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Hidden Gems: Meet Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano of BALSA Foundation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano of the BALSA Foundation. She and her team share their story with us below:

The Balsa Foundation was started in 2014 shortly after the shooting of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed in Ferguson. Our founders believe that helping first-time entrepreneurs start and grow their business is an effective way to promote community, equity, and economic growth in our region. We are passionate about providing opportunities to thrive especially to those in our underserved communities. We are a volunteer-run organization of entrepreneurs, scientists, community leaders, and young professionals. The Foundation aims to make entrepreneurship accessible – and success attainable – to everyone.

We are the philanthropic arm of The BALSA Group and serve to fulfill its mission of community service. From The BALSA Group, we obtain significant financial support and the expertise of its members and alumni. We also rely heavily on the expertise of the local industry experts who donate their time and insight to support our work by supporting our winners through out 10 week Learning Series.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
When we started, we had a different model, so we have definitely learned and made changes along the way. For the last six years, we have been successful in supporting small business owners and are always looking to build relationships and engage with presenters and mentors to support the small business owners. Of course, we would love to give out more grants and follow on grants to our winners and for that we are always open to new partnerships. The last year has been a learning experience as we try to find a balance between in person and virtual meetings and support for our participants.

We get a lot of visibility for the small business owners we support, but internally we are also always looking for volunteers, subject matter experts, mentors, judges and ways to better support our entrepreneurs. Our volunteers are an integral part of our organization.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about BALSA Foundation?
Being a part of the BALSA Foundation is like being a part of a family and the small business owners who participate in our programs gain confidence, small business acumen, introductions and connections, as well as support not just while they are in the program, but even after graduation.

We take a holistic approach to helping small business owners because we understand the importance of supporting the individual as well as the business. We also understand that success means something different for each small business and their owners. We are beyond proud of our graduates who continue to amaze us with their accomplishments and successes.

We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
We define success differently for each small business owner. For some, it can be learning to use the technology that we use and feeling confident using it to access the Learning Series. For others, it’s registering their company or even opening a bank account, hiring employees, revenue, winning other grants or access to other learning opportunities. We work to help each small business owners define their own success and support them in the process individually as well as they reach new goals.

Contact Info:

  • Email: gabriela.ramirez.arellano@balsafoundation.org
  • Website: www.balsafoundation.org
  • Instagram: @balsafoundation
  • Facebook: @BALSAFoundation
  • Twitter: @BALSAFoundation

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