If raising bilingual kids is a daunting task for any Latina mum in a foreign country, Ana Lilian Flores knows all too well how that feels. Based in the U.S., the former TV producer from El Salvado and her college friend Roxana Alexandra Soto from Lima, Peru, both arrived at the crossroads when they first became mothers.
Spotting a lack of support for Latina mothers struggling to raise kids in the U.S. while retaining their Latino culture, Ana and Roxana started SpanglishBaby (derives from the combination of the words Spanish and English), a community website that contains useful tips, articles and community support for Latina mums. Written by a committed team of writers all of whom are Latina mothers, there are articles on gastronomy, family travel, bilingual education, toys and activities for children and a lot more that will make life convenient, relatable and less lonely for a Latina mum at her fingertips.
Since its birth in 2008, Spanglish Baby is now home to over 70,000 readers, an amazing feat considering height of the recession at that time. We interview Ana on their entrepreneurial trip so far.
When SpanglishBaby was started, was it to be a business venture or just something you do in your free time?
At the time both Roxana, my partner, and myself were new mums who had quit our jobs when we had our kids and then found ourselves affected by the recession. We launched the site mostly out of a passion for the topic, but with hopes that it would one day become profitable. We didn't invest any real money into it, only any time we had available as full-time moms at the time.
It's amazing that SpanglishBaby was started during the recession. How has the journey been so far?
The journey has been much more amazing and fulfilling than we ever imagined. The initial difficulties were trying to figure out how to organically build our traffic and dedicate time to it when we didn't have much of it. Then it was learning how to monetize at a time when the Latina mum blogger market was at its infancy stage. Neither one of us makes a direct income from SpanglishBaby since we reinvest every profit that comes in so we can continue to grow it. That means that both of us have had to find jobs and/or create separate businesses in order to keep SpanglishBaby going.
As a Latin American yourself, was it a challenge growing up in a non-Latin American country while trying to retain your identity?
I was actually born in Houston and moved to El Salvador when I was 6 years old. I moved back to the U.S. when I was 18 and by then my identity was solid as a Latina.
Any cultural challenges that you face as a Latin American mother and business owner in the USA?
I really try to not impose challenges on myself based on my heritage. On the contrary, I've made that an asset and found out - and even carved out - niches where I felt comfortable knowing I'd find a supportive environment. I've always worked within the Hispanic and Latina American media markets and I've focused on shining the brightest light possible in the beauty of our culture.
Left: Roxana A. Soto, co-founder of SpanglishBaby
Right: SpanglishBaby's website (top) & Ana Flores being featured on Hispanic Business 2010 magazine (bottom)
SpanglishBaby was started as a result of a lack of Spanish resources to help Latina mothers trying to raise children in a bilingual culture. Why do you think it took so long before that gap was bridged considering the size of the Latin American community in America?
Good question, but it's tough to have a factual answer. I think the majority of Latina moms have always been transmitting their culture to their kids to the extent they were capable of. For many parents, the issue has been misinformation in the sense that they were told that in order for their children to succeed in the U.S. they must speak English only. What's changed is that now we have amazing communication tools at our disposal and we can go online to learn from each other and then trickle down that information. Never have we been this connected as a community.
How much has SpanglishBaby helped the Latin community since its inception?
We were definitely one of the very first blogs, and even online destinations, focusing directly on the cultural aspect of being a Latina mum. Our book publishers -- Bilingual Readers -- decided to coin this "parenting revolution" on the subtitle of our book "Bilingual is Better. Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America." We're just thrilled to know that even one child is being raised bilingually and learning about his/her own culture and other cultures, thanks to what we and our community shares.
Did you ever intend to do what you are doing now in the first place?
Never. I was trained as a TV producer and I've always been known as a communicator and a connector. My passion for keeping my roots and language alive came once I became a mum.
Any plans for expansion of SpanglishBaby?
We have many plans to take SpanglishBaby on the road and to create local communities. This all requires both Roxana's and my full attention and for that, we would need to have a round of investment. We hope to be able to cross that bridge soon.
What recommendations can you give to a budding entrepreneurial Latina mother?
Know that there are so many free resources for you to learn and grow professionally. Don't be afraid to take that first step because that's exactly what will push you towards fulfillment.
You can visit SpanglishBaby at http://spanglishbaby.com/
Written by Maria Fung