Eva Longoria has joined The Venture’s panel of expert judges tasked with dividing the competition’s $1million fund amongst the 27 startups.
The award-winning actress, producer, director, author, and entrepreneur, has been announced as one of the four judges for The Venture alongside the co-founder and director of positivity at LSTN Sound Co, Joe Huff, the Founding Executive Director of the Beeck Center For Social Impact & Innovation, Sonal Shah, and Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, Alexandre Ricard.
Longoria’s breakout role in the television hit series Desperate Housewives made her a household name, yet despite her numerous acting accomplishments, she considers activism and philanthropy to be her real focus. Following the success of The Eva Longoria Foundation, which helps Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship, Longoria has a wealth of invaluable expertise and advice to offer The Venture’s finalists. In addition to her Foundation, she has also executive produced two documentaries exposing the conditions of child farm workers, and recently produced El Voto Hispano, a documentary about the power of the Latino vote in America.
Longoria is looking forward to seeing which of the competition’s 27 extraordinary businesses can best showcase their impact and financial sustainability during the finals in New York, in July.
What made you want to get involved with The Venture?
The Venture is an amazing platform for all of these entrepreneurs to showcase their work and to get the funding that they need to make a difference. I’m excited to hear from all of them. It’s refreshing to see that so many people are invested in making a positive impact through something they are so passionate about.
What will you be looking for in The Venture finalists?
There are many ways in which each entrepreneur can be judged, but I’m very interested in seeing how they explain their demonstrable impact and their financial sustainability. It’s one thing to say you want to change the world, but it’s another to actually make it into reality and have a scale that helps you measure your success. They also, of course, need to be financially sustainable in order to make a profit and stay in business.
Do you think the definition of success is changing culturally around the world? What does success mean to you?
We have participants from all over the world, working to improve the fields of sustainability and energy, as well as technology, access to jobs, and healthcare – all of them have the same goals – to make a profit, that will help them make a difference. And to me, success means making a difference. It means that something I did made a difference for the better in someone’s life, whether it’s by creating more jobs in a poverty stricken community or finding a cure for a life threatening disease. If someone can say that you helped make their lives better, I’d consider that a success.
Do you think businesses should place more focus on solving social issues in modern-day society?
Absolutely. Plenty of businesses around the world make contributions to charities that are trying to solve social issues. There’s no denying that. But, it would be great to take it even further and have more businesses, whose primary focuses are to solve social issues.
What is it that you find particularly inspiring or exciting about social entrepreneurship / business as a force for good?
A business has an end goal of making a profit, while a charity’s end goal is to fight for their cause. These two avenues have been separate for so long, but the most efficient thing to do is to combine them. Many charities rely on contributions – a good portion of them from businesses – in order to succeed. But now we’re seeing a rise in charities that are self-sustaining and don’t need to rely on business contributions, because they are functioning as businesses themselves. It’s definitely exciting to see this happening and be part of a process that is helping them flourish.
How is The Eva Longoria Foundation helping young, female entrepreneurs? Why are you passionate about this area?
Latinas in the United States are a rapidly growing group with tremendous untapped potential. They are the ambitious, hardworking CEOs of their own households. Yet, they disproportionately lack access to critical opportunities and resources to succeed. My Foundation supports Latina entrepreneurs by helping them access the capital, training and information they need to build and grow their own businesses. Since 2013, we have distributed over $1.2 million in microloans to 152 Latina entrepreneurs in California and Texas, creating or retaining more than 397 jobs. Because our microloans are part of a revolving fund, as loans are repaid, the funds become available once again to benefit other Latinas in the community.
Supporting Latina entrepreneurs is a passion of mine. People know me best as an actress, but I am also a Latina entrepreneur. I manage my own production company, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, and I own a restaurant, Beso, in Hollywood. My own experience as an entrepreneur and as a Latina has inspired me to become an advocate for Latina business owners. I want all Latina entrepreneurs to know that there is a way forward, and I want them to have the support they need along the way. Whenever I can, I want to help give others the same opportunities I was given.
How do you measure the social impact of The Eva Longoria Foundation?
The first thing that we did was commission a research study through UCLA’s Civil Rights Project to help us identify the highest potential points of intervention, when it comes to Latina achievement. Our study identified factors that tend to lead to academic success for Latinas – things like parent engagement and exposure to Latina mentors. Since then, we have launched and invested in a series of programs based on these findings, and we have worked with professional researchers to determine how to best evaluate our work. We design tailored evaluation tools, like survey and questionnaires, to evaluate the impact of every Foundation program.
The outcomes of our programs have been encouraging. Our entrepreneurship program is helping Latinas create businesses and jobs; our parent engagement program is linked to higher high school graduation rates; and our STEM education work is increasing the skills, interest and confidence of Latina students in fields like engineering and math. Our work is changing lives and communities.
What are your chief motivations in life and work?
My passion is my philanthropy. I grew up with an older sister with special needs, so I was born into her world. I saw very early on in my life, how different programs benefited my sister and our family. I knew that philanthropy was going to be my life’s work.
Who is your biggest influence?
My sister Liza. She was born with special needs, and she is the light of our family. She’s funny, and honest, and from day one, she has always taught me compassion, which is the reason why I’m so heavily involved with philanthropy.
What is the best advice that has helped you achieve success?
Never stop learning. There is always so much more you can learn, and so much more that you can do with your time. I’m constantly reading the news or researching different topics because I’m so eager to learn and absorb as much information as I can. It’s important to keep learning and to find more efficient ways to do help our communities.
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