SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, CA – While “Nena” worked in the fields, under the hot sun of the San Joaquin County, she dreamed of —one day— opening a restaurant to prepare the recipes that her grandmother taught her. 27 years ago her dream became a reality, she opened her first restaurant “Nenas Mexican Restaurant” located in the corner of “B” and “8th” Streets in Stockton, CA.
Behind the known name “Nena” —as everyone calls her— is Maria Elena Salsedo with a story of a hard working entrepreneur women. Her story is one of many who collectively form the fastest growing group of business owners in Stockton. According to the most recent Survey of Business Owners (SBO), a total of 788,000 Latinas now run their own businesses in the United States.
“We as Latinas are opening businesses at twice the rate of other groups opening new businesses,” said Rosanna Garcia, Board member of the National Latina Business Women Association (NLBWA) in Sacramento and also owner of Garcia Realty.
Women that run businesses successfully are often characterized as independent, savvy and risk takers a description that fits many including Perla Mata, 31 and Mayra Cuevas, 42.
Mata quit her job as a waitress to follow her passion for exercise and dancing. “One day I said I`m not going to be a waitress all my life,” said Mata, “one day I decided to take classes to become a certified dance instructor and since that day everything changed for me.”
Two years ago Mata started her business by renting a room at the Mexican Heritage Center where she gave an hour long Zumba class once a week to four people. Her class grew rapidly and her business growth continues. Eventually she needed to expand and she inaugurated Perla`s Dancing Studio earlier this year.
“If Latinas can cater to their own demographics they will succeed,” says Garcia.
Mayra Cuevas and her husband started Tax Express 18 years ago, a tax preparation service agency. As her business moved forward Cuevas learned that she needed to address other needs of the growing Latino population so she incorporated other services to her business plan. In a matter of a few years she incorporated services such as public notary, insurance, parcel, bookkeeping and Spanish/English interpreting with translation services. “We have grown,” said Cuevas.
However, Latina’s face many are challenges.
“Today’s business owner, whether it be Latina or otherwise is facing the difficulties of a challenging economy,” explained Garcia.
Women running a business while raising their children create demands on time and energy and have found alternative solutions to breaking down the barriers
Raising three kids while opening up a new business was no easy task for Cuevas, she explains how she will take her kids to the office when taking care of them.
“A business requires a lot of time, we know we have to balance our family time and the weekends are family days,” says Mata.
Latinas role in society has changed rapidly and women are no longer expected to cook dinner for their families every night and live the stay -at-home life.
In the case of these three successful women, Nena has opened four different businesses since she arrived to this country. Cuevas has been elected president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and three of her former employees have gone to open up their own businesses; and today, more community members are healthier thanks to the dedication of Mata. “There are many things that involve having a business, I teach my classes but I also ensure that we have a clean environment for everyone; we are a new business, sometimes you have to do all the roles of a job,” said Mata as she highlighted the demands of her job.
por Mayra Barrios (bw)