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Carmen Montes and Carlos Barcenas contributed to this story.
When Maria Dolores Arias Villalpando started working at Laundry Mex, LLC, in Grand Island, Nebraska, she had no idea she’d eventually own the business and the building it’s in, plus become a property manager to other immigrant business owners like herself.
Maria’s employers approached her several years ago about buying their laundromat, and she was thrilled to take them up on their offer because she enjoyed working in the laundry business. At the time, her son also rented a space in the commercial building for his transportation and parcel business.
“My son and I decided that if I bought the building he didn't have to pay rent anymore, and we could use that money toward the purchase of the building,” Maria said.
A visit from Center for Rural Affairs Latino Loan Specialist Griselda Rendon became a crucial piece to complete Maria’s plan. Griselda walked Maria through the loan process, and she received funding to buy the building in June 2022.
“Maria was great to work with, and she loves helping people and being around people,” Griselda said. “Her customer service is absolutely amazing; all her customers love her because she is always willing to go the extra step for them. Maria is always trying to learn new things and wants to make sure she does what is best for not only her business but also her customers and tenants.”
What Maria lacked was a business plan, financial projections, and the documented income necessary for loan approval. With support from Griselda, Maria worked hard to get those pieces in place and attended classes offered by the Center on marketing, taxes, and business startup.
Maria used the knowledge she gained to construct a solid foundation from which she could access loan capital and build a multi-generational business that will support a community of entrepreneurs and customers.
“Center staff were able to provide me with so much information, and I’m super grateful to everyone who was involved,” she said. “The process was long, but they were honest. That's how they do business; they don't have you running around or give you false hope.”
Along with becoming a business owner, Maria also inherited the responsibilities of a property manager, which has presented her with opportunities to help other entrepreneurs.
“I feel proud and happy that I am able to help,” Maria said.
Maria considers her building an incubator for businesses, and she loves to see new people, as well as spend time with her regular customers.
“I really like to provide good customer service to my clients,” she said. “I like to make sure that when someone comes in I greet them nicely and make them feel welcome. I like to get there early and make sure that it smells good and everything is clean. I start coffee in the morning and organize the place and chat with the clients. I feel so happy doing that.”
Her son helps out, maintaining and repairing washers and dryers and dealing with heating and air conditioning issues. Maria’s daughter-in-law helps too, and the three of them take shifts supervising things throughout the day. Maria hopes her son will take over as the owner and property manager when she retires.
To others considering taking on business responsibilities, Maria says to keep going, and trust the Center.
“The main thing would be not to give up,” she said. “If you really want to do something, work hard for it. Get to know the Center and their services. The Center helped so much.”
Maria remembers others trying to discourage her from buying the laundromat and making negative comments instead of encouraging her to follow her heart. Now, she shares her success and happiness with other entrepreneurs.
“Every time someone comes to talk to me about wanting to open a business or a food truck, I tell them to go ahead and do it; don’t be afraid, work hard, and you will go far,” she said. “I want to encourage them instead of discouraging them like I experienced.”
Bit by bit, Maria hopes to continue improving the laundromat by bringing in newer machines, and she’s always looking for more ways to offer the best customer service she can.
“I am happy because everything worked out the way I was thinking,” Maria said. “Every morning I thank God that I was able to accomplish something, and I feel happy to be able to provide for my three children. For them to see that I accomplished this will hopefully inspire them.”
Need financing to purchase a business, or start one of your own? Contact your regional loan specialist. Find yours at cfra.org/lending-staff.
At a glance
Laundry Mex, LLC
Maria Dolores Arias Villalpando
380 N. Cedar St.
Grand Island, Nebraska
Hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.