Latina Entrepreneur Turns a Crisis Into a New Career Catalyst

A Latina entrepreneur, the owner of Brooklyn Cupcakes demonstrates 8 ways to turn lemons into lemonade


Recently, I hosted a conference for women in transition called SHIFT in Naples, FL.  It was birthed out of the realization that most women if they are smart, can turn what was a negative in their life into a positive. Learning how to make opportunities out of crisis times is something that we all walked away with during this weekend.

The main purpose of the gathering was to help women understand shifts or changes in life although mostly unexpected, can lead to the next best thing you never imagined. So, instead of wallowing in defeat or plotting revenge in some cases, I wanted women to learn how they could rise from the ashes of unexpected change! Crisis could be the very thing that opens doors to something you’ve dreamed about doing but were too comfortable to take the plunge.

Many Latinas have leveraged a crisis to become accidental entrepreneurs. Some examples are Heidi Rasmussen who turned her layoff into a $3 million dollar business and the Latina I want to feature today, Carmen Rodriguez, the CEO of Brooklyn Cupcakes.  When confronted with a lay off in 2009, this fellow Williamsburg, Brooklyn born native turned a baking hobby into a career changing adventure.

In entrepreneurship, one of the biggest hurdles to go forth with a business idea is FEAR. Carmen became an accidental entrepreneur not because the thought of owning a business never crossed her mind but because if it weren’t for her layoff she would have never had the courage to “just do it”. After a retail management career of 20 years she could have decided to stay in the comfort lane and look for another job but it was in the middle of the recession when she got news she wasn’t expecting.

At that moment she says her “I have nothing to lose” philosophy kicked in because “just like many other normal people I didn’t have savings and I lived check to check. I knew I had to do something!” 

Carmen was already baking for people at work and family functions for their celebrations and it was these very people on hearing of her layoff that challenged her to do that instead of seeking employment. But with no savings and no job, how on earth was she going to pull that off? Carmen, who is half Puerto Rican and Italian, was surprised to see how her family and friends stepped up to make the soon to be cupcake empire a reality.

“My mom gave me $40K from her 401k, then my Tia said here you go, then little by little people in my life just supported me in an unbelievable way.”  This was a crucial next step for her since money is another big factor in dreams coming to reality.

“I was told there was minority funds for small businesses but soon learned that wasn’t really available to me and a great politician friend who took me under her wing  introduced me to St. Nick’s Alliance where I was told that banks and venture capitalists wouldn’t fund me because I had no business history, grants would be too slow a turn around to meet my deadline to secure a space so the only option for me was friends and family, thank God they were there. There would be no Brooklyn Cupcake story without them.” 

So with the help of these truly supportive friends and family, she opened up her store to the public in 2010 having taken a year to set her business up for success.

Brooklyn Cupcakes

The Brooklyn Cupcakes Crew Were Guests of Rosanna Scotto Fox 5 and Greg Kelly on Good Day New York Today! 

Today, four years later Brooklyn Cupcakes are a New York cupcake experience, which recently expanded to the The Shops at Atlas Park an open-air lifestyle center located in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens, New York City. Carmen is also a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program and her company was honored in 2012 with Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC Neighborhood Achievement Award as ‘Brooklyn’s Small Business of the Year’.

Have you faced or are you facing a career change like a layoff, firing, etc.

Next- 8 ways to turn a crisis into a small business launching pad

Elizabeth Rios
Elizabeth Rios
Dr. Elizabeth Rios is a strategic visionary and has served her community in NY and FL in various capacities for over 25 years. She has served in high level executive positions in higher education management, nonprofit organizations and small business. She operates a number of online business incentives and founded Passion for Purpose International to help small businesses, nonprofits and schools get started, get funded and get teams going and growing in a healthy organizational culture.  Dr. Rios received her MA in Business Management from Regent University and her Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Rios is the author of Don’t Buy the Lie: Eradicating False Belief Systems that Keep You From Your Destiny.  In addition, to her community work with South Florida women's empowerment organizations and charities including her own faith-based nonprofit, the Passion Center, Dr. Rios sits on many national boards and serves as Contributing Editor or writer for a few national magazines. She is a Boxer lover,mom of two boys, one with special needs and sees her life mission as one to unleash potential, ignite passion and connect people to purpose. Website

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