I was always a hard working kid. When I was 7 years old in Mexico, I ran errands for people. One of errands was fast walking and running 3 miles to the grocery store and back. Sometimes I would do this a couple times each day. In exchange for my services, I was paid with candy, cookies, or a quick drink of soda. Sometimes I was given change. This was my way of working hard to achieve success in obtaining the precious candy or cookies I wanted. The change was used to buy candy or cookies. Now, you may be asking, “Why would someone walk a total of 6 miles for cookies?” If you are one of those asking, you have never had “Arcoiris” or “Chocolatines” cookies. Arcoiris cookies are pink and white marshmallows with coconut sprinkles on top of a thin cookie. Chocolatines are marshmallows on top of a chocolate cookie all covered in chocolate and sprinkled with peanuts. I knew what I wanted, and I worked hard to get it. This was the beginning to my entrepreneurship life.
I also worked at my aunt Lucy’s little food stand. In Mexico, we used to have these metal sheds where people sold candy, sodas, chips, and many other snacks as well as raspados and aguas frescas. (My Tia Luci can make the best natural fruits drinks and syrups for the raspados.) These metal shed food stands are called “puestos” and are now being replaced by brick and mortar businesses. You can still find some of the original puestos hidden in little communities in Mexico. My tia’s puesto was the bus stop! And by bus stop, I mean it was the actual location that the bus stopped to drop off and pick people up. Can you imagine? This is prime real estate for a business like that. But having your puesto double as the bus stop meant that you had to bring your “A” game every day. And Tia Lucy did not play around with her business. She carefully selected an elite team of individuals that understood the job was not for the faint of heart. If you were lucky enough to get a tryout for the job, you had only one shot at proving yourself. And your “shot” consisted of about 5 minutes. A bus would stop and you were tested. Tia Lucy was merciful by giving those 5 minutes because she really only needed about 60 seconds to determine whether the person would walk away in shame or be given legendary status of working at the puesto where men, women, and children would tell glorious stories in your honor for years to come. (OK. Slight exaggeration. But you get the point.) You had to be super quick with math like a Wall Street stockbroker. You had to take one person’s money for an item while taking the order of the next person as well as answer other customers showing up asking if you had Chocolatines and Arcoiris cookies. You had to talk fast like a auctioneer, move fast like playing 10 BINGO cards at once, and try to remember to breathe during all of this.
It is with great pride that I tell you that Tia Lucy selected me to be one of her elite workers. (If you ever get down to this puesto/bus stop and mention my name, you’ll get something for free. It probably won’t be Chocolatines or Arcoiris cookies. It will probably be some sort of Chamoy.) I remember not being able to reach the counter space area requiring me to kneel on the big cooler at the front of the puesto with my own little cash box and list to cross out what I was selling. This way, Tia Lucy could have an inventory and good count of what was being sold. There were no receipts or anything like that. The list we kept was it. And the money I turned in had to match that list of things I sold. If it did not, my legendary status would have been revoked and the people would then tell tales of shame and dishonor for years to come. Honestly, it was too busy for that. They would have forgotten about me while praising their new hero.
Other than receiving the pride of being a puesto legend, I got paid with sodas, candy, and every once in a while a little bit of side money. More importantly, I was learning about entrepreneurship.
My dad used to work in a produce packaging plant. Some days the business would sell the employees the leftover produce for a super low price instead of donating it. My dad would buy boxes of green chiles, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and whatever else that was left over for purchase. He would bring the produce home where we could arrange them into small packages with a few different pieces of produce in each package. We would then go door to door selling the produce packages. Sometimes we would get lucky and my dad would get jalapenos, onions and tomatoes at the same time. We could then make our fresh salsa package which was our biggest seller.
In the winter, my mom used to buy the tubes of biscuits. You know, those tubes that pop open when you peel the paper wrapping back causing you to jump every time. She would use a bottle to make a hole in the middle of the biscuit, fry it, and toss it into a bowl with a cinnamon sugar mix and whala, doughnuts! We would wait until right after dinner time and go door to door in the neighborhood with the warm doughnuts for sale. Timing was and still is everything. As we ran out of the house to sell them, we had to run right back to pick up more. So my mom had to keep up with us going back and forth to get the warm, delicious doughnuts.
