During Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) and throughout the year, First Southwest Community Fund (FSWCF) commends the entrepreneurial spirit of the Hispanic and Latinx business owners we have worked with in our communities.

We invest most of our efforts in the rural communities (those with populations under 20,000) in Southern Colorado where unemployment rates are higher than the state average and there is greater diversity. Seven of our rural counties have a Hispanic / Latinx population larger than the statewide average of 17%, and of those seven counties, four have a Hispanic population larger than 40% (two of which are a majority Hispanic).

FSWCF mission is to support the dedicated entrepreneurial spirit of rural Colorado by investing in the people, culture and ideas that fuel innovation and financial knowledge in the communities we serve. This mission has allowed us to connect with and offer support to many of the Hispanic and Latinx business owners who are doing incredible work in our communities, and we are proud and excited to see the results of that work.

One story that has been especially inspiring in the past year is that of Yula Cisneros Montoya. Yula is a Mexican born, U.S. based dance educator, and Pilates instructor. She moved to Alamosa, Colorado in January of 2020 with plans to open a Pilates studio that spring.

Yula was born and raised in Mexico City, and trained and performed ballet in Kiev, Ukraine. She completed her BFA in Dance and Pilates certification at Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, and has over 20 years of experience as a dancer and educator who teaches specialized dance techniques in ballet, modern, African and Afro-Latino dance aesthetics. Pilates has always been a part of her training and she was excited to dedicate more of her efforts to teaching full time.

When COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2020, it derailed her business plans, but Yula continued to look for ways to start her business during the pandemic, and she received a great deal of help through the First Southwest Community Fund.

“In November 2020, I was awarded the Rural Women Led-Business Fund Grant that allowed me to acquire Reformers, a staple piece of equipment that is essential in a Pilates studio.

Then, in the spring of 2021, I attended the Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute – Idea Lab, funded by First Southwest Community Fund (FSWCF), to fine tune my ideas for my new business. I started to feel more confident of my ideas and started to have more concrete plans.

During the Idea Lab, I established my pricing structure and how to offer incentives for clients through discounts and packages. I also created a fun and informative “Elevator Pitch” for my business and was rewarded with a prize from the Rural Women-Led Business Fund of the First Southwest Community Fund. After completion of the Idea Lab, I had enough funds to set up the conditions to give virtual classes.

For the fall of 2021, I am participating in the Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute – Boot Camp, also funded by FSWCF, a prestigious and valuable program in which a business, finance, and an accountability coach assist and support me in my journey of becoming a female entrepreneur.

Already through this program, I have furthered my skills by writing a Business Plan, Cash Flow Statement, and Profit-Loss Statement that will help me apply for a business loan to invest in equipment that is necessary for a Pilates studio. The FSWCF has been a pillar for me to be prepared with the right equipment and business acumen.”

As a Latina in the United States, Yula plans to draw on her heritage and eclectic life experiences to forge her business and to contribute to the San Luis Valley’s potential as a hub for business, tourism, and art.

“We need to understand that we inhabit a land that is simultaneously the United States, the Greater Mexico, and the current and ancestral land of many Native American nations. We must do a better job of honoring these traditions while moving forward into more creative expression and exploration of feeling given a future with many cultural, economic, and environmental uncertainties.

In my work as a dancer and educator, I have been an activist to honor heritage while pushing for greater expression and sensibilities.

Pilates is an extension of this activism to guide people in small classes and private sessions to explore more mindful movement.”

Yula is just one of the many passionate and driven Latina entrepreneurs that we have been proud to support in establishing their businesses and enriching their communities in Southern Colorado.

For more information about the Rural Women-Led Business Fund click here.