In the blink of an eye Emma Llanas sews up a tear in a pair of shorts and in no time it almost looks like it was never there. This skill is something that Emma picked up as a young girl while fixing clothing with her family. Now she hopes to use this talent to launch her own business reports The Brownsville Herald.

The odds may be against her, but a group of community organizers think they can turn her into an entrepreneur.

In May, Llanas and 15 other low-income women living in Hidalgo County colonias received startup grants to help them launch their own home-based businesses.

Part of a program dubbed “Latina Hope,” the awards aim to prove that with a little outside investment, extremely small business ventures can prove successful even in a difficult economy.

“Most of these things start off in some way as a hobby,” said Eduardo Millet, vice president for business development at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “But in a few years, who knows? It could expand from there.”

“A lot of these ladies did some of these things already – seamstress work, home decor, sold items at local flea markets,” said Janie Caballero, an adviser with the UTPA Small Business Development Center. “They just weren’t used to thinking about them in a business sense.”

The trick, she said, was teaching them to stop thinking of their work as a hobby and start approaching it with the zeal of an entrepreneur. It was a transition that didn’t come easy.

Photo by sidewalk flying

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