By Mike Baird Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Texas
One teen sidestepped college for her dream of operating a fashion boutique.
Bella Abastta, 19, struck a deal in August with the owner of Mosaic boutique in Lamar Park Shopping Center.
"She just jumped in the deep end of business," said her father Victor Abastta, longtime owner of Sparkling City Jewelers.
"For now college will wait, while Bella acquires real life experience."
His daughter's crib was in the back of his jewelry store, and she grew up learning to make jewelry.
It's the craft that took her to the next level.
With help from Del Mar College Small Business Development Center, Abastta was able to establish a business plan and achieve her goal to buy the store.
The college hosts one of about 1,000 free business resource centers nationwide, partly funded through a partnership with U.S. Small Business Administration.
Abastta was one of 443 people counseled last year at the center, director Ann Fierova said.
It provided more than 140 workshops for about 2,600 people.
Abastta is one of 46 people helped with new businesses.
"It was priceless," Abastta said. "I took marketing workshops, learned how to launch social media sites and negotiate for the best deal."
She generated about $20,000 in sales during her first holiday season, she said, and feels like she's on track with her dream.
"Everybody should follow their dreams," said Katharine Barrera, 35, former owner of Mosaic, who sold Abastta the business.
"You can pave your own path as long as you realize the consequences behind it."
Abastta attended Wilson Elementary and Hamlin Middle schools before going to Keystone National High School, a private school based in San Antonio.
During her last two years of high school she worked part-time at Texas State Aquarium with the dolphin show.
"My plan was to be a marine biologist, but life took me on a different course," she said. She had made jewelry from raw uncut gem stones for several years, which she showed many retailers and was frustrated none showed much interest, she said. Until Barrera.
"Bella's very talented," said Barrera, who first operated her own jewelry booth at Corpus Christi Trade Center. "Her jewelry is beyond beautiful."
Within a month it was selling out.
Then in August, Abastta learned Barrera was trying to sell Mosaic.
During Abastta's counseling with the development center, the women negotiated via text.
"We texted so much my hand hurt," Abastta said.
She saved about $5,000 from her jewelry sales, sought a loan for the rest of a down payment and Barrera remained cosigner on the remaining lease after agreeing to finance the rest of the purchase.
"I feel it's part of me," Abastta said. "It's a good opportunity for less than going to school would cost. And I'm very young, there's plenty of time for more."
Her business counselor, Celia Garza, described Abastta as ambitious and determined.
"She knew she needed some guidance," Garza said. "I enjoyed working with Bella, because she followed the steps presented to her."
Abastta has since been recognized as a young business owner by Del Mar College, with a certificate for her economic impact in the community.