Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dahlma Llanos Figueroa > www.llanosfigueroa.com

Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, Author, Daughters of the Stone

What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
I believe you need absolute faith in your product, a hard-core tenacity and a willingness to sacrifice your comfort zone to adopt new and different ways of thinking.

What did inspire you to start your business?
I’m a writer and I felt that the people in charge of promoting and marketing my work didn’t have enough faith in it. Since my novel, Daughters of the Stone, has gotten excellent critical reviews and equally enthusiastic responses from readers, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I refuse to let my book die out of lack of enthusiasm or forward thinking in some quarters. I knew that there were other ways, better ways of marketing in some communities than the established norms. Therefore, I decided to promote the book for myself.

How did you finance it?
Unfortunately, I have very limited funds. I have used my personal resources, income, savings and credit. After all, if I don’t believe in myself, who will? But I need to find alternative funding sources that will be less stressful on my personal finances.

Being Hispanic…Does it have any influence on your business?
It absolutely does because the Hispanic experience, specifically the Afro-Hispanic experience, is the core of my literary work. It has been underrepresented, if not ignored in the American literary landscape. Our stories need to be acknowledged, shared, celebrated and passed on.

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
Failure is not an option. When I exhaust all possibilities in one avenue, I seek another. I look for allied alternatives, research and talk to others who have had experience in the same field. I step into the unknown--if not domestic marketing, then overseas, if not traditional, then the more unconventional. One way or the other, I will attain the recognition my work deserves.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
On a practical level, limited funding is always a challenge and a constant concern. But there have been others. I had a difficult time accepting that I had to change my way of thinking. Instead of functioning in a creative/literary mode, I had to begin thinking like a businessperson, something I knew nothing about.

If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
I wish I would have known more about the promotion end of publishing earlier in the game. I lost valuable time that could have given me much more exposure. Right now, I seek to connect with people who can help give my work more exposure. I’m looking to establish mutually beneficial relationships with corporations who are seeking to expand into the Latino marketplace. I need exposure and sales. They need an entrée into our culture. My novel is about the lives of ordinary Latinas who have never been recognized. My Latina readers appreciate being, not only recognized, but also celebrated, by seeing their own stories in print. I think that’s a perfect match.

What was your childhood ambition?
I’ve wanted to write since I was very young. It took me a while to find my voice and a direction. It took living. But I’m here now and I’m ready.

Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire
Jennifer Barlcaly (Blue Fish Clothing), Lisa Price (Carol’s Daughter), the late Anita Roddick (The Body Shop) and Tabra (Tabra Jewelry). I truly admire women entrepreneurs who were moved by a creative passion that later became a lucrative business. But their focus was their creative passion. Then out of necessity or social consciousness, they marketed their product. But, in each case, passion came first. Profit came later.

For business meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
I’m a morning person and prefer early meetings—breakfast or lunch. But if necessary, I make exceptions.

What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
I’ve postponed taking care of some health issues in order to maximize my promotional plans. In publishing, timing is all. Certain times of the year are best. Striking while the iron’s hot is crucial. On the whole, however, I don’t recommend compromising your health for anything. Luckily for me, my situation is not a critical one.

What is your favorite quote?
I think it was Woody Allen who said that the key to success is showing up on time and prepared. I take that to heart.

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
It’s very difficult. Often, people don’t want to hear a message that challenges their view of reality. But if you keep going and help them see that the unconventional or unknown aren’t as foreign as they might seem, you can often make headway. The important thing is that you never give up if you believe you are right. Generally, people are more alike than they are different.

Biggest mistake made?
My biggest mistake was waiting too long to take matters into my own hands. I left decisions in the hands of “experts” in the field. If you feel that you are not being well served and you think you can do a better job—go for it.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
I’m not an innovator. Many other artists have had to go against the grain and fight for their work. Some musicians have had to leave the country to do so and have only been accepted here after they proven successful elsewhere. Some writers have had to sell their books out of their car trunks. There are designers have had to work in their mothers’ basement or cosmetic artists have had to transform their tiny kitchens into production labs after the kids are asleep. We do what we need to do.

About the Company
My company consists of intangibles--my mind, my imagination, my writing skills, my need to tell stories that haven’t been told. My products are books. My market is anyone who shares in my humanity but especially Latina women who are so underrepresented in our literature. My need is to get my product to the people who need them.

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