A weekend visit to a Mexican grocery store in Ariton garnered a new Small Business Development Center client and resulted in the expansion of the operation into Troy.
SBDC TROY Director Juliana Bolivar said she wanted to check out what the store offered and started a conversation about the great products offered – especially their in-store made fruit popsicles.
“I was able to drop a Spanish-language brochure and have a great conversation with the staff there,” she said. “A few days later, Laura Flores called and wanted to expand the family’s operation into Troy, but lacked the experience needed to navigate the regulatory waters in a larger municipality.”
Last summer, SBDC TROY and the Alabama SBDC Network began developing Spanish-language educational opportunities and materials to support the creation of legal business entities across Alabama. In the Wiregrass, Bolivar has been able to deliver presentations and marketing materials that support the growth of the Spanish-speaking community in business and commerce.
The support doesn’t stop with Hispanic outreach, however. In 2022, 66 percent of the clients served through one-on-one services were women, and 62 percent of the training attendees were female. The Center is closing out March with a woman-focused online program, available statewide, called “Empower Her: 5 Steps to Launch Your Business.” The program is from 6 pm. – 7:30 p.m. March 31.
Mexicana San Juditas, Flores’ grocery store, had locations in Ariton and Eufaula already in operation, but wanted to move into a larger municipality. The SBDC Troy staff was able to help the family navigate compliance issues and required health permits – with Bolivar serving as an interpreter during health inspections and paperwork completion.
“When they opened the doors of their mini-market and ice cream/popsicle bar in Troy, I encouraged them to continue working on their marketing – having already established a brand identity that tells their story through their Christian faith,” she said.
San Juditas or Saint Jude was one of the 12 original disciples of Christ, and a relative of Jesus and is considered the patron saint of those in difficult situations. The store is located at 1133 Highway 231, just in front of the Publix shopping center.
“Their digital marketing strategy still needed some work, and Laura wanted to keep growing to attract not only Hispanic customers but be a convenient grocery store for all community members,” Bolivar said.
Bolivar brought on Yadira “Yari” Colon-Lopez, the Center’s marketing advisor, who started providing support and creating separate “Google My Business” listings and training managers on creating separate but uniform tone and identity among three different social media platforms being used to communicate with customers.
The team is currently working on a marketing strategy that includes flyers in English, professional photography supplied by Troy University Photography, and evaluation of signage options to raise visibility among other market segments.
The Mendez-Flores family is now working on the development of a fourth business out of their store in Ariton, which has a commercial kitchen. Their idea: to use the kitchen as a commissary kitchen for food trucks in the area.
“Their entrepreneurial spirit and desire to succeed is a great strength for any new business, but now they know they have the support of the Small Business Development Center to help them navigate the process,” Bolivar said.