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Empowering Latina Entrepreneurs

Julie Kulm of Boise had been considering starting her own business for several years, but it seemed daunting. A new entrepreneurship program from University of Idaho Extension finally gave her the tools she needs to make that business a reality.

“It’s been in the back of my mind for several years now, and I just hadn’t taken the steps to get it going,” Kulm said. “I’ve taken some other small business planning classes and you’re in a room and you get all of the information in a couple of hours, but to come home and get it on paper was the hard part. In this one, I was quietly in my own home having to think through all of these steps, and so I feel much more confident that I have the business plan and have it written down.”

The free UI Extension program, DreamBuilder, was launched in February 2018 to help people like Kulm. Participants complete 15 online modules on topics like marketing, bookkeeping and sales, and business laws and regulations. At the end of the program participants have a draft business plan to help them succeed. The program was written by the University of Arizona’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and is offered in English and Spanish.

“I thought the step-by-step module was very straightforward. The business plan isn’t done or perfect, but at least it gave me blanks to fill in and think about, and I really appreciate that," Kulm said.

DreamBuilder is one of several UI Extension programs recently implemented in response to the growing trend nationwide — and in Idaho — of new businesses being opened by women, particularly women of color.

Ribbon cutting on a new business.
Kathy Casillas and husband Daniel Zarco at the grand opening of their restaurant, Patagonia Grill, in Twin Falls.

“Women are opening more businesses than men, but they tend to be less successful in the long run,” said Paul Lewin, UI Extension specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. “So, combining what we are hearing from citizens plus what we learn from the secondary data, we decided to explore this idea to support Hispanic women.”

All the icons, language and cartoons in the online program are women. For Kulm, the focus on women was another positive aspect of the program.

“I think it did make me a little more comfortable just because I think that us women internalize a lot and maybe don’t have the courage to plunge in and just do it,” Kulm said. “I did like that all of the examples were women that I could definitely relate to.”

Stacy Springer, UI Extension instructional designer, helps to facilitate the program by encouraging the students and ensuring they have the learning objectives needed for each course.

“The first 12-13 modules are talking about ideas for businesses,” Springer said. “When they get to module 13, it walks them through creating their business plan. At the end of the course they have that information to take and try to get financing.”

While Kulm’s business idea is in the early stages, other DreamBuilder participants are taking the next steps. Kathy Casillas opened a restaurant in Twin Falls in April 2018 and is participating in the program because she knows she has much to learn about running her own business.

My dream was to open my own bakery and own my own business. Now we’re living the dream.Kathy Casillas, DreamBuilder graduate

“The course I’m taking helps me a lot because it shows me what other people are doing to be successful,” Casillas said. “My dream was to open my own bakery and own my own business. Now we’re living the dream.”

Lewin is conducting research comparing the business success of Hispanic and non-Hispanic women in Idaho. The goal is to better understand the difference in their approach to customize future UI Extension programs to meet their needs.

UI Extension also teamed up with the College of Law to produce printed and online educational materials focused on several legal aspects related to starting a new business.

Workshops in Boise, Burley and Caldwell in summer 2018 used these materials as well as the DreamBuilder curriculum. The six-week workshops and two-day trainings focused on networking and confidence building and were designed by UI Extension educators Jacqueline Amende, Surine Greenway and Liliana Vega.

“Face to face they are meeting others like them and networking, which may help their confidence,” Greenway said. “They are able to get feedback from people in the field they are in.”

Additional research is also being conducted on the role of children in Latina businesses.

“UI Extension has a statewide system, and that puts us in a unique position to serve communities,” Vega said. “We’re going to give unbiased information, and our true goal and mission is to make sure that our communities are educated to make the best decisions for themselves.”

This work is supported by the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) award No. 2016-69006-24831 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The total amount of federal funds received for the project will be $499,966.

Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Published in the fall 2018 issue of Here We Have Idaho.


University Communications and Marketing

Phone: 208-885-6291

Fax: 208-885-5841


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