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The Important Role Women Play as Entrepreneurs, with Andrea Ormeno

The Important Role Women Play as Entrepreneurs, with Andrea Ormeno

Episode 89: The Important Role Women Play as Entrepreneurs, with Andrea Ormeno

Andrea Ormeno, Women’s Business Center Director at the Queens Economic Development Center (QEDC), is no stranger to the hard work of an entrepreneur. As an immigrant and the youngest director in the history of QEDC, she understands the immense work it takes for small business owners to succeed. However, she is dedicated to breaking down the barriers. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family in Ecuador, she is passionate about providing immigrant business owners with the resources they need when starting their businesses in America. In this week’s episode, Andrea discusses her experience working for QEDC and her passion for getting women entrepreneurs the tools they need. She also gives some incredible pro-tips and advice for small business owners.

Episode Transcript

00:00 Announcer: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations of Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your hosts, Kristy Wallace and Maricella Herrera.


00:14 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate podcast. This is your host, Kristy Wallace, here with my co-host, Maricella Herrera, on a very cold day in New York City.

00:23 Maricella Herrera: Very cold day.

00:24 KW: Yes. We've got many more ahead of us.

00:27 MH: So, I walked into the office this morning... Actually, before I walked into the office, I was walking from the subway station. And Joanna, from our team, who, if you are an Ellevate member, you probably have talked to Joanna at some point. But she ran into me in the street and could not stop laughing at the fact that I was wearing my big puffy down coat already and my big scarf that goes up to my eyeballs, but I am not made for this. I do not like this weather.

01:00 KW: You gotta do your thing man, being cold stinks.

01:02 MH: It's bad.

01:05 KW: It is not fun, and particularly in New York City, but we have many months of this ahead of us, so we're gonna stick it out, we're gonna be good. But speaking of New York City, Maricella, what's your favorite place in Queens?

01:20 MH: The airport. [laughter]

01:24 KW: Well, we gotta get you out more because Queens has some pretty amazing places to visit as our next guest will attest to.

01:34 MH: I'm sure.

01:34 KW: And yeah, there's some great things, the World Fair was there.

01:37 MH: Oh, really?

01:38 KW: The Mets play there, Arthur Ash Stadium, in the US Open.

01:41 MH: So here's the thing. I just don't know where Queens is. So my geography knowledge is pretty, pretty bad.

01:50 KW: Yeah. All right, we're changing this. We're gonna do a five borough tour. Oh, you're gonna do the Five Borough Bike Tour.

02:00 MH: Good luck with that. I can't ride a bike. [laughter]

02:04 KW: We have until March, and we're gonna make this happen. We're gonna make it happen. The Five Borough Bike Tour, for our listeners that don't know, is this really fun tour in New York City. You ride your bike through all five boroughs, it's like 40 miles. It's a lot of fun. I actually am a terrible bike rider, but to be honest...

02:21 MH: You've done it.

02:22 KW: So are many of the other people there. So it's a little bit of a safety hazard. It's kind of fun, but scary at the same time. But we're gonna have Maricella do it.

02:30 MH: Why do you want to take me to a place that's a safety hazard? [laughter] I refuse. This is workplace harassment, right there. [laughter]

02:38 KW: Live on the edge, live on the edge. You can do it. No scarf in winter and safety hazard bike tour in the spring. This is it. We're gonna do it.

02:47 MH: Cool. That's good.

02:48 KW: So who is our guest today?

02:51 MH: Our guest today is Andrea Ormeno. She is the Women's Business Center Director at QEDC, which is the Queens Economic Development Center, and she works to empower women to actually fully participate in the economy, which is really great.

03:08 KW: Yeah. She just incredibly knowledgeable. If you wanna hear about a great story of a woman who moved here from Ecuador and went to school initially, actually, to be an airline mechanic and turned that into a career in accounting. But she just is really passionate about what she does. Everything from starting businesses, fund-raising, community involvement, super passionate about Queens, but everything that she shares is relevant to women everywhere because we're really just talking about the ways that we can grow businesses, launch businesses and support one another in that process.

03:48 MH: Yeah, she's pretty great.

03:49 KW: Absolutely. Do we have any polls or questions today?

