Cox Communications, along with the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Azteca America Phoenix, Prensa Hispana and Urbana Magazine, recognized two Phoenix business owners as the Latina Entrepreneurs of the Year.
Sandra Flores opened Azukar Coffee, the first locally-owned coffee shop in South Phoenix, in 2017. Rosie Magaña opened Palabras Bilingual Bookstore on Grand Avenue in 2015 and moved the shop to its current location on McDowell Road in 2017.
Flores said she was “humbled and honored” to be recognized.
“That’s what I was after is for my community to have recognition,” Flores said. “So it’s really not me but my community that’s being recognized, and I really appreciate that.”
Magaña said she almost didn’t believe it when she got the news about the award. “But no, it was real, and I was so excited about it,” she said.
This is the sixth year that Cox Communications is honoring “outstanding” Latina entrepreneurs in the Valley, and Flores and Magaña’s “talent and leadership are perfect examples of the ever growing women-owned businesses here in Arizona,” according to a press release.
Latinas own more than one million businesses in the U.S., and one in 10 of all women-owned firms in the country is owned by a Latina, according to a 2015 White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics study.
“Me and my husband were both born and raised in South Phoenix,” Flores said. “It’s a really special place for us because we have a lot of history and generations here.”
Flores said she cares a great deal about the city’s growth and its future. Azukar Coffee is meant to give South Phoenix a much-needed sense of community, she said.
“We felt that it deserves a special place, and we decided to do coffee because we felt it was something that could bring people together and that was welcoming for everyone,” Flores said. Coffee is multicultural and appeals to many different types of people, she said.
“As we transition into our second year, our community has been really accepting of our concept and has been really supportive,” Flores said.
Magaña said she has had similar success with Palabras Bilingual Bookstore. She grew up in Tempe speaking Spanish at home with her parents, who were originally from Mexico.
“I’m first generation,” Magaña said. “I experienced it — my parents struggling to learn the language and to have jobs and everything, and a totally new environment with a new language.”
Magaña was inspired by a traveling art installation called ‘Librería Donceles’ — a bilingual bookstore — to create a community-based business that could bring people together, she said.
“It made the statement it intended to make, which is, ‘why doesn’t this place have a Spanish language bookstore? You have so many Spanish speakers here,’” Magaña said. “So I decided that I was going to create a bilingual bookstore, and that’s kind of the way it all started.”
Magaña said the community has been receptive to her business, and she hosts open mic nights and other events intended to give a voice to people of color. Palabras also features a gallery in the back of the store with paintings created by her business partner, local artist Jeff Slim.
“It wasn’t just about the Latino community, it wasn’t just about Spanish speakers, but it was about culture and the fact that many of us don’t get to see our faces in the stories that are told in the books we read growing up in school,” Magaña said.
Magaña said she hopes there can be more spaces like hers throughout the country that focus on inclusivity and community growth.
“We need to invest in our communities,” she said.