When I was 12 years old, we immigrated from Mexico to the United States. Here’s the interesting thing. Our living conditions actually got worse. Our new house in the United States was not totally up to code. While using the restroom during a rainstorm, we had to sit on the toilet while holding an umbrella to stay dry. The kitchen floor was missing a number of its wooden slats allowing you to see down into the basement. The basement was actually an open dugout hole in the ground under the house. We had to watch our steps in the kitchen or we could end up falling into the hole below. This all may sound terrible. But my mom knew that was only for the short term. She knew that living in the United States would eventually provide us with more opportunities.
These were all huge changes for us. And starting a new school in the United States was another added change. It wasn’t long until I noticed there was a need that I could fill. I borrowed money from my mom to invest in a little business that I had thought of. Remember the learning part while working at my tia Lucy’s store? I still knew all the vendors and I still had my legendary status. So every time I went to Mexico, I would buy mexican candy to sell to my classmates. The Chocolatines and Arcoiris cookies were not on the menu as they could not survive the rough backpack trip back to the United States. And those cookies deserved the honor and respect of being presented in their originally intended glorious form as they were created.
The kids at school went crazy for the Mexican candy. I was the go to girl. And quite honestly, this was easy compared to the puesto. But I had now achieved what only a handful of others have accomplished in their lives. I had obtained legendary status in 2 countries at the young age of 12 years old. (Shout out to Tia Lucy. You trained me well.) Other students tried to sell candy as well. Unfortunately for them, they had not received the wisdom of Tia Lucy. They decided that they would “fiar” which means to give it up on credit. They also tried to sell the candy for less money than I was selling it for. Competition is great for the consumer, but not for the sellers. We were the suppliers. And the demand was high. So I met with the other candy sellers and made them an offer they could not refuse. I arranged which high priced main candies each of us would sell to avoid competing with each other. I told the candy sellers that we should stick together. I told them that we needed to keep our candy prices the same and reassured them that the kids were willing to pay for it at what I was selling it for. The price that I had come up with was determined after selling the candies and varying prices. The final price I had come up with was the “sweet spot” price. It was affordable and profitable. So we all would make money out of it instead of undercutting each other. They agreed and we kept the same prices. They had their clients and I had mine.
But remember the credit? It wasn’t long until they stopped selling candy because they ran out of inventory and people were not paying them back. It wasn’t that the business wasn’t good, their business model was failing them. And rather than adjusting their business plan, they decided to continue in hopes that it would work out. After some months of running a successful business, I was approached by the school administration. I was told I could not sell candy anymore because I was beating out their business. You see, they had a little shop during lunch to raise money for the booster club. That’s where they wanted kids to buy from. However, they only sold American candy, chips, and sodas. I tried to explain to them that I was selling Mexican candy which was far more popular than the candy they were selling. Unfortunately, they did not see eye to eye with me. They told me that my candy selling days were over or I would be suspended for 3 days and kicked off of the track team. (Sorry, Tia Lucy. I had no training on black market candy sales.)
But I was now 12. I still needed money for Chocolatines and Arcoiris cookies. But I also needed to buy clothes and shoes. So I started selling those embroidery string bracelets that were super popular back then and are actually now making a comeback. But this business was very time consuming for me. I had to teach myself how to make the bracelets. I learned from cousins and other family members how to make different designs. (YouTube would have saved so much precious time!) This business required time for production instead of having candies purchased and ready for sale. Other kids at school had gotten good at making bracelets and were also starting to sell them. I was getting more orders than I could keep up with.
I then got the great idea of outsourcing. I knew a lady in Mexico that mass produced and sold the bracelets with her family. They even had the advanced ability of putting names on the bracelets. This was a skill that nobody had yet acquired at my school. So I met with the lady in Mexico and explained the situation to her. She had the production down. She had the buyers in Mexico locked down. But I had the access to the buyers in the United States. And by buyers, I mean the group of kids in my school. So we negotiated a deal, an offer she could not refuse. She would sell the bracelets to me at half the regular price if I bought 20 at a time. This was genius because all I had to do is collect a list of names and the colors they wanted. The bracelets had to be prepaid because I did not want to be stuck with a “Meredith” or “Connor” bracelet because Meredith and Connor decided to spend their money on American snacks from the booster club’s lunch shop. (Their business had blown up at that point by the way, now that they had successfully gotten rid of their competition. Insert eyeroll here.) I would then give the lady the list of names and get the bracelets a few days later for distribution at school.
