Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce invests in entrepreneurial women with Wells Fargo’s help
Rachel Martinez is a researcher turned entrepreneur who initially found a career in libraries. She enjoys researching different topics and helping people from different backgrounds learn. The pandemic in 2020 rocked the field of higher education where she and her co-worker, Julie Allen, worked.
That led to them creating Watch Me Learning Services in 2022. The instructional design agency provides online learning, training and professional development experiences for small- to medium-sized businesses. Martinez and Allen’s combined backgrounds and knowledge of training in academia and industry drive the experiences they create for their clients.
A few months after the business launched, Martinez attended an Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (AZHCC) networking event and learned about its DreamBuilder program. In partnership with Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, the 13-step program helps participants create a business plan, with enhanced modules geared toward financing and expanding a business.
“The program not only introduced us to resources to gain business contacts, but it also prompted us to ask ourselves thought-provoking questions about the direction we wanted the business to go in,” Martinez said. “It allowed us to look at the bigger picture rather than just finding the next client lead.”
The Wells Fargo Foundation funded DreamBuilder with grants totaling $400,000. Financial support from the Wells Fargo Foundation is part of the company’s broader commitment to small businesses as the Bank of Doing. More than 180 women have gone through the program offered by AZHCC, with the help of this support.
Tools to serve the startup community
DreamBuilder, launched in 2012 wanted to make sure women would have opportunities to fully participate in economic development and have access to greater levels of prosperity. It partnered with Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management to create a curriculum that would teach women the fundamentals of owning their business. More than 150,000 students have completed the program in 157 countries.
“It was a time when many women gained the courage to pursue their dreams,” Mónica Villalobos, the AZHCC’s president and CEO, said. “What we saw as a result was an increase in women wanting to turn their side hustles into a legitimate business to make it a meaningful part of household income. These women saw DreamBuilder as a way to support that effort.”
DreamBuilder is designed to be easy to navigate, convenient, engaging and fun, and the modules are completed incrementally over time. They take approximately 25 to 40 hours to finish. Participants receive:
- A business plan.
- A new laptop.
- One-on-one business assistance.
- Reimbursement for a limited liability company or similar business filing.
- One-year basic membership to AZHCC and discounts on signature events.
“I’m a fourth-generation Arizonan, although we were here long before Arizona was a territory,” Martinez said. “My grandparents were born in Tempe, and we have roots that run deep in Tucson and Phoenix. This is what keeps me going as an entrepreneur – I want to serve the community that I’ve been part of my whole life. DreamBuilder gave me the tools to do so.”
Empowering female entrepreneurs
In addition to being a chamber member and having employees from its Hispanic and Latino Employee Resource Network volunteer at events, Wells Fargo has supported AZHCC through an eight-month business growth accelerator program called Avanzar. Wells Fargo and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce piloted the program in 2019 and expanded it to five new markets, including Arizona, in 2020.
Wells Fargo also supported the chamber’s Success Grants Program, which helped to create a safety net for companies during the pandemic, enabling them to stay open, retain employees, and provide products and services through alternative delivery methods.
When the U.S. Hispanic chamber announced it would host its national conference in Phoenix in 2022, Villalobos asked Wells Fargo to fund a program for women entrepreneurs, given the growth of Latina businesses in recent years. Wells Fargo said yes.
That funding encouraged 125 women to start businesses, including 75 who launched their ventures at the convention on the first day of the event, Villalobos said.
“The ongoing collaboration with Wells Fargo enables us to scale something like that to a multiyear program like DreamBuilder, which is transformational, life changing and life affirming for women because now they are empowered,” Villalobos said. “They know they can do this because they now have the tools, resources and a community of alumni to lean on. This has a significant impact on the Arizona economy. Without corporate partners like Wells Fargo, it would be hard to have an impact on that big of a scale.”
To learn more about how Wells Fargo is supporting the communities it serves, visit wellsfargo.com/impact.