National Hispanic Heritage Month Feature: Get To Know Entrepreneur Ana-Maria Jaramillo

By: Brianna Rhodes

Being a multi-passionate entrepreneur allows you to pursue various endeavors that not only celebrate your purpose, but also celebrate who you are.

Entrepreneur Ana-Maria Jaramillo, the co-founder of a breakfast taco shop La Tejana, and the owner of a speech pathology clinic Voz Speech Therapy, knows this all too well. The multi-hyphenate entrepreneur shares her gifts with her customers by incorporating her culture into her products and services.

La Tejana is located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Jaramillo started her business with her husband, Gus May, who is the chef and the head of the kitchen at the restaurant. La Tejana’s breakfast tacos are inspired by the food Jaramillo ate back home in The Valley, which is located on the border of Texas and Mexico. There weren’t any dishes like breakfast tacos in the District, and since Jaramillo wanted to eat her food every day, her husband–who has a culinary background–offered to make her breakfast tacos at home. When he did, they figured out they had something special. They decided to have pop-ups and eventually opened La Tejana last August.

Jaramillo is also a pediatric bilingual speech-language pathologist. She opened her clinic in 2021 in downtown D.C. Voz Speech Therapy is the only fully bilingual speech pathology clinic in the DMV. Her clinic, which is staffed with all Latinas and one Filipina staff member, works primarily with Spanish-speaking families in the D.C. area in the pediatric field.

In honor of National Hispanic Month, we’re recognizing Jaramillo’s entrepreneurial impact on DMV culture through her love of tacos and speech pathology. Learn more about how she celebrates her background through her businesses below:

This interview has been condensed, rearranged, and edited for clarity.

How has your experience been as a Hispanic business owner?

My parents taught me to be extremely proud of being a Latina. That conversation in my house–I think–was not the same for many other Latino families. I was fortunate to grow up on the border of Texas and Mexico, where 95% of people were Hispanic. So, everybody around me looked like me. We all talked the same. I felt there was not a lot of discrimination in my little bubble because I was basically living in Mexico. It wasn’t until I moved to Austin and Boston that I faced adversity because I was so outspoken and because my name is Ana-Maria Jaramillo, which is the most Colombian name in the whole world. That’s when I started to [become] a little bit more skillful in presenting myself and being proud of being Latina.

So, when I talk about La Tejana or when I talk about Voz, l always start with I am the daughter of
immigrants. I am a Latina and Spanish is my first language. I find that people are more
embracing and more accepting. They celebrate that more because they know there is adversity
in being a minority business owner.

It’s important for others to feel represented when they see me. That is the most powerful part of owning a business as a Latina. Other women or individuals of color see me doing it, and they’re like, “Well, if she can do it, why not me?” The most important part of all of this is representation, and other people seeing it can be done. It just takes a little bit more work.

How has your culture influenced your businesses?

My culture drives every single thing that I do every day of my life. My culture drives the words that I use. I’m not just saying this because I am a speech pathologist and I analyze speech for a living, but the way that I interact with people, the music I listen to, the slang I use, and my Spanglish–that informs and guides me every day.

Also, La Tejana is quite literally a love story between my husband and me and how we met. There was a period when I thought everybody in this country had a breakfast taco culture. I quickly realized that the Northeast does not have a breakfast taco culture and it is unique to Texas and Tex-Mex culture.

La Tejana would have never been born if Gus and I hadn’t fallen in love and we didn’t bring this food to where he’s from. He was born and raised in D.C. If we had never met and had that conversation, La Tejana wouldn’t be here.

With my other business [Voz Speech Therapy], we are the only bilingual practice in the city. We interact with immigrants and children of immigrants every day in Spanish. Culture informs and guides me as a clinician every day.

Being a Latina is at the heart of both of my businesses, truly. Again, I’m grateful to my parents for raising me to be proud and loud and take up space on purpose because it could have easily gone the other way. I could have just felt like I needed to be quiet and give other people space. I’m glad that they didn’t raise me that way.

How does being a business owner fulfill you?

I have a very clear vision of what I want to do in my life and what legacy I want to leave. And, I don’t take being a first-generation immigrant Latina and daughter of immigrants lightly at all. I have a specific, strong responsibility that I owe my parents for immigrating to the U.S., giving me an amazing education, and giving me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had back where they’re from.

Do you have any advice for Hispanic business owners who want to follow in your footsteps or establish a successful business?

One of the best nuggets of advice I received in the last couple of years was to hire your weaknesses. That has been eye-opening to me because I am a person who thinks that asking for help sometimes is a burden, and I’ve realized that is actually the quickest way to fail because you can’t do anything by yourself. Humans are not meant to walk alone in this world. They’re meant to be in a community and feel accepted, loved, and seen.

Also, focus on work-life balance from the beginning. You will burn out if you do too much too quickly because you think you have to meet the deadline in your head. Somebody should have told me this earlier before I ran myself to the ground last year. Now, I’m much better about it because I have a therapist who helps me say no.

Why do you think customers should support Hispanic-owned businesses?

There is something so powerful about expanding and exposing yourself to different cultures through their work, food, and whatever they sell. That, for me, is the quickest way for you to learn about another culture–whether that’s having a conversation or actually buying their product.

When people come into the shop [La Tejana], and it’s their first time eating a breakfast taco, I try to make them feel comfortable. I’m non-judgmental. I walk them through the menu and hold their hand through the whole experience. Those extra two minutes of my time will make all the difference because nobody wants to feel judged.

It’s all about how we communicate with that person, which is one of the most powerful lessons. Because now this person is going to come back. Not just because the food was amazing, but because of how they were treated in that business. Learning about new cultures and races through their products is so cool [and I’m glad] we can do that in America.

Jaramillo believes supporting Hispanic-owned businesses for National Hispanic Heritage Month should not be a one-month commitment, but an everyday commitment. Since D.C. and the rest of the country are so diverse, we must continue supporting minority-owned businesses like La Tejana and Voz Speech Therapy year-round.

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