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Latina Accelerator AccessLatina Announces Finalists for Startup Challenge

First Posted: Jan 21, 2016 03:45 PM EST
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Eight Latina tech entrepreneurs have been selected for the final competitive round of the new Latina-focused Puerto Rico-based startup accelerator AccessLatina. The eight finalists will compete for a $25,000 grant and a round of crowdfunding, along with mentoring, access to professional networks, and training to take their businesses to the next level.

The group, described by AccessLatina as "eclectic and diverse" have already shown success, together generating more than $1.2 million over the last two years through their businesses.

The Latina-founded ventures represent a wide range of markets and operations, from beauty product subscription services, to full immersion language learning, to digital branding, to exporting exotic, natural, locally grown foods. Beyond commerce, these startups tend to have a strong emphasis on positively impacting underserved communities.

"We are enthusiastic to work with the varied group of entrepreneurs the judges selected as finalists; their businesses are diverse, full of growth potential, and making a difference in their communities," said AccessLatina co-founder Lucienne Gigante.

Here are the eight AccessLatina finalists, chosen by a panel of more than 40 judges participating in the accelerator:

Ix Style - New York

Founded by Francesca Kennedy, Ix Style is a successful artisan sandal and handbag retailer, which provides fair-trade employment to women artisans in Guatemala. The Gap, Anthropology, and J Crew have picked up the brand, and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried, and others have sported Kennedy's footwear.

On top of employing craftswomen in Guatemala, Ix Style donates a portion of every purchase towards providing clean drinking water to children in the country, where Kennedy's own family has its roots.

Lux Beauty Club - Miami

Since 2011, this business, co-founded by Leslie Namad and Victoria Flores, has been selling hair products, originally under the name SOBE Organics & Press on Hair. Wanting to create a one-stop shopping community where customers could buy hair and beauty products on a regular basis, Namad and Flores hit on the subscription box idea, and Lux Beauty Club was born.

Puerto Rico Disena - New York

Founded in 2013 by Michelle Perez Kenderish, this online shopping platform features products from independent designers, artisans, local collectives, and brands in Puerto Rico. The site's mission is to inspire consumers to choose buying from small batch and sustainable production sources, and to foster creative entrepreneurship on the island.

ConCalma - Puerto Rico

Matilsha Marxuach founded this online marketplace for fair-trade, environmentally responsible, and local artisanal tote bags, pouches, and backpacks. The bags are all manufactured in Puerto Rico artisanal collectives using locally available resources, while building communities in rural regions of Puerto Rico.

Flamenca Films - New York

Television producer and on-screen personality Trina Bardusco created the documentary series "Wanderlust." The first episode features Bardusco going to Spain and hanging out with world-renowned flamenco dancers. In 2015, her production company Flamenca Films was born from her passion for dance and film. The company's mission is to produce digital branded content with a particularly feminine flair.

Novel Research - New York

Based out of the Bronx, Catherine Lajara's venture aims to reduce disparities in clinical medical trials and development of treatments. The company conducts high-quality pharmaceutical research with a bent toward helping underserved communities.

Agropek - Puerto Rico

Founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Cindy Cruz, Agropek exports exotic and healthy natural, locally grown foods, all from Puerto Rico.

Institute for Spanish Learning Acquisition - Puerto Rico

Known as ISLA Language for short, this enterprise founded by Sacha Delgado provides full immersion and cultural language learning in Puerto Rico. The service opens the island to tourists looking to learn Spanish by providing classes, lodging, meals, and activities to maximize exposure to the language and Puerto Rican culture.

Starting Up the Accelerator

These entrepreneurial Latinas will compete for the chance to be guided through three modules as part of AccessLatina's accelerator program, which is the first multi-market program designed to help Latina business owners no matter what segment of the economy they specialize in.

"Latina-owned businesses have increased nearly 200 percent over the past decade and we want to help them grow through access to capital, mentorship, networks and opportunities," said AccessLatina co-founder Marta Michelle Colon.

Renowned entrepreneurship professor Antonio Davila, formerly of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, kicked off the accelerator's competition by hosting a daylong seminar on the challenges in managing startup growth.

"It is very interesting to work with people like these female entrepreneurs who are enthusiastic about building companies and organizations that are helpful to society," Davila said.

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