Alumna of the Week: Katherine Villeda Najera ’14

Katherine Najera Villeda is the founder and president of De Manos Con Amor, which means From Hands with Love, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that empowers people in low-income communities through education and career-building skills. Villeda is also launching her new business, Empower With Kat LLC, to help business owners elevate and transform their business to unlock growth opportunities and feel confident about their direction.

De Manos Con Amor (DMCA) was founded in April 2016, but Villeda has wanted to do this for years. She spent her childhood traveling to her mother’s home country of Honduras. Every time she visited, she was shocked by the conditions in which people lived, conditions that were not improving with time. So Villeda wanted to make it her mission to break the cycle of poverty.

The first few years DMCA focused on rebuilding a school, giving out school supplies and providing English classes. DMCA also worked with women entrepreneurs by reselling their products in the United States market and teaching skills like screen printing to help increase their career options.

In 2020, Villeda chose to pivot to serve even more people and pivoted DMCA’s services to a virtual world. Now DMCA focuses on four different projects to empower low-income communities in Central America and the United States. The first project is focused on providing grants to students who cannot afford to go to public school. The second is aiming to provide laptops to a public school that has no technology. The third project provides job hunting workshops in English and Spanish for free and the fourth project provides job skills workshops (e.g. UX design, branding, etc.) for free.

Villeda’s other venture, Empower With Kat LLC, was started because she believes that small businesses are the backbone of America. In 2020 we saw so many small businesses fail, so Villeda decided to leverage her strategy consulting experience to help business owners thrive. Her first course is launching this spring, focusing on leadership mindset, futurism innovation, and process optimization.

Villeda has received support from her alma mater, the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, through the Couri Hatchery, a student business incubator.

For more information on De Manos Con Amor, visit the websiteFacebook, or Instagram page. Please consider making a donation of any size on the company’s “donate” page or shopping from the handmade item selection on the company’s “shop” page. For more information on Empower With Kat, email Katherine at or visit the Instagram page.