Date of Degree

12-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program

Education

Advisor

Sandra Guzman Foster

Advisor

David Campos

Advisor

LuElla D'Amico

Abstract

Research Focus. The U.S. Hispanic population is the second-fastest-growing group followed by Asian Americans (Krogstad & Noe-Bustamante, 2019) and is the largest minority group in the United States (Duffin, 2020). In addition, the population of Latina women in the United States is rapidly growing and is projected to double by 2050 (Martinez-Restrepo & Stengel, 2017). On a microeconomic level, 40% of women in the United States are the primary economic source of income for their families, while on a macroeconomic level, almost 50% of women are in the workforce (DeWolf, 2017). Specifically, Latina women are becoming business owners through entrepreneurial endeavors (Bosse & Taylor, 2012). Therefore, this narrative inquiry study explored the experiences of Latina entrepreneurs in south central Texas since Texas is among the top 10 states with women-owned businesses (American Express Report, 2017).

Research Methods. A narrative inquiry design was most suitable in answering the main research question: How do Latina entrepreneurs describe their experiences of their entrepreneurial careers? Further, a narrative inquiry design allowed the researcher to understand the participants’ experiences which were thoroughly engrained in varying contexts (social, familial, linguistic, and systemic) that largely shaped their narratives (Clandinin, 2013). In addition, the methodology of utilizing testimonio was implemented to gain insight into participants’ personal stories, which brought forth an awareness of the oppressive experiences (Reyes & Rodriguez, 2012) of marginalized individuals and groups (Bernal, Burciaga, & Carmona, 2012).

Research Results/Findings. To understand the participants’ experiences and their perceptions of their entrepreneurial careers, the researcher interviewed five Latina women business owners in south central Texas. The researcher collected data from pre-interview questions, interview observations, in-depth semi-structured interviews, and documents, which revealed Latinas’ perceptions of their journeys as entrepreneurs/business owners. Data analysis was exhaustive and combined reviewing the data with the selected theoretical framework based on push-pull theory related to an entrepreneur’s motives, entrepreneurial self-efficacy theory (Boyd & Vozikis, 1994), and intersectionality theory (Crenshaw, 1989). Also, the researcher applied in vivo (Maxwell, 2013) and narrative codes (Richmond, 2002) while employing the methodology of testimonio to further understand and theorize the experiences of the Latina entrepreneurs (Bernal et al., 2012).

The findings from this narrative inquiry study uncovered that the experiences of the Latina entrepreneurs were multifaceted. Analysis of the data revealed, as expressed by the participants, how instrumental their systems of support were (social capital), the importance of obtaining knowledge and skills (human capital), drawing on various entrepreneurial qualities, overcoming challenges, and capitalizing on diverse business strategies. Participants’ informal and formal networks offered them help with things such as managing domestic duties, staying encouraged, and accessing finances, resources, and information. Some of the human capital skills the participants described were learning how to run their businesses, writing business contracts, obtaining certifications, and completing essential business paperwork. The participants’ human capital capabilities often were influenced by their previous employment experiences, formal and informal methods of training, other experiences, and, at times, some participants discussed the role of education in their lives.

The challenges the participants experienced were unique to each of them, and some obstacles they discussed revolved around balancing an array of responsibilities such as work and family, personal matters, accessing information, competition with other businesses, and business growth. Financial challenges were complex and formed many aspects, especially during the start-up phase. For example, earning income was a topic discussed along with managing the financial aspects of the business (taxes, bookkeeping, service fees). Other challenges that some of the participants described dealt with confronting gender discrimination most often imposed by their male clients.

Testimonios that surfaced depicted hardships some of the participants experienced that related to difficult relationships, health issues, and balancing family and work responsibilities. The numerous challenges all the participants faced, both professionally and personally, shed light on their resiliency in succeeding with their business ventures. Some entrepreneurial qualities that helped the participants maneuver through their personal and business challenges included remaining persistent and positive, working hard, and their faith.

Conclusions from Research. This study contributes significantly to the research on women and minority entrepreneurs and offers insight towards understanding the essence of Latina entrepreneurs’ experiences. Further recommendations can help aspiring or current entrepreneurs as they balance the personal and business challenges of being a business owner. Such guidance entails formulating systems of support (Dawson, Fuller-Love, Sinnott, & O'Gorman, 2011), capitalizing on individual knowledge and skills (Becker, 1964), understanding the role of personality in entrepreneurial intentions and in overcoming obstacles, and developing or enhancing necessary business skills (marketing, managing finances and other operational aspects) (Nieman & Bennet, 2006). Although each Latina entrepreneurs’ narratives were distinct, their storylines connect their experiences of their entrepreneurial careers.

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