Through Mexican Consulate Business Class, Woman Starts Nonprofit Hiring Ex-Cons

By Jessica Kwong The Orange County Register

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) An eight-week class in Santa Ana is aimed at helping Mexicans start their own businesses. The "Emprendedoras" class has taken on new meaning for one graduate who has since started a nonprofit to connect youth and adults released from prison to work at her catering company.

SANTA ANA

The Consulate of Mexico in Santa Ana launched its Emprendedoras class on entrepreneurship more than a year ago, but it's taken on a new meaning for one woman in the first graduating class since Donald Trump assumed the presidency.

Fabiola Lua, 40, of Santa Ana is a single mother of four but not a victim of domestic violence, as are most participants in the eight-week class aimed at helping Mexicans start their own businesses.

Lua already had her own business from home, Ricos Tacos, preparing Mexican food and decorations for fiestas, but her permits were no longer valid and one customer used that as a reason not to pay her $800 for a job.

Through the Emprendedoras (entrepreneurs) class, Lua registered for permits but also got paperwork in place for something beyond the requirement -- starting a nonprofit to connect youth and adults released from prison to work at her catering company.

Her motivation, in part, was Trump's rhetoric that Mexicans are "criminals," "rapists" and "bad hombres," she said.

"That fueled me to show in some manner that that's not the case," Lua said in Spanish after receiving her diploma at the program graduation Thursday. "We are people who work hard, we're emprendedoras. We came here to work."

Lua was the only student of the 13 women and five men in the fourth-generation Emprendedoras class who's pursuing a nonprofit, said Monica Robles, the teacher and a leadership coach for The John Maxwell Team, which offers an entrepreneur certification program.

Other graduates showcased their businesses -- from Mexican food to desserts to clothing and purses -- during the graduation reception at the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. T he new graduates join the 25 million Latino workers who contribute to the U.S. economy each year, Consul of Mexico Mario Cuevas Zamora said.

"This is showing that people who pursue a better life can achieve one," he said. "No one can deny the importance of us Latinos." Robles said more nonprofits like the one Lua is in the process of starting are needed in the community.

"What she brings to the society is something that we don't think about -- that people who go to prison for whatever reason, come out and need help," Robles said. "She does it from her heart and she doesn't know them."

Lua said she also got inspiration for her nonprofit through the restorative justice approach, which focuses on rehabilitation of criminal offenders and their integration back into society. She wants to put people being released from prison to work cooking and baking.

The nonprofit, which has yet to be named, has the support of immigrants rights group Resilience OC. It will be housed in the same building where Lua runs her catering business, she said.

"There are many places that say you need experience or you need to know how to do something and many people don't, and they end up in jail again," she said. "So they have a new outlook in life."

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