03:52 MH: So it's interesting 'cause I do not have a poll, but I do have data. So we've been... If you follow us on social media, and if you don't follow us on social media, you should absolutely follow us on social media. You can follow us on Twitter ellevatentwk, Instagram ellevate_ntwk. We've been talking a lot about our impact report, which is a survey we put out with information on our members and what they're doing, what they accomplished and sort of where they are and interesting insights about women in business. And what I have for us today, and what I wanted to talk about, because Andrea's focused on women entrepreneurs and business owners, is that we found that most of the women who started their business last year were 45 years old or older, 62%. It is that group who are really pursuing that next step in their careers. And we see that so much in the network. That is really cool to see come back with some stats.

05:02 KW: I am not surprised by that at all.

05:05 MH: Neither am I. We do hear from a lot of people who, it's when they're starting to think like, "What's next?".

05:11 KW: Well, I think there's so many times you think, "What's next?" and sometimes that's different industry, different function, sometimes it's leaving the workforce. But I think oftentimes, for women, it takes longer for us to have the courage to do our own thing. And I would love to change that. I think we should all change that and be more confident in our abilities and our intellect because we are incredibly smart and hard working and powerful. But I do think that there's an aspect of that timeline that it takes to really feel that you can go out on your own. And I love hearing stories about women that do go out on their own and pursue their passions and forge their own path and do amazing things.

06:00 MH: Yeah. There are a lot of great stats about the different things women are doing and how also their seniority and their age affects decisions, like leaving a company because of a bad fit with their culture. All these are in our impact report, if you're interested in checking it out.

06:20 KW: Absolutely. Well, let's get to the interview, I'm really excited for all of our listeners to hear it. If you wanna reach out to us, feel free to tweet at us @ellevatentwk #ellevatepod. You can send us an email at


06:49 KW: Andrea, you're doing some great things for entrepreneurs in Queens. For those of our listeners that don't know, Queens is one of the five boroughs of New York. And Andrea, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us about the Queens Economic Development Center. So we're really happy to have you here today.

07:08 Andrea Ormeno: Thank you Kristy, and thank you for having me here today.

07:10 KW: You have a unique career path in that you've been working with the QEDC since high school. Can you tell us a little bit about how you first got in the door there and what your career journey has been like?

07:25 AO: It has been a great journey in the company. Initially, I started when I was in high school. I was in the 5th year program in Aviation High School, which is a predominant male school for aircraft mechanics. So my sister had a friend that work in the company at Queens Economic Development Corporation and asked me if I was willing to work part-time at the Visitor Center, which is an initiative for the company to actually attract tourism in Queens for any visitors that come to the country or anybody that is looking to see attractions in Queens at their time. So that was how I started at the Visitor Center. I worked there for three years and I was able to go to school, pursue my Bachelors in Accounting while I was going and work at the Visitor Center.

08:21 KW: So you started out in high school for aviation mechanics.

08:25 AO: Correct.

08:26 KW: Went to school for accounting, and now have this great job with the Queens... Is the Queens, QEDC, is... That's a government agency?

08:36 AO: It's a not-for-profit organization. The mission of the company is actually to promote growth in the County of Queens through business services. We also have a neighborhood development and, of course, we have the tourism program to help Queens attractions.

08:54 KW: I wanna help you leverage our platform. Can you share some of the great things about Queens?

09:00 AO: Great. I live in Queens. I came from Ecuador when I was thirteen. I live in Ridgewood, that's one of the neighborhoods in Queens. Then I moved to middle village. I went to Queens College. I worked for the Queens Economic Development Corporation. And my life has been living in Queens, working for Queens, and I love Queens. I think it's a great opportunity because many people, when they're immigrant, they come to Queens. I don't know if you know, but Queens is the most diverse borough in the whole entire world. So you have from Flushing, you have people that come from China, Korea. You go from one side, you have people coming from Russia, you have the Greeks in Astoria, you have Corona, the Spanish that come and immigrated there. So it's a very multi-cultural borough.

10:00 KW: One of my favorite Queens memory... So I live in Brooklyn, but very, very close to Queens, and my husband actually rides a motorcycle. And so we, one night, we're riding. I think it was down Queens Boulevard, but we're riding through Queens to get to the Science Museum. 'Cause the Science Museum, in the summer, has their whole... All the food stalls and the outside, the night market or whatever they call it. And it really felt like riding... And especially that perspective being on the motorcycle when we kept seeing all the different neighborhoods, and you could really see the culture and through the dual-language signs and the stores, the restaurants, and you really felt that sense of community engagement around different cultures, but really embracing people from all over. And then, of course, once you get to the Queens Museum, I would highly recommend it. It's fantastic and you... The food was great.

