More than a decade ago, Barbra Boeta ’03 was working at a nonprofit that helps small-business owners secure funding. After she sent one of her clients, a Spanish speaker who knew only a little English, to the bank, the client returned upset. The banker had asked him basic business questions, but used terminology that he didn’t understand — and that Boeta hadn’t thought to explain.

Starting Up: 3 Tips for Budding Entrepreneurs

  1. Always ask your question, and don’t worry about sounding dumb. “You never know how common your question is.”
  2. Embrace failure as an opportunity for growth. “If you take that and learn from it, you’re going to be that much more successful.”
  3. You’re not alone. Small businesses have access to resources across the country — seek out your city’s economic development agency or for expertise and support.

“He thought I set him up for failure. I set him up to look bad. I felt horrible,” she says. “When I told him what the banker was asking in layman’s terms, he could list his numbers off the top of his head.”

It was a learning moment for Boeta, who has spent nearly two decades helping small businesses across Central Texas launch and flourish. And it was an inspiration for the next leg of her career: Educating burgeoning entrepreneurs — especially those from marginalized backgrounds — about how to grow successful enterprises. Today, she is executive director of the Austin-based Economic Growth Business Incubator, an organization that offers training programs, one-on-one mentoring and bookkeeping support.

Boeta often works with women and minorities from low- and moderate-income backgrounds who have big dreams but little confidence they can achieve them. Boeta’s job is to show them how to bring their goals within reach and to ensure that they have the tools to be successful.

“Minorities, historically, haven’t had the ability to build wealth, and you build wealth through assets,” she says. “Through small-business ownership, they’re building their assets, things they’ve never had, which allows them to provide their children with opportunities.”

Boeta arrived at the incubator in 2011 and took over as executive director in 2017. Under her leadership, it’s grown from serving 250 individuals a year in 2017 to nearly 500 in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced many small businesses to shift their focus from thriving to surviving.

Through it all, she draws on lessons learned at St. Edward’s. Her Psychology major gave her the tools to understand how people think. The university’s personalized approach to education inspires the way she serves. She wasn’t just a number at St. Edward’s; her clients aren’t either.

“I want to make sure my clients know that they are going to call me and I’m going to know exactly who they are,” she says. “I’m going to be here to help them.”

By Sarah Lindenfeld Hall 
Photography by Chelsea Purgahn