PHOENIX – Raquel Solis, 29, always wanted to be her own boss. The desire grew stronger in high school, and in 2018, she signed up for cosmetology school.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Solis was working with her husband in construction. But that wasn’t her passion, and she realized it was time to prioritize her business journey as an eyelash technician. Lash Bottega Salon was born in November 2021.
Solis had to navigate how to run her business all while protecting her family and clients from getting sick amid the pandemic. Now, more than a year later, she’s focusing on how to take her business to the next level.
To guide the future of her eyelash business, Solis – and 11 other existing or aspiring business owners – attended the first 12-week business growth mentorship program put on by ImagiNexGen Institute of Excellence and the Chicanos Por la Causa Prestamos Women’s Business Center.
“The biggest impact this program had on my life and my business was teaching myself and my clients that my time, just like theirs, is to be valued and cherished – setting boundaries and now asking for a deposit before service so that my time is respected,” Solis said.
The free program aims to help women business owners find ways to grow and sustain their businesses and nurture themselves.
Jayashri Sarkar, who has a doctoral degree in chemical engineering and is “passionate about entrepreneurship development,” is the owner of ImaginNexGen Institute of Excellence, which opened in June 2022 to provide services to entrepreneurs, including the mentorship program. The first program ran from December 2022 to March, and Sarkar mentored the women.
She built the program to not only help entrepreneurs grow their businesses but to revive herself after her parents died, “to help myself get out of that trench” of grief and loss of self-identity. Sarkar said that journey included doing a few things for herself, “like reading every day, meditation and prayer.”
One of the main tools used throughout this program is a mentorship guide, which is similar to a journal, but with structured topics and prompts. The guide focuses on education, implementation and accountability.
Solis said the mentorship guide is “like my business bible.” It helped the entrepreneur reevaluate her personal and professional priorities and “relieved me from so much anxiety and helped me manage my work/life balance.”
Since the program ended, Solis said she has seen a 47% increase in customers.
The center Prestamos Women’s Business Center is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration, which covers the costs of the business growth mentorship program, said Veronica Navarro, who is the media relations manager for Chicanos Por La Causa.
The women’s business center provides “counseling, training, business assistance and access to capital for women looking to grow or start their company,” according to its website.
Sarkar is working on setting up the next 12-week mentorship program for the second cohort in the fall. She aims to grow the twice-a-year program to accommodate more participants.
“Seeing the beautiful women go through this cohort and see what they are creating, I think my parents’ legacy will continue to live on through them,” Sarkar said.