Carol Espinosa never dreamed of owning and operating her own business in America, but the entrepreneurial life found her anyway.
The founder of Freedom Interiors in Kansas City, Missouri, Espinosa was named the 2019 Small Business Administration’s Person of the Year for the state. But her journey to the top of the interior design circuit didn’t always seem clear-cut.
Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Espinosa attended the University of Kansas, where she majored in creative writing. After graduating, she worked in a furniture supply store doing data entry and eventually made her way up the project management chain.
There, Espinosa learned that the U.S. government is required to award a certain number of contracts to women- and minority-owned small businesses each year. She fulfilled those prerequisites, so she decided to start her own workplace design company.
“I got encouragement from other business owners, telling me that I could absolutely do it,” she said. “Eight years later, here we are!”
Now she is one of the millions of Hispanic and Latino-American entrepreneurs who run their own businesses. Espinosa credits a variety of organizations that provided her with mentorship opportunities and vocational training: The Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program connects Kansas City entrepreneurs with established business owners, and the Latino Business Action Network provides educational programs through the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative–Education Scaling program.
“The wonderful thing about the U.S. is the number of resources for entrepreneurs and startups,” she said. “There are lots of people and organizations ready to provide you with coaching and mentorship.”
At the beginning of 2018, there were five employees at Freedom Interiors. Currently, the company consists of 15 people and is on target to reach their 25-25-25 goal: 25 employees, with $25 million yearly revenue, by 2025.
Espinosa’s keys to success? Don’t be afraid of failure and surround yourself with an incredible team of employees.
“Failure is part of the process,” she said. “It’s just another step to get where you’re going.”