What started as a passion for writing, and a desire to help others in her community, has led Norma Cell Marquez, of Grand Island, Nebraska, to become a successful, award-winning business owner.
Because of the dedication to her craft and the community she serves, the Center for Rural Affairs has chosen Norma as the 2017 Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Latino Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year. She was recognized at an award ceremony on March 9 in Red Cloud, Nebraska.
The Latino Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year Award is presented annually to an entrepreneur who has effectively utilized the services of the REAP Latino Business Center, is successfully operating and growing their business, and who best exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that is so crucial to Latino-owned businesses and the rural Nebraska communities they call home.
The newspaper, Buenos Días Nebraska, has been operating since 2000, and is printed in Spanish. Norma started working there several years after the paper began publication, and decided she wanted to learn more about the business. When her boss offered to sell her the company, she jumped at the opportunity and has been the proud owner since 2016.
“I have always liked to write,” she said. “I published poems and stories online, but when I came to work at this company, I realized there was a lot of need to inform the Hispanic community about many assistance programs and family events which are not printed in Spanish.”
Initially, the business only served the the tri-state area, but from 2016 to 2017, Norma doubled the amount of subscribers, and the demand continues to grow both on paper and online. She recently changed the paper’s layout/format with the first, new edition out in January 2018, and there are future plans to stream live interviews on Facebook.
The paper is circulated throughout Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings, York, and Lincoln, and recently expanded to Omaha, South Sioux City, Columbus, Lexington, Gibbon, Schuyler, and Wood River. Now offered in English and Spanish, there is also access to the newspaper online.
“The paper is free of charge to the community,” said Norma. “It’s great to have support from them to tell us to keep going, and keep helping the community. That’s why we do it.”
Griselda Rendon, Latino loan assistant with the Center for Rural Affairs, works with Latino entrepreneurs in southern Nebraska, including Norma.
“Norma has participated in many of our Women’s Business Center trainings, has attended several Coffee Table meetings, and currently carries a loan with us,” said Rendon. “She is great at promoting our events and community functions within the area.”
With the help of her son, Oscar, Norma has assisted small and startup businesses by offering them great marketing at an affordable price, according to Rendon.
“I’ve known Norma since 2006, when she and her family first came to Nebraska,” Rendon said. “I’ve seen her grow both professionally and personally. I strongly believe she is very deserving of this award.”
Norma says she wouldn’t have made it this far without determination, hard work, and help from friends, family, and programs likes REAP.
“I’d like to thank REAP for supporting my newspaper,” said Norma. “And, thank you to my family for helping me deliver the newspaper.”
She continued by encouraging other entrepreneurs to never give up on their dreams.
“When we want something, we have to fight for that something,” she said. “Never use the words ‘I cannot.’ Just try to seek support from people who can help you reach that goal. Do not see the barriers or obstacles that you have to go through, put your eyes on that goal.”
Since winning the award, Norma says more people trust her, so her business has gained more credibility. This has led to more people seeing the paper as a good option for advertising.
“I’m very happy and feel inspired to continue fighting for this company,” she said. “I realize that all the hours I’ve worked in developing and innovating this business have been worthwhile. Buenos Días Nebraska is helping the community get informed, and that is what I’ve always hoped for.”
Pictured: Norma Cell Marquez, center, was named our Latino Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year, and was recognized during an award ceremony in March in Red Cloud. Also pictured are Norma's son, Oscar, and Griselda Rendon, Center for Rural Affairs Latino loan assistant. | Photo by Rhea Landholm