Q & A With Eva Longoria, Actress, Philanthropist & Restaurateur:

You testified in the Senate yesterday in favor of Minority Owned Business Owners. How does a former desperate housewife end up on the Senate floor?
Eva: I'm very literate on the subject of minority women entrepreneurs. It's a segment of my life that I'm very familiar with and [something] my foundation supports as well. So ... it went really well.
What could be done to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem for minority women from the government side?
Eva: There are public/private partnerships that need to happen. But from the public side, there are institutional barriers for minority women. Whether you're Black, Asian, Latina ... what happens is there's still a lot of loan discrimination and ... unfair rates given to certain women. Two things that [need to] happen for minority businesses are they need access to capital and technical assistance. Those are two things that the Small Business Association can help with through their women business centers. They're all across the country and have proven to be effective as a resource for women and minority women who want to start businesses. For the technical assistance alone; how to make the business plan; financial literacy; how to comply with taxes; how to keep up with your financial records; how to grow your business. All that is an invaluable lesson.
What's your foundation doing to make an impact in this regard?
Eva: There's a capacity issue with how much the government can help -- so they're not the sole answer. But they're definitely leading by example. So what happens is ... I'm able to help with that overflow through my foundation. I have the Buffett/Longoria micro-loan initiative, which is really emulating what the public sector has already done in providing access to capital and financial literacy programs. So when a Latina, which is specifically what my foundation is focusing on, wants to open a new business, she can come to the Eva Longoria Foundation if she meets the requirements [and] access capital ... but only once she has financial counseling with a financial counselor [and] takes the courses that are required. The point is wanting to set these women up for success. And we can do that by making sure they have the proper education.
What could Latinas be doing to help themselves find greater success in the small business sector?
Eva: The number one thing is education. Get a degree that is relevant to the job market. "Communications degrees" and "PR degrees", those aren't the jobs that need to be filled right now. Really look at society and see where the jobs need to be filled. At the same time, invest in your education; invest in yourself. A lot of times, people can't afford college. But there are forms of education and resources available for you to do it ... Also, there's a huge benefit to mentorship. So those who are successful need to take younger generations under their wings and show them the ways. I think we have that responsibility to our community to be able to do that.
What areas of Latina-owned business do you hope will achieve the biggest growth spurt in the next 5-10 years?
Eva: I'd love to achieve a growth spurt in the STEM field -- anything with science, technology, engineering and math. You see a lot of women opening businesses in the health IT field. There's a lot in the research field, which is really important to our community -- the Latino community -- because diversity spurs innovation. And so when it comes to research or medical research in particular, we'll have a woman that wants to research diabetes in the Latino community ... or health disparities within the Latino community. We have to have that woman who's educated in those fields to bring a different perspective to research.
I know you've been involved with a couple documentaries of late involving U.S. farm workers being held in bondage as modern-day slaves. Is this problem much worse than anybody realizes?
Eva: Yeah, and I think it's much worse because it's in America. We have some of the strictest labor laws when it comes to products such as t-shirts, iPhones and shoes. We won't buy anything or import or export anything that was made with child labor. Which is a good law, but when it comes to agriculture, agriculture is excluded from those protections in the United States. We are allowed to have children in the fields. We are allowed to exploit this labor force of immigrants. They are not protected. And so the documentaries I do, whether it's 'Harvest' about farm workers or the 'Food Chain', which is the new documentary coming out, both of them are used for awareness and hopefully political tools to change public policy around protection for these workers.
Based on what you've learned through your work with PADRES Contra El Cancer, what's the one message that needs to get out to better help these cancer-stricken kids?
Eva: I think the biggest message is that Latinos in Los Angeles have the highest death rate of children with cancer. And it has nothing to do with their ethnicity or race; it has to do with the culture. It has do with the fact that there are financial barriers, insurance barriers ... [and] they don't catch it soon enough. Some of those things are totally preventable. This is why we raise funds to try to open up clinics and make sure the emergency room isn't their first go-to place when they have a cold or when something's wrong. We want to make sure kids are getting regular check-ups. So raising funds and awareness for PADRES has been life-saving for some of these families.
You've been doing a ton of philanthropy the last few years. What's the process of setting up all these non-profits been like for you?
Eva: It's so funny you ask that because it is a process ... and I've learned the hard way. I started a 501(c)(3), which is a charity, and then realized 'oh, okay, charities need money -- foundations give money. Wait there's a difference' ... It is a learning process. Your political activism has to be separated from any philanthropic activism. And your philanthropic giving has to be compliant with your mission. So it is very, very important in philanthropy that you are transparent, not only with your funds and fundraising, but with your goals. This is where the money is going; this is what I'm supporting; and this is the impact it's having. There's a high amount of accountability involved in the back office of it, but totally worth it when you're doing good in the world.


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