The certificate program launched in 2018. Ganzó was one of 20 Latina women who made up the institute’s first Charlotte cohort.
Kieth Cockrell, the president of Bank of America Charlotte, says making it an all-Latina group was not a coincidence.
“We had a very intentional focus because of the growth that we're experiencing here in Charlotte, and the type of business growth specifically that we're experiencing here in the Hispanic/Latino community and specifically women-owned businesses,” Cockrell said.
Cockrell says around 30,000 women have enrolled and about 86% of them are women of color.
To find the Latina women who made up the first Charlotte cohort, Bank of America partnered with Charlotte’s Latin American Chamber of Commerce and Prospera, an organization that works with Latino entrepreneurs.
Ganzó was at an event for her nonprofit when she says a member of the local chamber of commerce told her to apply to the program.
“The first thing I remember saying is, like, ‘I'm not an entrepreneur and I'm not a businesswoman — I don't know how I fit here,’” Ganzó said.
Despite feeling like she didn't fit in, Ganzó says she rarely turns down an opportunity, so she enrolled in the 12-week, six-course online program.
“I cannot believe that I ever actually doubted it,” Ganzó said. “Because it really changed my mindset and it really brought clarity on what I'm doing.”
Ganzó says learning about business alongside a group of Latina entrepreneurs made all the difference.
“I think that having a group of women who have shared experiences and pretty similar kinds of cultures really, really helped with the bonding and understanding and support,” Ganzó said.
A second cohort of 23 Latina businesswomen from Charlotte recently started the program.
Cockrell says Bank of America worked with Cornell to translate the curriculum and hire Spanish-speaking teaching assistants this time around.
Ganzó says that decision will help include more Latina entrepreneurs who feel more comfortable taking courses in their native language.
“Being an immigrant with an accent, being a founder and executive director and being in so many spaces where a lot of times Latinos are just seen as a checkmark, but I think that Bank of America is really very well aware that diversity and inclusion does not work without equity and justice.”
After completing the program, Ganzó says, Our Bridge for Kids is working on copyrighting its curriculum and opening a second location in Charlotte. She says even though it took a while, she now sees herself as a social entrepreneur.