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In California, potential entrepreneurs start with a passion and look to Mission Community Services Corporation to help them start their businesses.
Candies and other products imported from Mexico line the shelves in the Dulceria Alebrijes candy store in Bakersfield, California.

Making a candymaker’s dream come true

In California, potential entrepreneurs start with a passion and look to Mission Community Services Corporation to help them start their businesses.

March 13, 2018

Editor’s note: A Spanish-language version of this story is also available.


Ever since Gabriela Murguía was a little girl, she has wanted to own her own business. Her grandfather owned a shop that sold religious articles, furniture, and interior decorations. Her father later inherited the store, and she worked there, too.

Murguía had ample experience working for someone else’s business; the problem was that she didn’t know how to start a business of her own.

“I’ve had approximately 10 years in sales and dealt with clients,” Murguía said, “but I was always an employee.”

That all changed when she saw a TV ad about Empezando, a Spanish-language version of an entrepreneurship course called “Start, Run & Grow.”

Gabriela Murguía, president of MercaMex Distributor Inc., surveys her Bakersfield, California, store with staff member Paulina Alondra Velazquez. (2:53)

The course is offered through the nonprofit Mission Community Services Corporation — which provides special assistance to women, low-income, minority, and veteran-owned businesses — and its Women’s Business Center. The course provides knowledge, tools, and resources to start and grow a business, and is supported by Wells Fargo through about $100,000 in grants and team member volunteers. For three hours a week over the course of a few months, Murguía learned about everything from filling out insurance policies to what it would take to make her business successful.

“During the classes, I said, ‘I could do this,’” said Murguía, who completed the course in 2014. “Five weeks in, I said, ‘I’m doing this. I will start my own business.’”

Murguía now owns MercaMex Distributor Inc., a Mexican candy company with three retail stores, a growing wholesale distribution business, and more than $1 million in revenue.

“If you want to achieve something, you have to do it yourself,” Murguía said. “I want to tell people they need to go for it and follow their dreams.”

‘One step at a time’

The entrepreneurship course is one of the ways MCSC provides opportunities for potential entrepreneurs and small business owners to contribute to their communities in Kern, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey counties in California, said Chuck Jehle, program director for MCSC.

“Our job is to help people and make sure they have a viable business plan and income,” Jehle said. “There are very motivated people out there, but they feel frustrated. They want to make a difference and make a higher income, but they don’t know how. For the people who don’t go on to start their own businesses, they learn skills in our course that make them more valuable as employees.”

For Murguía, the course has allowed her to own her own business, just like her father and grandfather. For Brad Opstad, it is helping him bring the coffeehouse culture of Portland, Oregon, to San Luis Obispo, California.

In California, potential entrepreneurs start with a passion and look to Mission Community Services Corporation to help them start their businesses.
Brad Opstad is hoping to fulfill his dream of opening a coffeehouse with help from Mission Community Services Corporation.

After 30 years of working in the restaurant business, Opstad left Oregon and returned to his hometown in California. There, he realized he missed the coffeehouse atmosphere in Portland.

“One of my favorite experiences in Portland was getting that first cup of coffee and that coffeehouse-drinking culture,” Opstad said. “There are plenty of places to get coffee here, but I missed the rock ‘n’ roll, college basement vibe. I want to create an atmosphere where the barista introduces people to each other. That’s why I went to MCSC. I’m going through the class as a way to see if my abstract plan fits in the prism of a business plan.”

Opstad enrolled in the Start, Run & Grow course in September 2017. Since then, he’s had the same realization as Murguía: It feels like his business idea is coming to fruition. Opstad has opened a business account and is recording observations about what he wants and doesn’t want in a potential coffeehouse.

When the class ends, Opstad hopes to have a written business plan and open a coffeehouse in late 2018. “I’m taking it one step at a time,” he said. “And MCSC is helping me get there.”

Contributors: Sara Harrison
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