Jazlyn Carvajal was already a busy professional when she was tapped to become the executive director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey in 2016. In addition to running her own consulting business, Stay on Your Daily, Carvajal was (and remains) president of the MIT Club of northern New Jersey and a co-founder of a national non-profit, The Latinas in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) Foundation.
“I don’t have a lot of free time,” she says, laughing.
That fact doesn’t bother her, though. She is active in her community too, most visibly through the Chamber, where she volunteered with event and strategic planning, social media promotion, and developing and leading the Hispanic Entrepreneurship Training Program. When the opportunity arose to hire the first executive director in its nearly 30-year history, the Chamber’s board saw a natural leader in Carvajal, someone who already had strong ties with the Chamber and who could help move the organization forward at a critical transition point.
Carvajal, in fact, represents the future of the Chamber. Young, smart, outgoing, and enthusiastic, she is able to work within and beyond Hispanic communities. With Carvajal as the most visible face of the Chamber, the board is anticipating that membership ranks will swell with Latinos and Latinas who may see something of themselves in her. She has said that her goal is to double the existing membership, which is just under 2,500, within five years. She plans to do that by reaching out to small business owners across the state, especially in regions where Chamber activities are less frequent or accessible. Outreach will also be aimed at Latinos and Latinas who aren’t yet business owners, but who could be if they had the technical and financial support to take a dream and turn it into a viable reality.
“Anyone who wants to own a business should be able to, and they should get the help they need,” she says.
But Carvajal’s efforts won’t be directed solely toward Latinos. Many people are surprised to learn that a full 45% of the Chamber’s membership are New Jerseyans who don’t identify as Hispanic, and Carvajal and the Chamber’s board intend to continue welcoming non-Latino members. Many of these business owners are interested in tapping into Hispanic spending power, which, Carvajal says, exceeds $12 billion, as well as developing vendor relationships and other collaborations that represent a win-win situation for everyone involved.
If anyone can reach across geographical and cultural gulfs, it’s Carvajal, who early on demonstrated a talent for moving easily within different circles, as well as exercising leadership skills to achieve goals that served the greater good. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has managed a number of important construction projects in New Jersey and surrounding states. One of the most prominent of those projects was Union City High School, which comprises 375,000 square feet and has a rooftop stadium; another was the multi-million-dollar rehabilitation of Manhattan’s Pier 88. She has also been recognized multiple times for her community service, most recently receiving Union City’s Puerto Rican Woman of the Year award.
Carvajal’s “can’t stop, won’t stop” approach to her work will inevitably benefit the Chamber. In addition to the membership goals she has articulated, she also intends to help the Chamber grow in other ways, too. She has said that she would like to nurture the Chamber so that it can achieve a new milestone: acquiring and occupying its own office. The space, she hopes, will be spacious enough to serve as a business incubator, with Chamber members using the incubator to take their small business dreams and turn them into realities. With all of the accomplishments she’s had so far, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which she won’t fulfill this goal, too.
August 1, 2016