Founder of County’s First Hispanic Businesswomen’s Association goes the extra mile to mentor others


January 07, 2020

Community services

When Orange County resident Mercy James won the District 5 Citizen of the Year award at the 2019 community conference, she was honored and humbled, but for her, it’s about community leadership and helping others, which she has been doing for decades. By her own motivation, she always had the firm conviction to fight tenaciously for the rights of others.

James is Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Los Amigos Unidos (United Friends), a non-profit organization established in Central Florida in 2006 to provide support to those in need around the world, with a focus on children, the elderly and the mentally ill, as well as those recently released from incarceration. The main focus is on the homeless in Central Florida, Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador and Belize.

“I am inspired by justice and I want everyone to have an equal opportunity,” she said. “There are a lot of wasted resources out there, so my goal is to channel the resources to the people who need them most.”

James’ community involvement began decades ago. She organized the first Hispanic businesswomen’s organization in Orange County 40 years ago and was the first to identify the need for such a group to advance the interests of Hispanic businesswomen in the region. As a female entrepreneur in Orange County, she mentors others and emphasizes the importance of inclusion.

“If we are to own successful businesses in this country, we must acquire knowledge of this culture, including economics, politics and business practices,” she said. “The key is to integrate well and also to share what we have to offer culturally, which makes regions culturally diverse.”

Carol M. Palacio, of Orange County Economic Trade & Tourism Development, agrees with James and says Hispanic women entrepreneurs are an important part of the Orange County economy. In fact, 60 percent of Orlando’s Latino population are women, and many have entrepreneurial aspirations.

“Orange County is proud to support the growing number of Hispanic women-owned businesses,” said Orange County District 5 Commissioner Emily Bonilla. “The local economy is made up mostly of small businesses, so entrepreneurs play a central role in our economic development ecosystem – and Mercy James is an exceptional citizen of District 5.”

James believes that female business owners usually go into business because they care about their own good and want to give back to the community. Men also do well, she adds, but women are more willing and open to empathize with others.

“Having women entrepreneurs and leaders is imperative for a healthy society,” she said. “If I can help young Hispanic women become business owners in this area, I feel like it benefits the whole community.”

To learn more about Los Amigos Unidos, contact Mercy James at 407-252-4294 or

Photo caption: [L-R] Mercy James honored at 2019 Community Conference as District 5 Citizen of the Year. [L-R] Jason Reynolds, Neighborhood Services; Orange County District 5 Commissioner Emily Bonilla; Mercy James; and Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings.


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