Monica Robles spent her career both in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur. Working with domestic and international companies, as well as government agencies, she coached leaders in generating profits and increasing market share growth. The founder and president at Heart Centered Leadership Coaching & Consulting Group, she also has a passion for helping her communities. She especially wanted to help community members with no support to find their passion and build successful businesses.
Leveraging her professional experience and an Executive MBA from IE Business School (Instituto de Empresa) in Madrid, Spain, she launched Asociación de Emprendedor@s, which motivates and empowers the Spanish-speaking community to start up their own microbusinesses. The nonprofit organization was started to assist women who were victims of domestic violence, helping them to discover and embrace ways they could support themselves and their families. It has since grown to serve all mono-Spanish speakers who wish to create stronger futures for themselves.
The Emprendedor@s Program now serves Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles Counties. The transformational program has 3 main pillars: empowerment of the individual, development of their leadership and technical assistance in business creation and development.
“Even though we are a small non-profit organization, our impact with our monolingual Hispanic community is big,” Robles said. “They are their own leaders with the inner power to create anything they set their minds to.”
Concepcion Reyes, who graduated from the program in 2018, was working for a Chinese restaurant while attending the program. She knew that she wanted to quit her job because she felt she was underpaid and underappreciated, and started to plan for the transition. She started catering to small parties and found that her services were in demand. Her husband saw her success and joined the program as well. When he graduated, he joined her to build the business. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple provided services to the City of San Bernardino Police Department with more than 300 meals. Inspired by their success, Reyes and her husband have continued participating in many other entrepreneurship programs, continuing to learn and grow.
“Both Concepcion and her husband are a great leadership example for their three children,” Robles said. “Their main dream is to have their own restaurant. She and her husband are from Oaxaca, Mexico and their business name is “El Sabor de las 8 Regiones.”
Recently, Asociación de Emprendedor@s received a grant from the CIELO Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. Robles pours her own time and money into the program but hopes to continue growing with community support and grants. Last year, the program served 284 participants in 14 cohorts.
More than a technical assistance program, the Emprendedor@s Program helps participants discover self-empowerment and embrace that they are leaders. The Emprendedor@s Program workbook, authored by Robles includes topics of resilience, faith, and eliminating negative self-talk. Participants are vetted before a space is saved for them and they must commit to the program and to creating opportunities for themselves.
Robles encourages attendees to learn English to help their businesses thrive and to find more opportunities to take classes to grow their business acumen. However, having a Spanish-only platform to start their journey can be very impactful, according to Robles. Even those who are working toward becoming fluent in English are better able to understand and discuss content when it is presented in their native tongue.
“They think they are going to learn how to start a business but don’t realize they will learn how to treat themselves and others,” Robles said. “The whole dynamic changes. They are aware that they are leaders, and their families emulate them.”
More information: https://www.asociaciondeemprendedores.org/ or 714-640-6908
This story originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, April 2023.
Learn more about the good work we’re doing at IECF through the power of philanthropy. Subscribe to our free monthly eNewsletter, Philanthropy Matters.