Designer Gabriela Hearst is all-in with the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket — so much so that she led a Zoom call Friday afternoon with two Latina small business owners from the battleground state of Nevada.
The Biden campaign hosted Nuestros Negocios, Nuestro Futuro, a conversation that addressed some of the financial challenges that Latina entrepreneurs and small businesses are dealing with due to the pandemic. While numerous U.S.-based designers have created voter-inspired products and are using their social media to encourage voter registration, Hearst went one step farther Friday, explaining in a public forum why they should vote for Biden on Nov. 3.
Addressing why she thinks Biden is the right choice, Hearst sounded very much like a politician. She said, “Small businesses are the engine of the economy and the heart of our communities. More than 400,000 small businesses across the country have collapsed in the wake of Trump’s tragic mismanagement of the current crisis. In a state like Nevada, three-quarters of small businesses have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. As an entrepreneur myself, I understand the challenges of building a business. It takes grit and determination to run a business and Latinas are demonstrating that everyday as Latinx small business owners increasingly become an economic force.”
With a few framed images on the wall behind her and one of her signature structural black handbags resting on a nearby table, Hearst reiterated that she feels that the pandemic and Trump’s mismanagement had stalled that progress and “had set all American businesses back.”
Biden and Harris, she said, are dedicated to supporting Latinas to improve their economic security by, if elected, addressing healthcare disparities, providing access to capital for small business owners and putting the country on a path to a sustainable future.
Hearst was joined by the former Small Business Administration administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, who said, “What I like about Joe Biden is that he has so many relationships with the senators. I truly believe that this gridlock we are feeling right now, he can break through that logjam. Secondly, he already knows firsthand and has a great relationship abroad [with other leaders].”
Just as Henry Ford understood that employees needed to be paid well so they could afford to buy his company’s cars and create a strong economy, Biden understands that Latin America, “people in Colombia, Uruguay and Mexico need to be strong to be able to buy the goods and services we sell,” she said. “We need strong customers to be able to sell our goods and services. We need strong democracies around the world.”
Recalling how Biden became a single parent after his first wife died, Contreras-Sweet spoke of his daily Delaware-to-Washington Amtrak commute as a sign of his understanding of the struggles that women face. She also said “Kamala is not going to let women get behind.”
Before introducing the two small business owners, Lulu Ortega and Valeria Varela, the Uruguayan-born Hearst said she knows how hard entrepreneurialism can be, having started two businesses in America. Having had H1 visas to do that, Hearst said she would not have had that opportunity under the current administration.
The pandemic shutdown has led to many challenges, including declining revenues but steady rents, and maintaining employees’ livelihoods, they said. Varela, a hospitality industry executive, said, “One of the biggest things that would be very supportive of our industry would be a comprehensive plan from the government. From the very top, from the president, [there should be] guidelines for how businesses should safely reopen,” adding that the community’s safety is paramount. “We need a plan that is based on science to get the country as a whole, and the hospitality community, back to work at full capacity. We’re dealing right now with guests and employees who don’t really know how to respond because the plan is not clear. There should be a very solid plan about how businesses should be conducting themselves and how customers should be conducting themselves so that everyone can feel safe and comfortable to go out to eat and visit businesses. That’s what we need. We need customers,” she said.
Coinciding with National Small Business Week, Friday’s Zoom talk wrapped up with a call to action — asking supporters to volunteer their time to help with texting and phoning voters on behalf of Biden. Hearst emphasized the importance of everyone voting on Election Day for the love of this country among other issues. “I came to this country as an immigrant too 20 years ago with dreams that have been fulfilled. I want that same opportunity for other Latinas,” she said.