SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Since Irma Chavez was 12 years old, the idea of entrepreneurship was more than just a dream at first, it was a fight for survival.
Chavez was born and raised in El Salvador. Before she was a teenager, she had no choice but to drop out of school to help make a living for herself and her family.
“That motivated me to be better for them. I sent my mom a picture this last week. I was in a conference, and I told my mom, ‘This is your daughter here making it, and I want you to feel proud of me.’ And my mom did. My mom is so proud of me. And that’s what’s motivating me,” Chavez said.
Being the oldest of three sisters, she made it her mission to be the change. With the help of her sister, it started in her community.
“I went to places, buy oranges and resell them to make money and help my family,” Chavez said. “She was like, ‘Go, go. Help me with my school.’ And she didn’t want a drop out of school.”
When Chavez turned 18 she decided to move to the U.S. She worked hard to make money from being a babysitter and housekeeper, to working in a restaurant and chiropractic clinic. Each job taught her something new.
“I know how hard it is to go to a place that nobody speaks your language. And that’s why we started Conexion, to help anybody who speaks Spanish, who wants to start a business, who wants to grow their business school,” Chavez said.
As her drive to learn more English increased, so did her passion for helping others. This is what brought her to Springdale for a fresh start and to help businesses in the Hispanic community get off the ground.
“Springdale gave me the opportunity to see a different view of people, to see people that look like me, talk like me. I feel home,” Chavez said.
Chavez co-founded Conexion de Negocios Latinos, a local nonprofit organization that offers networking, education, an support to Latino entrepreneurs in Northwest Arkansas.
“As an entrepreneur myself. I know how hard it is to start a business,” Chavez said.
That’s why she chose to start Conexion de Negocios Latinos. For her, it took seven years to get the business moving and to gain trust in the community. She says she understands the struggle firsthand.
“They have a little bit of money and they go like, ‘Oh, I know how to make pupusas. I know how to make tamales. I want to sell them, you know?’ But they don’t know, maybe, the regulations that it comes with,” Chavez said.
She says what drives her the most in the end is her community, family, kindness, and passion for others to succeed.
“Keep going, keep going, and don’t go back,” Chavez said. Helping others pursue their dreams like she did when she left El Salvador years ago.