Immigration and Entrepreneurship

Jae Dancer, Sports editor

When it comes to Flavia Flores, there’s no doubt that she is achieving the American Dream. Flores immigrated from Honduras when she was 5 years old. Her family lived in several places throughout this journey including Mexico, Arizona, to settle finally in West Liberty Iowa. 

“My mom is from Honduras and I can remember us getting into a taxi and her telling us that we have to leave,” Flores said. “The transition was difficult because you know you come to a different world not knowing what you’re going to have or how the language barrier is going to affect you, but once we got a hang of the culture and how it works in the United States we fit in well.”

Flores can recall her mother working two or three jobs throughout childhood to provide for the family; however once achieving the legal status of becoming a resident of Iowa City, her mother worked at the University of Iowa as a housekeeper while keeping a second job to work towards buying a home. Flores feels that watching her mother’s work ethic throughout the years has helped shape her into the entrepreneur she is today.

“Learning or seeing her work ethic through that process made me the person I am today,” Flores said. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and finally I am.”

When starting the business, Flores never anticipated the amount of sacrifice immigrant entrepreneurs need to make to be successful in a new culture. 

“It’s hard, especially when there’s a culture that dominates more where it’s easier for Americans to have access to new business loans whereas with Hispanics or immigrants it’s not as easy to have those resources. So it’s a little bit challenging and the language barrier can affect your business so you’ve got to learn the codes and how everything works and learning the in’s and out’s of business,” Flores said.

Flores and her Husband Hector Flores started a local construction business called “Flores Construction” where they work alongside a crew to infiltrate construction throughout Iowa’s community. 

“It’s interesting to look back at ourselves 10 years ago and looking at 2021, we didn’t know we were making the American dream you know, we have a business, a home, and it was not easy but looking back to Honduras, seeing our people struggle and wanting to come here to make a better life for themselves we’re just like, it’s not a piece of cake,” Flores said. “Many people in Honduras have it in their mind that immigration if freedom, which year it is but freedom comes with a lot of hard work and sacrifice,” Flores said.

Flores is proud to have encouraged and inspired some Hispanic friends to pursue their businesses through coffee shops, Mexican stores, dress shops, and taco stands. 

“They’ve said that the only reason we started our business was because we saw you and your husband doing it,” Flores said. “When it comes to entrepreneurship, there are gonna be people who look at you and say you’re not doing good enough, that you’re never going to make it, and then you have other people that like and support you who say keep going you might have some bad days but you’re gonna have some good days to come.”

They started this business with no more than $1000 and today it is a nice mom-and-pop shop company within Iowa City. In the future. Throughout her company, Flores focuses on educating the people she works with including clients, the construction company, and homeowners. 

“I take so much pride in how I help educate. We educate them like this is how things need to be done and I take a lot of pride in my work,” Flores said.

Flores’s ambitions for the future are to expand the business to be self-run, educate other construction workers, perform seminars, and hopefully work towards opening another business.

“Dreams are endless and the bigger you are the bigger you dream and it’s wonderful to have that availability to make things happen,” Flores said. “Don’t give up on your dreams and don’t let anybody tell you it can’t happen because it will happen if you are hardworking, patient, and surround yourself with positive people.”

Another successful immigrant that settled in Iowa City back in 2010 is Situ Mausa. She was born in the Congo and grew up in Tanzania. She was a refugee for 14 years finally coming to Iowa City at age 15 where she attended Iowa City West High School. Now she is a mother of two, expecting a third, and buying her first home. Mausa works for Whirlpool Maytag appliances in Iowa City where she has worked there for four years. 

“I enjoy working and I make good money [and] since coming here, it’s nice the way I am living now just sleeping in a nice place and I don’t miss food in my fridge anymore, and I’m not worried about the government coming to the door and killing the whole family anymore,” Mausa said.

Mausa immigrated here due to violence and a lack of peace between the government and the people within the Country of Tanzania.

“The people are peaceful and don’t make the problems but the government doesn’t want peace they are fighting over money and when they are angry they come in and kill people,” Mausa said.

When asked what the biggest difference between the United States and the Congo Mausa said. “Here I mostly work come home stay inside and go back to work whereas back in Africa there is a lot more sense of community but there is much more violence and danger [also] here we can draw attention to problems but back there if you speak out they will kill you dead right away so you just have to be quiet.”

Through her immigrant experience, Mausas’s advice to future immigrants to be successful is to work hard and stay positive.

“Be positive, be patient and everything will be fine because if you don’t have a good attitude, people don’t want to be around you and where I work you could lose your job over a little thing so you just have to stay positive no matter what,” Mausa said.