Research eyes women-ran microenterprises on border

Professor looking for ways to enhance success of tiny colonias businesses

A Texas A&M urban planning professor is focusing her attention on enterprising low-income women along the U.S./Mexico border in hopes of finding ways to enhance the success of their tiny businesses.

Aided by an Urban Scholars Postdoctoral Fellowship from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Cecilia Giusti, a visiting assistant professor in A&Mís Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, plans to determine the economic impact these small-time women entrepreneurs have on the colonias communities were they operate.

Colonias are the small rural, underdeveloped communities that exist along the U.S. side of the border. In Texas alone, there are more than 1,500 colonias, with nearly 500,000 residents.

Based on her previous research in the colonias, Giusti believes there is a clear disconnect between the services offered by organizations such as the Small Business Administration and the needs of these tiny, low-income businesses. She hopes that the results of her research will lead to strategies for the effective use of federal funds to support such enterprises.

In 2001, under the auspices of the A&Mís Center for Housing and Urban Development, Giusti taught micro-business strategies to colonias residents. It was then that she discovered many women eager to open businesses but lacking know-how and confidence. The women, she said, were considerably more reluctant than the men to take risks.

ďIn the colonias environment, women tend to have less self-esteem than men in general,Ē she said, ďand they are less courageous in that they feel that there are more obstacles in their way.Ē

These observations, plus a growing body of research identifying barriers to womenís entry into business formed the impetus for Giustiís research fellowship proposal.

To conduct her research, the professor will turn to CHUDís promotoras for help conducting surveys and interviews among the colonias residents. Promotoras are colonias residents who are recruited and trained to carry important information about health care, skill development and community resources, back to their neighbors.

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