Entrepreneur Of The Year US National Award winner

Isabel Rafferty Zavala | Canela Media


Canela Media

Isabel Rafferty Zavala
Founder and CEO
New York, New York
Founded: 2020
Corporate profile   Acceptance speech

Transformation starts with a question. For Isabel Rafferty Zavala, CEO and Founder of Canela Media, the question has always been: What about the Latino audience?

The answer matters a great deal to Rafferty, who was born in Mexico City but moved to the US at 15. A career in media had shown her that the Latino audience is usually an afterthought.

Rafferty’s desire to center Latinos ultimately led her to launch her first business, Mobvious, in 2016. The mobile advertising business soon became the second-largest Hispanic-focused ad network, according to Comscore rankings. This success led to its acquisition in 2017.

Rafferty then set a new goal: to build a company for the US Hispanic market in the streaming space. She could see that streaming was the future and that no one else was hyper-focusing on the Latino segment. Even more audacious, she would make sure everyone, from first-generation Latino Americans on, had access by providing her product for free.

Launching Canela in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the US, was a leap of faith. Global economic uncertainty had cost Canela many of its initial advertising partners. But Rafferty remained committed to free streaming.

Her timing was anything but disastrous. People were stuck at home, hungry for entertainment and content. As user numbers grew, the advertisers started to come back, and Canela has not slowed down since.

The New York-based company, which began with Canela.TV, has expanded into a sports network, a music streaming service and Canela for Kids. Now available in the US, Colombia and Mexico, Canela also is beginning to develop original content.

Canela has expanded from a four-person team to over 80 full-time employees. Ninety percent of its workforce is composed of women and people of color, and the company’s C-suite is predominantly women. In addition, Canela is fully funded by women and people of color.