11:01 AO: Oh, I love food, and definitely, if you wanna try different food and you wanna be in one place, definitely I would recommend Queens.

11:08 KW: Yeah, it's great. So when you started, probably not when you were an intern in the Visitor Center, but when you started working full-time for the Queens Economic Development Center, did you have a career path in mind? I know you said you went to school for accounting. Was it clear that you would end up where you are today?

11:29 AO: To be quite honest, no, but I did love entrepreneurship. I love business. The business side, it's very... I feel like very attracted to that nature and also because I'm also immigrant, and I see a lot of people that come to this country. And the first thing is either they wanna start a restaurant, or they wanna do something in construction, and I feel very motivated in terms of helping the community before becoming the Women's Business Center Director. As part of the Visitor Center when I transferred over and before being hired at the Women's Business Center, I was in charge of a program that is a prime investment for micro-entrepreneurs.

12:13 Announcer: So I did work a lot with the immigrant population that they come in, they don't have many resources available as somebody that would live here. They don't have no credit score, they don't have... They don't know the language which is very tough in order for you to go by the rules and the regulations that entails to be an entrepreneur here. So it was... I fell in love with my community. I fell in love with the passion that they have. When I was Ecuador, my grandparents from both sides, they were entrepreneurs themselves. So, I grew up there and I saw from little how the hard work that entails to become entrepreneur and then coming here. We all come in here, immigrated with big dreams, and I see that through the community. So it was something that I fell in love with the community as well. I was pursuing my career path in something that I love to do.

13:17 KW: So I really appreciate how you were talking about entrepreneurship and providing examples like starting a restaurant or a dry cleaner or making food. Today, the term entrepreneur, I think, is so multi-faceted. And oftentimes, when we hear it, we're thinking shark tank and unicorns and multi-billion dollar IPOs.

13:40 AO: Yes.

13:40 KW: And the reality is that the majority of entrepreneurs are small business owners who are pursuing something they're passionate about as a means to supporting themselves, their family, and having an impact on their community. So thank you for the work you do supporting that community because it's so crucial, I think, to the places in which we live and to supporting that type of opportunity for others. In your role as the director of the Women's Entrepreneurship Center, what exactly does that entail?

14:16 AO: So, the Women's Business Center, it's a program from the Small Business Administration, so that's a federal program. And the way they serve is basically they subcontract not-for-profit organizations to help, to actually be the person who does that one-on-one counseling session with entrepreneurs, the one that does the workshops, the specialized workshops, to become an entrepreneur. So, actually, we are the ones who actually work hand-in-hand with the clients. So the Women's Business Center was created to help women entrepreneur because we have seen that men typically will have the opportunity to get the jobs or become entrepreneur, and we used to be the ones that would stay at home and take care of our childrens and not pursue what we intended to pursue or what we love to do.

15:10 AO: So this movement started about 30, 35 years ago, and they have these centers across the country that you can get assistance for free. You don't have to pay anything. There's a lot of resources available out there besides the Women's Business Center. There is something other chapters, there is called Score, the small business development centers, and there are other types of programs that are available for everyone to start their own business, and they are free. You don't have to pay anything. There are lots and lots of resources available.

15:45 KW: So through the Small Business Administration, which is a federal agency, there's multiple resources on a regional level, and you're talking about one which is in Queens, which is great. But for our listeners, important to know how many resources are out there through your communities, states, the federal government coming through the SBA. If there were three things you could say, "I really wish entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs knew these three things," what would that be?

16:15 AO: The first one is commitment. There's a lot of commitments. I think we have a lot of misconception out there that we see like in Instagram, social media, Facebook, that say, "Become Your Own Boss, Be Your Own... Become an entrepreneur," and they make it seem so simple. But in reality, it's hard work. It's a lot of sacrifices that you have to meet, that you have to make throughout your life, with your family, with your free time, with your friends, and it's about being committed to the business from start until it takes off. There's a big misconception that people are thinking, "Okay, when I'm gonna cash out?" Thinking that it's something that you're gonna do for a little while and that's it. And then I'm gonna become rich. I'm gonna travel the world with the money I'm gonna make. It's a huge misconception instead of thinking that this is your lifestyle, that you have to work 24/7. This is not something that you clock in after 5 o'clock. This is something that you continually working overtime during the weekends. Even if you are commitments with friends and families, you still have to take those phone calls. So I think definitely be committed to become entrepreneur and what entails to become entrepreneur. It's one of the... I think one of the realizations that the person would have to make prior to become a... To see if that's something that fits for them.

