Growing up, Magdalena heard and believed that women don’t work and are dependent on men. But she thinks quite differently now, after having started her own business. “As women we can succeed,” she said.
When Magdalena first came to the United States from Mexico, she was making $1.25 an hour cutting thread at a factory in New York. While she eventually learned how to use a sewing machine and began earning $2 an hour, she was still struggling to support the basics like rent and food. But with the help of a series of loans from Grameen America, her economic prospects began to improve. Magdalena now has her own bar and restaurant called Tacopeton in the Bronx.
On her journey to becoming a small business owner, Magdalena had four children—two daughters and two sons. “They are my life,” she said about her children. “They are the only thing that I have for which I decided to fight and go forward to create a path for myself.”
Magdalena first started working at a family restaurant, in the kitchen and then as a waitress. She worked there for many years, and also began selling make-up and other products for added income. Then a friend told her about Grameen America. At first she was skeptical, but she decided to go to one of the meetings. After learning about the loan process, she made the decision to join and got her first loan of $500. “It wasn’t much, but it was motivation because I was able to invest and get my first products and start setting goals for my business,” she said.
She saved up, gained experience in the restaurant business, and last year, when the opportunity to buy her own space arose, she didn’t think twice. “It’s everyone’s dream to be the owner of a restaurant.”
It hasn’t been easy. Until now, she had only opened the bar area of the restaurant. But with the latest loan of $7,500 from Grameen America, she was able to get the kitchen permits that she needs to serve food. This will generate more profit and job opportunities; she will need to hire a chef and delivery person. She currently employs a cashier and two waitresses.
Her dream is to expand her business and open a chain of restaurants. One day, she also wants to buy her own house.
Magdalena is thankful for the chance at a better life: “Grameen America has been a light of hope, it gave me the opportunity to succeed, to demonstrate to myself how far I can go.”
She continues to find inspiration and learn from the weekly meetings with other Grameen America members, whom she sees as role models: “Every time I go to the center, I see the videos of members in their businesses, progressing and fighting.”