While it is true that a business owner needs to analyze the financials and create an effective marketing plan, success requires more. There are two other crucial ingredients, which may at first seem like a strange combination: determination and flexibility. Many of Mountain BizWork’s clients, especially the Latino immigrant entrepreneurial community, demonstrate just how powerful the proper balance of these two qualities can be.
A few years ago, Edith Segovia-Sanchez was determined to open a wholesale business providing Spanish-language Catholic books, as well as worship materials, to the region’s Spanish-language booksellers. Segovia-Sanchez had worked very hard on a business plan and asked Mountain BizWorks for a loan to get started. She was declined for the full request but accepted a lesser amount, which she used to buy a batch of books that she sold out of the trunk of her car.
Segovia-Sanchez quickly paid back that loan, so we were able to give her a larger loan for the next step: moving into a shared retail space. She has never missed a payment and is planning the next growth phase for her business, Libreria A y M (Bookstore A & M).
Of course, initially her dream was to have her own distribution center — and that is still her goal. But instead of taking on too much risk to make it all happen at once — and instead of giving up altogether when the path to business success seemed too overwhelming — Segovia-Sanchez has learned the importance of making incremental steps in her business.
“To be successful, you have to start from the bottom and work your way up, little by little,” she says. “It’s like a ladder; you can choose to skip steps and you will climb very fast — until you slip and fall. Or, you can choose to step on every rung, deliberately and intentionally, knowing that if you keep going, you will reach the top.”
Grasiela Mendoza is hitting every rung as well. Many years ago in her native Mexico, at the young age of 15, Mendoza owned a roadside diner. But she had always dreamed of opening a similar business here. After bumping into many obstacles and setbacks, Mendoza decided to get a job at a local tomato-processing facility to test her market. “I only took the job at the factory to get in front of 500 Latino co-workers,” she explains. “I knew they would love my food because it’s authentic and homemade — and everybody is hungry, because the work is very physically demanding.”
So early every morning before going to work, she cooked up batches of food and loaded them into her car. During her lunch break and after work, she sold these meals to her co-workers, making three times as much from food sales as her hourly factory wage. Once she had saved up enough money, she quit her job and opened the doors of her own restaurant — Amanecer de Jalisco, a Mexican buffet in Hendersonville. Six months after opening, she received a Mountain BizWorks loan to expand and invest in some long-term ideas.
Mendoza describes her approach as a rock to be broken. “For me, patience is the key,” she says. “It’s like trying to break up a rock with a pick, one swing at a time. You won’t see many results after the first few swings and maybe not even after days and days of hard work. But if you keep at it, just when you’ve gotten lost in the rhythm and the repetition, you’ll notice a breakthrough and know that you’re one step closer to the goal.”
Both of these tenacious women embody the balance of determination and flexibility. They have not let their inner drive outpace their measured steps. They have worked around obstacles and come up with innovative ways to add pieces to their businesses without taking on too much risk.
So if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, ask yourself: What does the first phase of your dream look like? Is it keeping your day job while you save enough money for materials or a location? Is it getting your first small-business loan? Or is it setting up shop at a flea market or local festival to see if your product sells? Whatever it is, don’t be discouraged by each small step. Keep your hands and feet on the rungs and your eyes at the top of that ladder.
As Mendoza says, “I never even think about failure. It is not an option for me. You can’t even let it enter your mind. You have to stay positive.”
Segovia-Sanchez and Mendoza will both be at the 14th Annual Children’s Day Festival & Business Expo on Sunday, April 28, noon to 6 p.m., at Jackson Park in Hendersonville. Bring your family and come see these entrepreneurs in action. Or rent a booth to test your own business idea; call Zurilma McKeown at 253-2834, ext. 20 for details.
Amanecer de Jalisco: 1307 7th Ave. East, Hendersonville, 696-1506.
Libreria A y M, Smiley’s flea Market #CC13, Arden, 779-0074.
— Mountain BizWorks helps small businesses start, grow and create jobs through loans, classes and coaching. For more information, call 253-2834 or visit mountainbizworks.org.
Jamie Beasley is the Latino Program Director at Mountain BizWorks.