Hello, friends! 👋🏼👋👋🏾 Hoping to inspire and inform you with the story of Luz Gaona's true grit and determination to start her own bilingual pediatric therapy practice.
Today, in Part Two, find out the unconventional ways Gaona was able to make a go of her business.
Plus, learn why what she does as an entrepreneur goes far beyond the value of money to her and her community.
LOOK FOR A DEEPER PURPOSE TO BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR
Luz Gaona didn’t intend to become a small business owner. It’s her commitment to her mission in life. That mission is to provide bilingual speech therapy for children who are forgotten, poor migrants who are disabled or who have learning disabilities.
That’s what led her to become an entrepreneur.
It goes back to her earliest memories of being in the fields where her grandmother and mother worked.
“Every year, I would start school in late November here in Florida. And we would leave in the spring because we would follow the crops.”
That was until the 3rd grade when Luz's mother decided they’d stay in Florida so as not to disrupt her schooling.
After a series of mistakes described in Part One, Gaona discovered some strategies that no one told her about, but that she says worked for her.
At first, Gaona’s friend suggested she apply to work for a company providing Social Security disability evaluations for children.
REJECTING LIMITATIONS CAN POTENTIALLY LEAD TO BETTER OPPORTUNITIES
When Gaona found out she’d have to sign a non-compete clause, she thought, “This doesn’t sit well with me because I worked so hard for my degree [Master’s degree in Communication Science & Disorders]. I’m not going to start putting limitations. So I was, like, thank you, but no thank you.”
Gaona decided to research further and found out she could become a vendor herself, essentially doing the same job as the company. The result?
“I was collecting the $200 vs. the $100 they were offering me.”
A GREATER PURPOSE SHOULD NOT SACRIFICE YOUR HEALTH
Gaona was so intent on helping children where the need was greatest, she took a job working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
“I was commuting from Ruskin to Okeechobee, which is 2 ½ hours each way, five days a week. And so I did this for almost 3 years. And I loved the people I met [and] the culture, but it got to the point where it was wear and tear on my vehicle and on my body.”
Gaona finally realized she could not sustain a five-hour round-trip commute every workday. She researched the numbers and decided to make a go of it by opening her own business.
WHAT WORKS FOR YOU MAY NOT WORK FOR OTHERS - EVALUATE CAREFULLY
“And I was, like, okay, why am I going so far when there’s a community right here that needs these services and no one is providing them?”
What Gaona did next is something I cannot, in good conscience, advocate for, but the result is something I also did not expect. It helped her make the numbers work financially.
Once her son was on his own, she decided, “I’m going to part with my health insurance."
Instead, she decided to go to the free clinic.
She says, "I’m not above going to the free clinic.”
Gaona pays on a scale.
She says she took the money that normally went towards the health insurance premium at work and, instead, used it for doctors' visits when she needed to go.
But there was a twist that surprised me.
SOMETIMES, UNCONVENTIONAL SOLUTIONS CAN LEAD TO UNEXPECTED RESULTS
She used some of the money she normally earmarked for health insurance premiums towards other activities.
“I go to yoga now. I practice at home, and I practice in the studio. I spend more time to go on vacation because I now have that. And I spend time in nature. So those things are the things that… fill me. And I’m not stressed. And, at the end of the day, that’s what was happening. Stress was really making me sick.”
SO-CALLED COMPETITORS MAY ACTUALLY BE YOUR BEST COLLABORATORS
Gaona also shifted gears when she found out a potential competitor was moving to town just as she was about to establish her practice.
At first, she said to herself, “Something tells me, inside, I need to hurry up and just start. Because they’re going to be my competition. And so, sure enough, when I looked them up… they [specialized] in therapy.”
Then one day, it hit her.
“Who said they’re here to compete with me?”
So she reached out to the so-called competition.
“And now we collaborate with them. And they send their students to my clinic.” And she helps them, too.
CLEARLY ASK FOR A WIN-WIN SCENARIO
The lesson and benefit is clear, and she even provides the script for you to use when you approach a competitor.
She suggests you say, “This is who I am. And this is what I do. And how can we work with each other? How can I help you? And how can you help me?”
