As a female entrepreneur, starting an app or business can be extremely intimidating, especially during the wake of a pandemic, but with the right advice, resources, and mentors one can make their professional dreams a reality.
According to Harvard Business Review, only 2.3% of Venture Capital funding went toward Women-led startups, and only 58 Latinas in history have raised over $1 million in venture funding. As Latina founders are grossly underrepresented in this realm, Liliana Montes is determined to shatter that glass ceiling by raising the bar and clearing that path for others that are in this same boat.
We spoke with UC Santa Barbara alumna, Liliana Montes, to gain some insight on her journey of becoming the co-founder and CEO of a social day trip app called Coast: an app which allows you to share your adventures with friends while discovering new destinations to explore.
As a first-generation college student, Montes knew she needed to utilize the resources UCSB had to offer. She immediately joined the Co-Ed Entrepreneurship Fraternity, Sigma Eta Pi (SEP), back in 2016.
As a member of SEP, Montes was instrumental in growing the organization by holding various officer roles and founding the chapter’s Alumni Network. This gave her connections and resources that were pivotal in the development of her app, Coast.
“Being a female entrepreneur has its advantages because of the abundance of opportunities and networks tailored to us out there,” says Montes. “Sigma Eta Pi gave me the opportunity to meet other women interested in entrepreneurship, and we definitely had a tight-knit sisterhood within the fraternity.”
With the help of her brother, Ramon Montes, they tested and retested their idea of Coast and enrolled in UCSB’s New Venture Competition in which they were selected to present in the New Venture Fair at UCSB.
After graduating, Montes has joined UC Irvine’s incubator program, Wayfinder, which has been an essential step for Coast. “The mentorship, advice, and startup community at the Wayfinder Incubator has been especially helpful,” says Montes.
Coast offers a new way to enhance California day trips, users can share their experience with friends and discover other destinations with features like custom-built points of interest.
“I want to create a global community of travelers that are inspired to get out and explore, make lasting memories, and can connect with each other through their shared travel experiences,” says Montes.
Although Montes hit the ground running, there’s no question that she ran into some pitfalls and frustrations along her entrepreneurial journey. “As a founder, you will constantly be pivoting as you take in new information and your app evolves, so taking action is an essential first step,” says Montes.
Montes also suggests getting hands on experience by doing startup competitions, incubators, and accelerators. She emphasizes that doing this not only expands your peer network of startup founders, but introduces you to experienced mentors that can help guide you and open many doors of opportunities.
After speaking with Montes, it’s clear that a combination of the organizations she was involved with, and her inspirations, led her towards the creation of Coast.
“I like to find the golden nuggets and gifts in each relationship I have, so my biggest influence is really a beautiful combination of the best parts of many of my friends, family, colleagues and mentors,” says Montes.