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University of La Verne Enactus Team Helps Entrepreneur in Mexico Create Catering Business

With Women’s History Month ending on March 31, one particular woman is closer to making her own history as an independent entrepreneur, thanks to the work of a University of La Verne Enactus team.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Enactus group drove south across the US-Mexico border to the tiny town of Puerto Nuevo to meet Rosario Lopez, a widowed mother of two, who was eager to build her own business, but needed some help.

Part of an international nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students to change the world through entrepreneurial action, the university’s Enactus team has been honored regionally and nationally for the quality and results of its projects. According to Professor of Management Issam Ghazzawi, “the students channel their energies to create opportunities for those in need. Every person and community we touch is empowered to live to their fullest potential.”

Ghazzawi led the group of three undergraduates, Luis Vargas, Justin Yeh, and Tracy de los Santos, along with Nora Navarrette-Dominguez and her husband. Dominguez, who directs the university’s Kern County Regional Campus, is Mexican by birth and facilitated the outreach to Lopez.

”She is a single parent who had been struggling and suffering since her husband passed away,” Dominguez said.

Her dream was to open her own catering business, serving the construction workers across the freeway from where she lives.

Lopez had no business experience and no money for catering supplies and other items, but the students stepped in, listening, advising, and shopping for the staples — coffee, sugar, paper cups, an ice chest — that she needed.

Following the day of shopping, the university team accompanied Lopez to the construction site to help facilitate her first day of business.

“Being able to develop a financial program for Rosario that could help change her life was amazing,” said Yeh, a senior studying economics

Dominguez noted, “We will make follow-up calls and pay another visit to ensure support for Rosario for the long term.” But Ghazzawi is convinced that “Rosario is going to be a very good businesswoman.”

Enactus is committed to the idea of building independence rather than supplying charity, reflecting the adage that “teaching them to fish” is help that lasts a lifetime. The entire project to launch Lopez’ business was done on only a few hundred dollars, which included the travel and lodging for the team, as well as Lopez’ supplies. Enactus projects are funded in large part by corporate partnerships.

The university team’s departure was emotional and Lopez’s gratitude was evident in her tears.

“I was able to see that something which seems so small to us can mean the world to someone else,” said de los Santos, a third year business administration major. “Being able to ease Rosario’s life just a little bit meant the world to me.”