Navigating these experiences while trying to establish her business as a company that makes enough money has been a process for her.
Figuring out how to run the business on a daily basis has also been quite the learning experience.
KNOWING YOUR WORTH MEANS ASKING FOR IT WITH YOUR PRICING
“Knowing that I’m worthy of setting a price that someone in a different area would set because we are bringing an amazing service to the community” was a struggle.
Gaona also brought up something else many people probably haven’t taken into account when considering the profit motive of becoming an entrepreneur.
SOMETIMES, OTHERS MAY NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR MOTIVES
It’s not about just asking for help to start your business. It’s about knowing that the people who genuinely want to help you actually understand your motivations.
“It’s hard for me to go to SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and [the] SBA [Small Business Administration] and… to tell them how I feel. Because the majority of them are Caucasian males. And they haven’t lived my life. So, for me, to tell them that it’s beyond making a dollar, or beyond making the highest amount of possible money that I can bring… it’s more about showing up to my community because there’s not someone who looks like me providing these services. That’s going to be the biggest impact.”
HEALING COMES IN MANY FORMS
In the end, the reason Luz Gaona shows up for her community and finds a way to make things work goes back to her need to rewrite a narrative. She is trying to heal the wounds many minorities have felt.
“In my heart, it solves a lot of the trauma that [happened] for my parents, for my ancestors who did not have a voice. So I never take it for granted… I’m very realistic that I get to choose to carry out my dream, something that "mis abuelos" [my grandparents], "mis bisabuelos" [my great-grandparents] would have never been able to have access to. So I get to do that.”
And it’s the reason why entrepreneurship and what goes along with it has a different meaning for Luz Gaona, who was fittingly named after her grandmother. Their shared first name, Luz, means “light” in Spanish.
“I cannot tell you how abundant life is for me at this point. And it’s not even monetary. It’s the peace in my heart and at night when I go to sleep. I’m, like, exhausted but, God, we helped this kid today or this parent had an aha moment. And it’s going to change their life. And it makes it all worth it.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
Are you curious about what it takes to become a woman, minority or veteran-certified business? Here’s your chance to find out what you'll need to apply and obtain the State of Florida’s official minority certification for business. It could help you take your business to the next level by allowing you to compete and work for the government or private businesses. Here’s more info:
FSBDC at the University of South Florida
“Woman/Minority & Veteran Certification”
Tuesday, May 31, 2022
10:00 a.m. EDT – 11:00 a.m. EDT
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
Stop Overthinking and Launch that Business!
I am so guilty of overthinking. You may be, too. If that’s keeping you from launching your business, help is on the way. This FREE webinar is designed to give you the confidence and exact list of steps to help you finally open your service-based business in 90 days.
SBA (Small Business Administration)
“How to Launch Your Dream Business In 90 Days Without Letting Overthinking Hold You Back”
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
1:00 p.m. EDT – 2:30 p.m. EDT
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
When Luz Gaona told me that she gave up her health insurance to make her business work, I struggled with the decision on whether or not to publish that.
I personally believe it’s more important to pay for health insurance than practically anything else, except for rent, your mortgage or food. While there’s debate over how much of medical debt contributes to bankruptcies, according to The Balance, it clearly plays a role, whether it’s the prime reason or proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” reason for bankruptcies.
What I never considered was that Gaona would end up living a much healthier life because she could not rely on health insurance and, therefore, had to make healthier choices in her life.
Luz’s story of being raised in the strawberry and other fields where her family and other migrants worked is likely not something many of us can directly relate to as far as upbringing.
Because we don’t hear much about migrant workers overcoming and becoming well-educated business owners, I thought it was especially important to share her story.
Her commitment to providing a service and becoming a small business owner to serve the disadvantaged is something that can inspire and educate others. The best way is to let her explain it in her own words:
“If you can find whatever your calling is, and it makes a change… it doesn’t have to be this huge thing. Because it’s all about the granitos [the grains]. It’s that little, little grain and, eventually, the small grains add up. And when you turn back and you look, you know, you’re going to be, like, wow, it was amazing. It was amazing to serve but, also, it was an amazing life.”
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