By Nicole Castillo

As a 35-year-old single mom and first-generation student preparing to put herself through law school, Ramona Ortega needed student loans for more than just an education; she needed them “just to survive.”. But nine years later, she still holds what she describes as “extreme student debt” of over $200,000. Though astronomical, that number didn’t deter her from starting her dream company, which she founded to help young people facing similar situations.

As the founder and CEO of the personal financial management platform My Money My Future , she works to help millennials of color understand what their financial options are throughout their lives, and then select the options that will best align them with achieving their goals. “It’s because of the financial hardship that I have been through, [that] I started this company,” Ortega told MTV News. “I was solving my own problem.”

Ortega isn’t the only recent college graduate with a drive to start her own business, but she’s still among a certain minority. Millennials and Gen Z graduates of color are entering the job market with an “entrepreneurial spirit” — they have the vision to upend business as usual, they value mission over profit alone, and they are solutions-focused and idealistic . But fewer are pursuing entrepreneurship in comparison to older generations. The desire is there, as is the know-how. It’s the financial burden that is holding many innovators back.

This is in no small part due to overwhelming student loan debt, which in 2019, reached $1.56 trillion , sending ripple effects across the economy. Students are graduating and stepping into the workforce with financial burdens that are causing them to delay getting married, having children, saving for retirement , and buying a home . While young people are more likely to work non-traditional jobs like working for rideshare and tutoring companies and freelancing in tech and media, few take the full plunge to become entrepreneurs — the key difference being that entrepreneurs create an entirely new business model, while those in the gig economy work within the confines created for them.

This is frustrating for any number […]

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