Maria D. C. G. and her family started Express Cleaners in 2002 after her husband’s employer, a commercial laundry service, went out of business. Maria was a busy stay-at-home mom with four kids when her husband, Aron, came home and told her he had lost his job. However, they viewed this unfortunate event as an opportunity to start their own dry cleaning business. They spent their savings and bought machinery to start the business. Aron’s coworkers at the commercial laundry service company came to help set up the machines and teach the whole family how to clean the clothes. Maria and Aron have since opened two more Express Cleaners in the El Paso area and have employed all of their four children. Aron always says, “From here to the door, we are all employees, after the exit door, we are family.”
Maria plans to use this loan to buy a new washer. She and Aron have been using a 30-year-old washer which requires doing everything manually, from measuring out the starch to putting the clothes in a separate spinner and spinning it by hand. The new, larger-capacity washer will calculate the amount of starch automatically, wash the clothes faster, and spin the clothes so they can dry.
Maria and her children were all born in Mexico and Aron was born in Los Angeles. Once Maria set foot in the United States, she knew that she had made her first step toward success. After staying at home with her kids for the majority of their youth, she was sad that she had made it to the U.S. (a place she defines as a “land where dreams come true”), and had not completed her dream of starting her own business. Now, as the co-owner of three Express Cleaners that employ her family and people in the community, she has become that much closer to her dream. However, Maria affirms that she has several more steps till she achieves her goals, and these steps have to be taken slowly and firmly. She wants to own, not rent, the working space, to buy better machinery to grow her business, and to pass it down to her grandchildren. Maria says, “The United States is a place where dreams come true, but you have to work very hard and start from scratch. It is not easy.”
Maria and Aron employ all of their children. Their son Mario, the accountant, says, “Nothing can compare to owning your own business. It takes time, sacrifice and responsibility, but in the end it is worth it because you’re seeing something that is working. I know that I can pass this on to my kids; my whole family is putting something into this business. It is very beautiful”.
LiftFund. (www.liftfund.com) is an award-winning nonprofit organization (previously known as Accion Texas) with a mission to provide credit and loans to small and start-up businesses that have limited or no access to credit from commercial sources. Established in 1994 in San Antonio, LiftFund has helped Texas and Louisiana entrepreneurs strengthen their businesses, stabilize and increase their incomes, create employment, and contribute to the economic revitalization of their communities. Learn more at www.liftfund.com.