El Mercadito Helps Local Small Businesses Succeed

By: Sandra Bustos Sandoval
El Tecelote
December 3, 2010

El Mercadito is full of surprises and success-driven ownership that promotes economic development for the Latino community.

There is an exciting new place to do your Christmas shopping in the Mission: El Mercadito at Plaza Adelante located at the corner of Mission and 19th Streets.

As you walk into the front doors you are happily surprised at the similarities to the mercaditos in Mexico. You can see small businesses through glass windows. From flowers and jewelry to clothing and gifts, El Mercadito is full of surprises and ownership success stories that promote economic development for the Latino community.

Jim Escobedo of Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) is Business Consultant to these new incubator Mercaditos located at Plaza Adelante – a new building owned by MEDA that houses community service organizations that support the Latino community that has not had traditional education or economic opportunities.

MEDA now has a new program that helps others by providing free business classes in four areas – marketing, management, financing and operations. One of the main objectives is to help the owner formulate their business plan. They have the resources to bring professionals to the table for one-on-ones specializing in your idea. Once you have completed the classes, have your business plan completed, and have been trained to sell your idea, you do so in front of a panel of judges that select who will be next for these spaces.

El Mercadito, which had its grand opening Oct. 28, has nine current vendors with three spaces in the process of being filled. Vendors pay anywhere from $270 to $1,000 per month based on a small to big incubator space. If your credit is not so good or you have no credit at all but a great idea that has been well thought out and planned, MEDA can help you get the loan you need to start your business. Once you finish the program MEDA continues to help every step of the way to insure a higher level of success. “According to SBA (Small Buisness Association) statistics, only three out of 10 start-up business will make it. We are trying to use this information to do everything possible to insure that we are trying everything by providing resources at their fingertips for success,” explains Escobedo. Everyone helps each other out as a family to promote education and success at El Mercadito.

Enrique Guerrero, a native Salvadoran with a wife and three kids, was taken to MEDA by a friend about six months ago. In El Salvador he was a certified optician and is currently certified by the American Board of Opticianry. He now has his own business, Optica Franklin, at El Mercadito. He accepts all VSP Insurance plans and for those who have no insurance or who have MediCal, which no longer covers eye wear, Guerrero offers very reasonable and affordable prices for fashionable frames and lenses. “The possibility does exist to continue forward and be a business owner if the inspiration exists,” states Escobedo. Escobedo was able to start his business without a loan but by saving money and qualifying for MEDA’s programs.

The businesses contract their space for five years with the hopes that by a minimum of three they will have niched a market so they can profit enough to grow into a bigger space of their own. Once at this point, MEDA still helps the owner in acquiring any permits for a new location by providing lawyers to go through legal documents before finalizing every step. Overall, MEDA’s program provides a win-win situation. “You don’t waste your time during this process (…) in the end you can use all the information and business plan somewhere else,” said Escobedo.

Micaela Nabor and Bruno Rivas, both originally from Mexico and married with two young children, went to MEDA four years ago to get information and help in buying their own home. They realized that it is a huge responsibility and decided to join Fondo Popular where one saves money and is matched in order to buy a home or start a business. They chose to start their own business: Our Mission Graphics. This business creates custom t-shirts and banners and can put any image you want on these and other items such as mugs, tiles and mouse pads. They carry adult and children’s clothing as well. “This was my husband’s dream,” said Nabor. “He worked in pressing machines in Mexico (…) he loved what I was doing at MEDA, so he joined and now we both run this business.”

Nabor has not given up on her dream either. She worked for a cleaning company and is a recent graduate of Alas in the food industry. For a year she battled with the permit process to start her own food business but it was too hard and a long waiting game to get everything in order.

“It became hard for us,” she said. “I didn’t have a job at the time and they cut my husband’s hours at work (…) we never strayed from MEDA, even during difficult times (…) we have learned so much from all these community programs. We knew we could not stop and had to stay focused.”

Both Nabor and Rivas have an agreement that they will eventually work on their food business and, in the forseeable future, become homeowners. “When we were stuck on the road to success, to say it could not be done was not an option (…) there are always options for success if one is open to them,” stated Nabor.

El Mercadito will be hosting Las Posadas, a Latin American Christmas tradition, begining Dec. 16 and running to Dec. 24. They will have food for the families and activities for the children. If you have yet to do any of your Christmas shopping or are a last minute shopper, El Mercadito will not disappoint your friends and family on Christmas day! Feliz Navidad a la comunidad de la Mision!

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