Mexican Women Jump-Start Businesses With New Program
Standing behind a bright pink poster of a giant sprinkled doughnut, Halina Fimbres pressed samples into the hands of passersby.
"You have to try this one. It's a like a cinnamon roll, but in a doughnut. It's delicious," she said. "Enjoy it!"
Fimbres is a 31-year-old entrepreneur who started her doughnut-making business Creizy Donuts in Nogales, Sonora just over a year ago. She's said she thinks her's is the only doughnut shop on either side of the border in Ambos Nogales, or both Nogales.
“If you’re looking for donuts you have to go to Tucson. But now you have donuts in Nogales," she said.
That’s made her business popular. That and her lower-fat-but-just-as-tasty recipe, she said.
So when she heard about a free entrepreneurship program being offered to women in northern Sonora, she said she knew it was a chance to help her business grow.
“I got to find a way to make a lot of Creizy Donut in Sonora. In Nogales, maybe in Hermosillo the capital of Sonora. And why not in Nogales, Arizona, right?”
Why not go international and sell her donuts north of the border, too, she said. Because these days, she’s dreaming of bigger things for herself.
Fimbres was one of 28 women presenting their businesses at a trade show at the museum of art in Nogales, Sonora, in early April. They’re the first cohort of graduates from the McGuire Mexico Scholars program. It’s a partnership between the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship in the University of Arizona Eller College of Management and the U.S Consulate in Nogales, Sonora.
“I think it’s an important time in Mexico-US relations, and I think it’s an important time to reach out and sort of hold hands," said Consul General Viginia Staab. "We are so much stronger working together. ”
Staab said the program is funded with a small grant from the State Department with the goal of helping to empower women. Especially those who wouldn’t usually have access to this kind of training.
"Our goal is to reach as many women as possible who are in need. It’s not really to focus on a select few," she said.
More than 2,000 women applied for this first round of classes, she said. The 35 who were chosen, and their businesses, are diverse.
There was Mary Chincillas from Santa Ana, Sonora. She's a mother of two who’s growing her chorizo-making business.
Jacqueline Chavez, a 27-year-old engineer who’s creating an online pet-sitting business called BFFPET.
And Lizette Duran, an aspiring optometrist from Caborca, Sonora. She took a 5 a.m. bus to Nogales every Saturday morning for eight weeks to make it to the six-hour class.
And she’s not the only one. Dora Gonzalez spent 48 hours traveling on buses each weekend to drop her kids off with family in neighboring state of Chihuahua, Mexico before the class.
"It was a huge journey," she said. "But it was worth it, I think it was worth it. Something good has to come out of all of this."
She’s in the process of starting a preschool with a focus on connecting kids to nature.
At a table outside, Ana Selena Bustamante and her sister Fernanda were also had nature-focused business. They’re turning their family ranch into an ecotourism destination. Visitors can ride horses, make cheese and bread and have an authentic Sonoran ranching experience, they say.
Initially the sisters were working on two different businesses. But during the class, they decided to team up.
I asked them hard working together. They both laughed.
"It was ... a complete challenge," Fernanda said.
"Yes!” Ana Selena agreed.
But it’s also exciting. They created a business plan and started advertising on social media. At the event, they were getting ready to make a listing on Airbnb.
Fernanda, a teacher, says she’s also helping a friend start a coffee shop.
“And I said, 'Hey, Mariana, you have to see what I learned.’ I’m sharing my knowledge," she said.
That's kind of knowledge-sharing and networking is exactly what instructor Carlos Alsua wants to see from the class.
“We’re trying to create connections for the future," said Alsua, a professor in the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Arizona. “And I think it’s happening. It is happening.”
He said the women are graduating into a sorority of sorts. A network of women entrepreneurs who support each other.
He said seeing these women succeed in their businesses is "a reminder of why I got into this profession in the first place," he said.
He hopes this course is just one way of bringing together people from the United States and Mexico to make to something positive.
“On both sides of the border we are doing some great amazing things," he said.