The Story of Marcela Lopez
As Marcela Lopez skillfully handcrafts with paint and brush the look of marble above the fireplace of a customerâ€™s home, she feels grateful for the business wisdom and expertise she acquired through the Suazo Business Center. The center, located in Salt Lake City, satisfied the tugging at her soul to be more than she was at that moment, two years ago. After being invited to the graduation of a close friend, Maria del Rosario Diaz, Lopez watched as Diaz walked across the graduation stage and received a Certificate of Completion from The Suazo Business Center.When Diaz, dressed in her cap and gown, reached for her certificate while receiving the official â€œwell doneâ€ handshake, Lopez absolutely knew she wanted that same feelingâ€”that same accomplishment. In November of 2018, Lopez followed in Diazâ€™s footsteps and began her journey. This past March, she also became a graduate of The Suazo Business Center. Lopez, along with the other graduates who gathered that day on the Jordan Campus of Salt Lake Community College, all knew one thing: they were in a much better position to be successful in life.
â€œIt was one of the greatest things I ever did,â€ said Lopez, who along with her husband Juan Basilio, own JB Creations in Salt Lake City. â€œIt felt awesome. [The Suazo Business Center] was able to teach me the proper order of what I was already doing. They were able to expand my horizons and expand my business and help me be so much more than I was.â€
JB Creations, specializing in creating the look of marble or stone through both interior and exterior painting, is one of only a handful of companies in northern Utah providing this service. Without the commitment, guidance and business savvy offered at the Suazo Business Center, Lopez feels she and her husband may not be as successful with JB Creations as they are today.
The Suazo Business Center
Committed to the development and empowerment of the Latino, Hispanic and other under-served communities, The Suazo Business Center, a non-profit organization, provides assistance to help existing potential minority entrepreneurs succeed and build wealth. Just as important, the center provides affordable classes as well as mentoring and guidance to help them every step of the way. This process begins with interested entrepreneurs scheduling a session with one of the centerâ€™s advisers, typically followed by the creation of a plan specific to each individual and their goals. This plan could include assistance with obtaining a loan, a federal tax ID number, starting a website, even help with developing a name for a business should those needs arise.
Coinciding with where individuals are at with the creation or existing operation of their business, they register for either the â€œBusiness Startupâ€ program, the â€œBusiness Growthâ€ program, or both. Each program is six months long and requires each participant to spend Tuesday and/or Wednesday evenings attending classes which include subjects ranging from QuickBooks, personal finance, marketing, networking, social media and much more.
The cost to attend these classes is substantially lower than those offered at more traditional academic institutions or colleges. â€œLast year, we had close to 1,000 people complete our program,â€ said Operations Manager Edward Bennett. â€œWe structure our program the way we do because we want to make sure you are 100% ready and capable of running your own business and truly succeeding.â€
Beginnings & Mission
Success came for Gladys Gonzalez in 1997 when, shortly after immigrating to the United States, she desired a better and more successful life for her and her family. In that same year, Senator Pete Suazo helped Gonzalez write a business plan and obtain her first loan for the propagation of her brainchild, Mundo Hispano, a Spanish newspaper. When Suazo passed away in 2001, Gonzalez, full of gratitude for his help and guidance, found support from Senator Bob Bennett to create a center in Suazoâ€™s name where others could receive the same type of help she did. In 2003, The Suazo Business Center officially opened its doors.
Sixteen years later, the Suazo team has helped close to 10,000 businesses get off the ground. Today, they are still ever proud and standing ready to welcome any interested qualified individual while encouraging full participation in both programs. Graduates of their programs attend a spring graduation ceremony on the Jordan Campus of Salt Lake Community College. They also receive a small business grant as well as a Utah Valley University endorsed certificate for The Suazo Business Center program.
â€œWe are committed to thoroughly helping everyone we serve and ending cycles of poverty,â€ Bennett emphasized. â€œOur office team, adjunct instructors, business advisers, and Board of Directors want nothing more than to see our graduates grow and flourish in the communities in which they live and serve.â€
Lopez couldnâ€™t agree more. â€œEven after you graduate, they remember you and are still very supportive,â€ she said.