Maria started selling traditional Mexican food out of her house on the weekend. Her food quickly became a popular place to eat in her community in Los Angeles, with lines leading out the door.
When Maria discovered a local restaurant was going out of business, she was eager to seize upon the opportunity. With the support of the owner, Maria came to an arrangement where she would rent the space, with the option of purchasing the restaurant once the business became profitable.
Before opening her restaurant, Maria was focused on selling clothing and accessories out of her home, and she cooked and sold food on the side. She was in the unenviable financial state of having to ask her friends and neighbors for money, which she paid back plus ten percent interest. Her ability to pay her rent and buy groceries was compromised, and she knew something needed to shift.
Once she became a member of Grameen America, Maria purchased a freezer and chairs for her restaurant. With her most recent loan of $5,500, she used the capital to repair the restaurant’s roof. Without access to these loans, Maria would have been significantly limited in making these improvements to her business. Now, Maria employs a total of fourteen staff at her restaurant including cooks, servers and busboys.
The support that Maria has gained from women at her center meetings has been invaluable, and through the duration of the program, she has also seen her credit score improve.
“Before Grameen America, I was working long hours and I dreamed having of a better life. Being in the program has allowed me more free time and the flexibility to be with my family.”
Maria is the mother of six children including two dentists, a lawyer and a career serviceman. She learned how to cook from her mom. The most popular dishes at her restaurant are carnitas, mole, burritos, and menudo which reflect the diversity of food on offer in her home country, Mexico.
“The thing I enjoy most about my business is interacting with my customers. I love getting to know the regulars who come into my restaurant.”
For the future, Maria wants to continue to attract more customers to her restaurant.
“I would tell any women wanting to start their own businesses to not be afraid. It’s hard work but it’s very rewarding to be independent.”