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Latina Entrepreneur: Growing Business Is Just the Icing on the Cake

Yara Santos always loved making cakes and, in 2004, she started designing specialty cakes for friends and family. Her goal had always been to make people happy by creating something memorable to mark an occasion, but she wanted to explore how she could make a business out of it. In 2015, Yara was invited to attend RDI’s Pasos al Éxito classes in Madras, which gave her the opportunity to explore the idea of running her own business.

Pasos al Éxito is a Spanish-language program that provides financial and small business skills and resources to rural Latinos who aspire to be entrepreneurs. The program consists of two courses: Starting a Business and Money Smart. Starting a Business is for those interested and ready to learn how to effectively start or strengthen their own business, and Money Smart is a personal and business finance course to help enhance financial skills and create positive banking relationships.

Through the Pasos al Éxito program, Yara learned how to write a business plan and operate and promote her business. She learned a lot about loans and financing, and how to grow a company. The training also helped her understand things she needed to do such as getting licenses, insurance, permits, and more. Yara enjoyed the training, especially learning from others in the class and gaining the tools to create a business plan.

Yara believes that if someone can organize themselves, then they too can open their own business and be successful at it. According to Yara, “having a plan makes a big difference,” and Pasos al Éxito helped her get organized so she could put a plan in place and open Yara’s Cakes ‘n More, the “sweetest cakes in Central Oregon.”

“It is not easy to start a business, but it is doable,” reflected Yara. Some of what she learned in Pasos al Éxito confirmed what she already knew, but the training helped her get her ducks in a row and gave her the confidence to do it. Yara is starting out slow and small. Her goal is still to make people happy, and focusing on her customers has allowed Yara to grow her business via word of mouth, giving her the opportunity to continue to bake and sell the sweetest cakes in Central Oregon.

A two-year microenterprise development program, Pasos al Éxito builds the entrepreneurial capacity of rural Latino community participants in three ways: training in basic personal and business finance, instruction in starting a small microenterprise business, and access to support and resources as participants take their first steps toward success. RDI works in partnership with local organizations and Small Business Development Centers to deliver this program and to help create strong local ties for the participants.

Thanks to Wells Fargo, the Collins Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, U.S. Bank Foundation, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Google, and the Small Business Development Center for their generous support of RDI’s Pasos al Éxito program.