17:51 AO: The second one, I think, it's ask for help. As women, we tend not to ask for help, and that's something that is well-known that actually men are more... They outreach more to another man to help each other, but women, we feel very intimidated. We feel that all the women are, they're not gonna help us. But I think if you ask for help, there is tons of resources that I mentioned throughout the Small Business Administration. And then especially in New York City and new York state, they have so many programs at so many levels that they can help you to start your business. And I think that's the biggest secret. And I think one of the biggest tools that you can use in order to start your own business and be successful. Because as entrepreneur, you might know the skill, the craft that you're doing, but you don't know how to manage the business. You don't know how to do your accounting for your business. You don't know how to file your taxes in the end of the year. Or you don't know how to manage or, in the sense of, advertise your business.

18:56 AO: These resources will help you maybe for you to have the means to hire somebody. There are workshops for you in order to learn how to do it, at least bootstrapping at the beginning, until you are able to leverage your business and hire somebody that specialize in that particular area. But at the beginning, there is a lot of resources for you, at least to get you off the ground and start your business. So definitely ask for help. And also be confident. Sometimes, we... As women we lack of confidence and thinking even when we go out to job interviews, it's well-known that if a person, if a man is knows 60% of the job, they will go after it. If the woman knows 60%, they will not attempt to go after it. So men are more confident. And I think women has to develop that confidence within and know that we're able to go across and see what we're capable of because through all the challenges we wouldn't know what we're capable of doing, and we might be surprised of who we are or where we become.

20:09 KW: Thank you for that. There's a lot of commentary around the lack of funding for women, and we know specifically that pertains to VC or private equity... I've discussed in the podcast in the past, I'm an angel investor in women-led social enterprises. So really trying to disrupt that angel round, which is kind of that friends and family-type round. But through the SBA and local institutions like yours, there's many avenues to funding. And could you talk just quickly about what some of that is. 'Cause I wanna make sure that our listeners know that there's many ways to get to that support that you need if it's a loan or grant, banks, whatever that may be.

20:55 AO: Sure. There are different types of lending. The most traditional one that most of you know is through banking. But once you start your business, there is a very tough situation because you don't have no financial situation or financial statements to prove in order for you to get a loan. So your ways are either going through competitions, like the Queens Economic Development Corporation, we host an annual Startup Business Plan competition that you can win $10,000 for your business. We do in three categories. So throughout New York City there, I know there are competitions that you can win seed money for your business. That's one way. You have to compete and win in order to get the funding. The other way is through crowd-funding, this is a relative new. Crowd-funding is basically a platform where you can promote your business and sort of campaign for your business to open up the doors. They lend up to $10,000 with zero percent interest. And basically you would have to campaign for your business and basically you would have to promote and campaign for your business, and that's how you can get money.

22:15 AO: Other ways is through market lenders. Of course, they will have a little be high interest rates as a regular bank might have from seven to 12% depending on what you're looking for, but that they will lend to startups. So those are the three main ways in order for you as a start-up to look for financing. And as well, if you're looking for in construction, there are different ways that you can get through the SBA. They guarantee loans, especially if you're in contracting, federal contracting, they can actually assist you with that.

22:54 KW: And that's part of that is also, if you are a woman-owned business, minority-owned business, there's ways to be certified as such. You go through a process of due diligence process, and that also can help with some of those government contracts. Because many agencies including New York City are making clear commitments to directing their budgets towards women-owned business, minority-owned businesses, and others in the community to really support that development.

23:28 AO: Correct. For those in the New York City and New York State, you have to be in business for one year, meaning that your business has to register. So that will be the first, registering have some contracts because that's how they're gonna be measure you depending on what's your leverage. So when you seek for contracts, they will know what can you deliver. The federal government, they also have a certification for women. So then definitely for that it's, of course, it's a bigger contracts, so it has to be two years in business for those, so... But I think there's tons of opportunity even to have that certification. It's a great impact, and somebody that even if it's not in the public sector, maybe in the private sector, that relates to the women's entrepreneurship actually can help you with, just to have that on the side. It would be very helpful.

