EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

Young Latinos are a growing force in the United States, and their influence on the economy is undeniable. According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third, or 17.9 million, of the nation’s Latino population is younger than 18, and about a quarter, or 14.6 million, of all Latinos are millennials (ages 18 to 35). This growing segment is more educated and has a buying power that will continue to increase. Driving the increased affluence, in part, is Latino entrepreneurship. Latino millennials are innovating, disrupting industries and challenging traditional leadership.

Why U.S. Latino Millennials Matter

When describing the nation’s Latino population, youth is a defining characteristic. With an average age of 27, this population is making an important contribution in stopping the aging of the United States, especially when compared to similar economies, like China and Japan. With the youngest population among all ethnicities and races in the United States, Latinos represent the core of the future of the American Union. Contrary to popular belief, most Latino men and women were born in the United States. Latino millennials are also not first-generation immigrants. They are bilingual Americans who are assimilated into American society but still value the emotional connection to their heritage—they are bicultural.

Latino millennials are trendsetters and early adopters across American culture. They are digital natives and are ahead of the digital curve. Latino millennials lead the way in mobile Internet adoption. Nielsen Research shows that young Latinos own more smartphones and use more apps than any other Millennial group.

Latino millennials are relatively unattached to organized politics but fiercely committed to community service. They seek to add value to their local community and are optimistic about their role in building a better future. This generation is open to adopting new features on their devices and nearly all users access social networks on their cellphone; they create social-driven campaigns for the best engagement.

Simply going by the numbers, Latino Millennials, both as consumers and as entrepreneurs, are an important group for marketers, advertisers, and the entertainment industry to understand.

Latino Millennials Drive Tech Innovation

Latino millennials are not just consumers of technology. They are creators of technology as well. Although less than one percent of venture-backed start-ups have a Latino co-founder, Latino tech entrepreneurs are making strides in an industry that lacks diversity.

A Latina millennial leading the way is Tanya Menendez, CMO and Co-Founder of Maker’s Row, a Brooklyn start-up that connects entrepreneurs with American manufacturers.

Tanya’s online platform has connected over 100,000 brands with more than 10,000 American manufacturers. Many of their registered clients are 9-to-5 workers who use this platform as their side-hustle, where they can organize all of their ideas in one place. Tanya’s work at Maker’s Row aims to encourage entrepreneurship. She wants brands to be able to produce and create a scalable business in America.

Another Latino millennial entrepreneur changing the game within the tech-education sector is Felix Ortiz, III, CEO and Founder of Viridis Learning, which is reinventing the human capital pipeline through competency-based matching.

Viridis Learning utilizes technology to connect colleges and students with employers on the basis of skills, therefore making a difference in the lives of many community college students. Ortiz is leading the dialogue on tech-education and employs and mentors other Latino Millennial entrepreneurs.

Millennials not only created, but have also embraced, the idea of technology as an extension of who they are, allowing them to disrupt industries while enacting social change. While the older generation launched their first businesses at roughly 35 years old, millennials are launching their business ventures in their twenties. This is correlated to the use of technology, but it’s also a change we see in today’s world where it is more acceptable to be a CEO of your own company at a young age.

There is more to the side-hustle. Innovation among Latino millennials has been sparked as a result of wanting independence, not the c-suite. Millennials are realizing that starting a company, even if it crashes and burns, teaches them more in three years than sitting in a cubicle for 10 years. Most millennials who were in high school or college during the 2008 recession have watched their relatives get fired and their peers sit in cubicles—they know there’s a better way to develop professionally. In essence, Latino Millennials are challenging the traditional corporate culture.

America’s Future

In the recent decades, the number of Latino entrepreneurs has grown exponentially. According to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Latino-owned business revenue jumped by an astonishing 88 percent during the 8-year period from 2007 to 2015, averaging to nearly $661 billion.

The amount of U.S. Latinos starting businesses is increasing dramatically. According to the Americas Society/Council of The Americas, 5% of Main Street businesses are owned by U.S. Latinos. These include grocery stores, restaurants, hair salons, dry cleaners, beauty salons, liquor stores, clothes stores, jewelry shops and gas stations. However, according to the  Stanford Graduate School of Business, while Latinos are starting businesses more frequently than the overall population, these businesses are growing slowly or static.

It is evident that the future economic health of the country depends on the Latino business community. Noted by researchers, what the Latino business community lacks is scalable businesses that can have high impact on the U.S. economy. The biggest challenge for most Latino entrepreneurs is access to capital. As mentioned earlier, less than one percent of venture-backed startups are Latino-owned. This is alarming, but researchers are optimistic about Latino millennial entrepreneurs, and how they will contribute to America’s future.

This is a generation that values hard work, and they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to shape a better future. There’s an awakening, a movement taking place across the country, where Latino millennials seek to execute big, innovative ideas that could impact the way Latinos contribute to the U.S. economy.

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