If you’re interested in being an entrepreneur, you’ll want to pay attention to Diana Anzaldua and her work in social entrepreneurship . Whether it’s founding the Austin Trauma Therapy Center, her important work with the Latina Entrepreneurship Academy or her most recent adventure AYUDA—a social media solution connecting Latinos in Austin for errands to help promote social distancing in the age of COVID—Diana’s work as a social entrepreneur has made a huge positive impact on her community.
Most recently, Diana joined the Latina Entrepreneur Academy weekend event to share her insights about creating a business, financial literacy, and personal growth through entrepreneurship.
But did you know that Diana was an employee of Southwest Key Programs back when we only had a few dozen employees? Even after she left Southwest Key to pursue her passions, she was able to watch the organization grow alongside her.
Thanks to the LEA event, we were able to sit down with Diana to talk about a few life lessons she learned while working at Southwest Key and in the time since she left.
1. Follow Your Passion
Diana faced a lot of challenges as a teenage mother. Understanding motherhood from a new perspective at a young age made her think about the impact that she wanted to have on her family.
“I think my children motivated me to want to be a good parent for them, to give them a better life and better opportunity than I had. I grew up poor, enough that we didn’t eat sometimes, and I wanted a better life for them.”
That motivation would empower her for years to come, helping her discover the value of financial literacy and entrepreneurship that she would later teach to members of her community.
After dropping out of high school and moving to a new home for her young family, Diana finally had the chance to search for work she really cared about. She saw the flaws in the justice system firsthand through her siblings, who struggled with the school-to-prison pipeline that has haunted marginalized Americans for years. And as a trauma survivor herself, she wanted to find work that was impactful for others like her.
Ultimately, that led her to Southwest Key. At the time, the organization’s sole focus was Youth Justice programs with just 40 employees, which helped ignite a new passion for Diana. “Being involved so early on in Southwest Key’s mission was very impactful for me,” she said.
2. Surround Yourself with Passionate People
Diana cites her work at Southwest Key as one of the reasons she decided to pursue education again. “Southwest Key saved me. It put me in an environment where people motivated me and encouraged me. In my family, education wasn’t considered important. That [encouragement] was really helpful for me.”
While she didn’t find the work itself all that compelling. “Back then, I just filed papers,” she said. But the company she kept while filing those papers helped her find a new perspective on the value of education. She decided in her early twenties that it was the right time to finish her GED by working day shifts and going to school at night. “Southwest Key employs so many great people and being surrounded by them made me feel driven.”
3. There’s No Substitute for Hard Work
Diana spent 13 years working for Southwest Key, first finishing her GED, then quickly earning an Associate’s in Psychology from Austin Community College, then a Bachelor’s from St. Edward’s University, then completed a graduate program at University of Texas for social work. Since then, she’s founded Austin Trauma Therapy Center to work with adults and children who come from similar backgrounds. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing after completing her education.
“I’ve been trying to de-stigmatize therapy and break down barriers in our community. There are still people who don’t trust therapy. In the past, social workers and therapists were seen as aligned with the state.``
“They would be blamed for separating families or causing problems, instead of facilitating healing,” she said. “Some even still believe that mental health as a topic is taboo and simply shouldn’t be talked about.”
But it’s work worth pushing for, according to Diana. “I think about my clients of color who have similar experiences that take them down a dark path. It can be really hard for some people. I’m hopeful for change, though, especially with recent movements like Black Lives Matter.”
4. Start Conversations That Matter to You
From an early age, Diana has been very focused on financial literacy and entrepreneurship. “I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life, looking for ways to support myself and save money,” she said. Even her father called her money conscious when she was a child. “Financial security is very important, I wish it wasn’t, but it is your access, your privilege here in this country.”
And she wants to de-stigmatize more than just therapy, but the frank discussion of money and income as well. “I always try to save money where I can, find ways to bring in more revenue…That’s what excites me about the Latina Entrepreneurship Academy. I’m hoping to inspire people, young women especially, to make money. It’s important and unfortunate. We want to get people out of poverty and into a better quality of life.”
Entrepreneurship is about so much more than starting a business. It’s about deciding the impact that you want to have on the world and pursuing that path with conviction and determination. Thanks to Diana’s example, we know there’s no substitute for hard work, but we can all build each other up to create the change we want to see in the world.
Interested in more tips and lessons on entrepreneurship? Sign up for announcements and updates about events from the Latina Entrepreneurship Academy.
Want to help make an impact in your community through your career? Visit our Careers page for current job openings and more information.