I first met Ana Flores by phone. Referred to me by a friend when I was writing my first book, Raising Bilingual Children, Ana was already an author herself. Her book Bilingual is Better had been published a few years before and a mutual friend knew Ana and I shared the same passion about language and culture and imagined it would be perfect to include her story in my book. Gracious, friendly and completely willing to help me in any way she could, the founder of Latina Bloggers Connect was indeed a wealth of information. Her knowledge and experience in the subject of raising children with two or more languages proved invaluable and I was honored to include her story in my book. Ana was born in Houston and raised bilingual and bicultural in El Salvador. She’s now raising her daughter with two languages and two cultures.
Ana is an experienced content creator for the US Hispanics and Latin America markets as a producer for Spanish language networks, and has been recognized by the Holmes Report among their 2015 Innovator 25. A fierce advocate of Latina women’s positive image and gender diversity, she spoke at the White House twice this year, including at the United State of Women Summit.
Fast forward to three years later. I now know Ana personally and am lucky to call her my friend. The more I see her and the more I know of her and what she is doing for Latinas, the more impressed I become—by her work ethic and her commitment, her loyalty and her kindness to others. Smart, poised, confident, really a visionary, Ana is now heading the ever-growing Latina organization (read empire), #WeAllGrow Latina Network, the first and largest network of digital Latina influencers in the United States. I caught up with Ana right after their latest conference, #WeAllGrowFAMILIA, a one-day event for Millennial social media influencer mom entrepreneurs.
HipLatina: You founded Latina Bloggers Connect almost eight years ago. Tell us about the evolution to #WeAllGrow Latina Network. What is your vision?
Ana Flores: From the beginning, the idea was always to bring the Latina community together, to empower them, to provide the tools and resources they needed as social media influencers. Many of these women were just beginning to blog and had something to say, as moms, as entrepreneurs, even as consumers themselves. We saw how companies were taking notice and we saw an opportunity to match up content with brands. As the years went by, we saw the need to create events where the brands and the influencers could meet face to face. That’s how the summit started. First in LA and then the smaller events in NY and Miami, all of which were very successful. Both the number of influencers and number of companies wanting to collaborate were increasing. It just made sense to combine both the bloggers and the events into one big umbrella, thus, #WeAllGrow Latina Network.
HL: Your mantra, #WeAllGrow, has become THE buzzword for all women in social media, not only Latinas. Do you really believe women can empower one another without feeling threatened?
AF: I want to believe it! I choose to surround myself with women who support me and whom I support. If you believe in the positive message of helping each other, you will attract that same energy!
HL: Next March will be the Third Annual #WeAllGrow Summit conference in LA. This year you hosted #WeAllGrow in Miami and there was a smaller event in NY. Are you planning on taking the Summit on the road?
AF: No, our big Summit will always stay in California. We want people to have an excuse to come to LA! Like we did in NY and Miami, we will still do one smaller event in a major city every year.
HL: Recently you hosted the first #WeAllGrowFAMILIA. How did that come about? What was the goal behind an event for Millennial digital mom influencers?
AF: To be honest, we realized that within social media, there is a big young Latina millennial population that is a new mom or is going to be a mom. Remember, 1 of 4 children is Latino! There is a big number of Latina millennial moms creating content that reaches this population. They are also looking to establish themselves as influencers, as entrepreneurs, and they need help with that transition. Beauty bloggers are now beauty mommy bloggers or mommy lifestyle bloggers and more than ever, brands are noticing and are excited to get involved with this group. It just made sense to create an event for them.
HL: What were some of the topics that were covered in this event? Were most of the ladies in attendance mom bloggers?
AF: Every event we plan covers a wide range of topics. We try to be mindful of the communities we serve and try to come up with topics that cater to all the businesses involved, whether they are parenting, beauty, travel, or lifestyle focused. At the #WeAllGrowFAMILIA event, we had panel discussions on parenting and entrepreneurs: parenting to keep the culture alive, motherhood redefined, which discussed how bloggers can incorporate parenting content without losing their readers, the social power of the Latina mom, and Latina YouTube moms and how they have added the family aspect to their channels. There was also a panel with book editors, where they discussed what they look for in a story, how they create content, and how they can collaborate with this group.
HL: Camila Alves, co-founder of Yummy Spoonfuls, was among your speakers. What was the most important piece of information that she shared with the audience?
AF: We were very excited that both she and her partner Agatha were both there and their company was one of the co-sponsors. It was very interesting to hear how they found each other and how the similarity of their upbringings and how that has influenced the direction of their company. Both Camila and Agatha grew up in farms, with fresh food all around them. Yummy Spoonfuls is about fresh, natural foods, no preservatives, kind of farm to table concept.
They also shared their challenges of being moms and entrepreneurs and that was so helpful to all the moms—especially to see how hands on they are. They were there all day just like the rest of us, and that was incredible.
HL: Are you going to take #WeAllGrowFAMILIA on the road?
AF: No, it will stay in Southern California. We have established an amazing relationship with our main sponsor, Munchkin. They want to continue being our host. It just makes sense for us to stay here.
HL: It seems like social media has contributed to an increase in mom entrepreneurs. Do you agree? And if so, why do you think that is?
AF: Absolutely! 100%! It’s not only the power of blogging—all digital forms have contributed. With blogging, at least with mom bloggers, we found a vehicle to share our stories and stay-at-home moms found that they could make some extra income by working with brands interested in what they had to say. In my case, I was able to start my own business in the middle of the recession and realized this was going to be something big.
HL: We #AllGrowLatina Network has partnered with many women centered organizations like Moms Rising/Mamás con Poder and the PrincessWarrior movement to educate and motivate women to use their voices. Do you believe that by doing this, there is more impact in the messages that are being directed to the Latina women?
AF: Yes, Yes! We each have our own particular brand and our own followers or members, but when we stand together for a particular cause, we are more powerful and what we stand for receives much needed validation. That is what happened with Mamás con Poder and their #Latinas Votan campaign and with the #PrincessWarriors movement. Both messages were dear to our hearts and we needed to get involved and play an active role. Of course we can’t partner with everyone, but we look for organizations making a difference for our Latino community and that are helpful and supportive of influencers.
HL: What is the one word that describes you best?
AF: Puente, Bridge. I am passionate about connecting people and ideas.
HL: Who inspires you?
AF: My daughter for sure, she is my motivation for everything. But there are many women in my life who inspire me. My friends. Women who have shared their stories of survival. Women who have shared how they have not given up. They all inspire me. There are moments when I feel overwhelmed and when I need to re-program. In those moments I turn to Marie Forleo. Her videos are amazing and they tend to help me get back on track.
HL: Where do you see #WeAllGrow Latina Network in 10 years?
AF: Ahh, that is hard to predict. Eight years ago I would have never imagined where #WeAll Grow Latina Network is today—it is so hard to predict. Social media and the landscape of women is changing every day. I would hope we continue being a driving community. We are here because they are here. And I hope we can stay creative and nimble and able to adapt to any change. That’s how we all grow.