24:24 KW: Sure. There's a lot of supplier diversity initiatives within companies as they're looking at their supply chain and contractors and outside vendors that they, oftentimes, wanna ensure that they're representative of diverse populations. So you're the youngest ever Director of the Women's Business Center? Congrats.

24:47 AO: Thank you.

24:47 KW: That's pretty cool. And I love hearing stories like that because, sometimes, career paths can seem like this ladder that goes into the clouds, and there's just like no end in sight. But there's so much that we can do, work hard, find something you're passionate about. How has this experience been for you, first off? Was it intimidating? How did you overcome any of that? And then, what's next for you?

25:21 AO: So I became a director when I was 24 years old. I was recently received my Bachelor Degree in Accounting, and the former WBC Director actually resigned, so that was something that I needed to jump in. There was a job opportunity and a lot of the staff were very supportive. They told me that if I need any help, they were able to help me. So during my first two years, I did reach out to my co-workers that they had been there for years, and to help me with anything I needed. For example, before becoming the director, I had to train two counsel clients to do workshops, but the grant aspect was very new to me. So then definitely my co-workers has been working with all the grants and help me. So I think the company that I work was a very, very supported and has helped me to be calm and to be where I am right now, so I'm very grateful. But I think one of the takeaways is that a lot of people have the misconception that not-for-profits are not a good position to be. But I think throughout my career path, they were very, very supportive.

26:49 AO: When I was working part-time at the Visitor Center or the Prime program before the WBC, I was able to take time off if I needed to have exams. Or if I was able to get trained in different topics of entrepreneurship, they were willing to help me out and to get through those workshops and training programs. So there was a lot of help, and I'm very grateful for that. That that's something that it helped me through my career path, and now that I'm at Women's Business Center for four years now, I'm thinking of definitely have my MBA especially a concentration in accounting since I already have a Bachelors in Accounting and further my education, and as well as help any clients that might come across and they need that expertise. Since I see a lot of clients, especially that they come in and they always complain that their accountant did something, they did this, and you think about it if... An accountant is somebody that actually you will need throughout your life.

27:58 KW: Sure.

27:58 AO: Your entire business, and that's something that is needed. If it's something messed up then you would have problems with the IRS and the state and you don't want to mess with them. That's something that you wanna make sure you have everything accordingly. Without having that then definitely you would have... You will be struggling and have the IRS coming in and doing audits and different things, so definitely an accountant is somebody that it will need to be your best friend while you're becoming an entrepreneur. So I think that's very, very helpful for clients and anybody that is looking to start a business, definitely you need to have a very, very good accountant that knows what he's doing and not just the people that says, "Oh, I can make sure that I'm gonna give you a great tax break," or something like that. And when it comes down to doing audit, they don't have the paperwork to support. So they have to repay back everything that they wasn't allowed to deduct. So...

29:05 KW: Yeah. I recently had the honor of speaking at a WENYC event, as Women Entrepreneurs NYC, and it was about the importance of networking. And I would love to hear your thoughts on the importance of networking particularly for women entrepreneurs.

29:22 AO: Great. I think networking is key for everything to build up relationships with other business owners that we can help each other as well as other resources that we will know through other female entrepreneurs. And particular in the Women's Business Center, we highlight one of the programs that we have. It's a Woman's Power Networking Breakfast that we do once a month, and the whole mission is to have some time to network with clients. And what I've seen that clients build that confidence through the stories and the struggle, and somebody comes in and say, "I don't think I'm gonna be able to do this. I'm already thinking about quitting." But then somebody else comes with a very inspiring story. And you will feel empowered to actually go back and do it again, and hopefully you will be able to build up that confidence that you need to get you through. So I think networking is very important. And once again, be confident when you network. And make sure you have your 30-minute pitch. That is very important. And people have to know what you do right away. And first impression as well. Make sure that you dress up. Dress for success. So make sure you represent your business while you network. I think those are the key things I will definitely recommend for anybody.

30:53 KW: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for joining us here today.

30:57 Announcer: Thank you.

30:57 Announcer: It was really great to talk to you and to meet you. Now, I cannot wait to go to Queens and have some of the great food and meet some of the wonderful people.

31:03 AO: Great.

31:04 KW: Be a patron of some of the great businesses in Queens.

31:08 AO: That's good.

31:09 KW: Well, thank you.

31:10 AO: Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me.

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