By Martha Mauritson Carlsbad Current-Argus, N.M.
If Maria Hernandez could pass on just one piece of advice for other women who dream of owning their own business, it would be this: "Make your dream your reality."
That's what Hernandez did 18 years ago when she opened the Loving Hairstyling Salon.
Today, Hernandez works at her shop in the little village just east of Carlsbad, alongside her two sisters, Margie Vasquez and Maggie Vasquez.
Before making the move to her own shop, Hernandez was the manager at Regis salon in Carlsbad. But she began to dream of having her own place, closer to her parents who live southeast of Loving.
After 17 years at Regis, she found a building in Loving that seemed perfect for her needs.
The building had been a restaurant, but Hernandez was able to come to an agreement with the owner to buy just the building at a good price.
Then came the hunt for a way to finance the venture, and after about six months, she landed an SBA loan.
"It's very difficult out there when you're a single lady trying to get a loan," she recalled.
She talked to several loan officers at banks, but they always asked for more collateral, or more down payment.
Finally, Luis Leon at Western Commerce Bank listened to Hernandez's request and agreed with her that the building itself was enough collateral for the loan.
The loan took care of the building, and Hernandez's dream took care of the equipment and furnishings for the salon. "I knew I wanted to venture out on my own," she said.
So for a few years, she had been accumulating equipment, buying it whenever she found something she could afford. Some items were used, but she re-upholstered and fixed them up so that everything she needed for three work stations was waiting in her garage.
Within a year, sister Margie Vasquez had left the shop in Carlsbad and joined the Loving salon. Three years later, Maggie Vasquez made the same move.
The sisters shared Hernandez's desire to be closer to family. And they also found their children were happy and successful in the smaller Loving school system.
Although the three women work together, Hernandez is the owner and the business woman. Margie and Maggie wouldn't have it any other way.
They are more than happy, Margie Vasquez said, to let Hernandez take care of the business details.
Hernandez speaks with much gratitude of the support Loving residents have given her shop.
And the loyalty of her Carlsbad clients was enormous, such that almost all of them followed her to Loving.
In a final bit of serendipity, Hernandez met the man who would become her husband, Tony Hernandez, when he came in for a haircut.
Today, Maria Hernandez would urge others not to be afraid to venture out in search of a dream, even though it is sometimes intimidating to find yourself out there all alone.
"Never give up," she said.