As soon as I could get a legit job, I started working at a Factory 2-U which is a retail clothing store with discounted, sometimes defective, items. The government was now getting a cut of my income as a tax paying citizen. While there, I worked full time after school and invested some money into buying some of the merchandise when it went to clearance. I would then sell the items to people in Mexico who had little stands to sell things at.
At 18 years old, I moved to Phoenix with my young baby, not knowing anyone. I was scared to get a job that forced me to leave my baby with a stranger. But I needed money to support us. So I began to cook and sell cheesecakes on the streets, door to door. I would spend a lot of the nights crushing the crackers to make the crust to have it ready for the weekend and I would bake all day. In the evenings, I would walk the streets with a baby in tow knocking door to door selling my cheesecakes. All those people skills that I had learned while working at Tia Lucy’s store sure came handy here. I would bake and sell 20 cheesecakes per day and sell them for $7 every Saturday and every Sunday. I had to sell all 20 cheesecakes every day because formula and diapers are really expensive. Sometimes I would be selling the cheesecakes well into the night. I had no option other than to sell every last one of them. It didn’t take long before I familiarized myself with streets occupied by those that were more willing to buy cheesecakes from me. I also stood outside of grocery stores trying to sell the last ones I had. Yes, I was one of those ladies that bug you as you’re trying to load your car with your store bought groceries. I had to put myself aside because the alternative was leaving my baby with a stranger in a city that I didn’t know. So I took the dirty looks, the negative comments, and got told to leave by the store personnel more times than I’d like to admit. This was a rough time, but again entrepreneurship supported me and my child.
As the years went past, I was able to get some great jobs. I joined the US Army and became a PATRIOT Launching Station Enhanced Operator/Maintainer (14T). For those of you who have no idea what that means, let me explain. Do you remember the Scud missiles during Desert Storm that Saddam Hussein launched at his enemies and the US Army shot down as they flew to their intended targets? Those were the PATRIOT missiles. As badass as that sounds, it was honestly a lot less dangerous than walking the streets of Phoenix at night selling cheesecakes.
After leaving the Army, I did roofing. Yes. I stood at the unemployment agency waiting for a truck that would pick up people to work and I hopped on. I climbed on roofs and tore them down. This was by far one of the most physically demanding jobs I have ever done in my life. After my roofing days, I managed a water company and implemented many strategies that made it more profitable and successful. I later had a successful career in law enforcement and was a Clinical Research Lead Coordinator at a medical office. By the way, if anyone wants to know what I want to “be” when I grow up, I’m open to any new suggestions.
But back to entrepreneurship. I had always been interested in photography and decided to run my own business. My photography business was successful and profitable. I loved it so very much. Unfortunately, due to illness (thanks Roofing), I was unable to continue with photography as a business. Now I just do it as a hobby. Before you all un-friend “Roofing” from your social media accounts, this all opened up a huge opportunity for me. I had met a fellow photographer during my photography business days. She and I became friends. She too had left her photography business for a better opportunity.
She introduced me to some amazing natural products from a company called LimeLight by Alcone that she was selling. I decided to try them out and discovered that they worked perfect for my skin. As I continued to add more products from that line, I noticed big improvements in my skin that I never had with other brand name products. I started doing research on this company and asked my friend some questions. It wasn’t long before I realized it was an incredible opportunity for me as well and that I needed to join in. LimeLight by Alcone has given me the freedom to work out of my home and stay with my kids. I can interact with women daily while building and maintaining friendships with women I would have never met if it wasn’t for this new adventure.
So after this long quest that seemed to drag on longer than a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series, I have finally decided what I want to be when I grow up (for now). My story is rooted in values of love, loyalty, hard work, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others. Like LimeLight, I am dedicated to empowering people to achieve their goals and dreams and to inspire others to do the same.
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.” -King Solomon