Lives in: south Charlotte
Education: bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from California Tech
When Raquel Velez moved to Charlotte from California last year, she joined the fastest growing demographic in the Queen City: Latinos.
But she identifies herself with a group she calls “smart Latinas,” the movers and shakers among professional women.
To help their cause, Velez did what any millennial entrepreneur would do: She turned to the Internet and social networking. Together with her mother, Deborah Aguiar-Velez, she started escuchame.org — Spanish for “listen to me” — a for-profit website that “focuses on breaking stereotypes one Latina at a time” and promotes networking among a minority within a minority.
What made you see the need for Escuchame.org?
Back in 2010, if you Googled “smart Latina” more than half the results were porn. That idea is unfathomable to us as to why that is the general perception. We wanted to create the community of smart Latinas with expertise or something to share.
What do you do for the site?
My title is chief technical officer but when you’re in a startup you do wear a lot of hats. I do functionality for the site, PR, generate videos and blog posts and get other members of the community to contribute.
What needs to change in Charlotte to make it more accessible for Latinos?
The most important thing is for people to step back from the opinion that we’re not from here and we are different. We are all humans with the same basic needs. I speak five languages and have been in that outcast scenario.
How about for smart Latinas specifically?
I’ve started to see things moving forward. I just got into Leadership Charlotte for August as one of four smart Latinas. At the same time, particularly in the technology community, there is a lack of minorities: women, Latinos, etc. People at the top need to look around instead of sticking to their circle of friends. I have to deal with the good ol’ boy network all the time.
Does it bother you that city forms, etc., aren’t multilingual?
I think Spanish or multilingual forms would be useful. The government should be a reflection of its populous. English is the language of the land, but people can’t do that cold turkey.
Is Charlotte what you expected?
Not at all. I was expecting a franchise city, but it has a lot of Southern charm and strangers wave hi to me.
What’s it like working with your mom?
We mesh on a really amazing level. She has 30 years of business experience, and my tech experience meshes well. But she’s my mom, so sometimes I feel exasperated and like a teenager again. But at the end of the day we can do business and then take off those hats and have family time.
Scott Baughman can be reached at [email protected].