As part of Women’s Small Business Month, IHCC is highlighting some of the women-owned businesses that are part of our community of passionate entrepreneurs. Answers have been edited for clarity.
Laritza Lopez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States with her family when she was 12 years old. She grew up in the Little Village area, played trombone in the Kelly High School marching band, and graduated from Loyola University Chicago. After spending the first part of her career working for Fortune 200 companies, Laritza founded Purple Group, a strategic marketing and communications consulting firm.
How did you discover your passion for marketing?
I started my marketing career when I was 16. I had gotten this job working at an auto place that I absolutely hated. It was dirty and I had to work late at night. I started talking with my teachers about my job and my band teacher said his wife ran a non-profit that had their offices in downtown Chicago. He introduced me to his wife and got me an interview, and I started as an intern doing data-entry and other office tasks. Every evening when the other staff left, the marketing team would still be there doing their work and I would go over and talk to them. I eventually asked to be moved to the marketing area, and after asking a couple of times they agreed. I used to write all the copy for trade shows and events, and when I got to college they asked if I could stay with them and I worked there my first year.
What inspired you to take the leap and become an entrepreneur?
After college, I was recruited into a management program with a bank, and it also transformed my life. I got to rotate into different areas of the bank to learn how to analyze business and network. After the program, I went straight into a marketing officer position with that bank and I spent 17 years in corporate. After that, the idea of “What do I want to be doing when I’m 50?” popped into my head, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t doing what I was doing. I resigned and then spent some time backpacking through Latin America. It was then that I decided to start my own company.
How has your business evolved throughout the years and what has been the biggest challenge the organization has overcome?
Fifteen years ago, I started my company as a strategic communications consulting service. We grew with our clients, and have added services as our clients ask for them. We became Purple Group because we saw the demographic shift in America, saw the rise of the multi-ethnic millennial generation. The biggest challenge we have encountered was the recession (in 2008). It was the most difficult time for any business, just surviving.
What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Make sure you nail down what your revenue model is going to be. Make sure you know how you’re going to make money.
What are your future goals for Purple Group?
Our goal now is to double in size over the next few years, but we want to do it profitably. We recently launched a consumer product division and we are pursuing different clients, which is exciting. I also want to continue to provide a high energy, fulfilling environment for our team members.
Learn more about Purple Group at www.purplegrp.com