Throughout history, women have had to fight the so-called “glass ceiling” to access some jobs. However, some decide to become their own bosses, despite dealing with the entrenched machismo of Latin culture. Here we look at three of the many stories of Hispanic women in Omaha who broke that ceiling and decided to start their own businesses.
From Babysitting to Digging
Flor Campos was born in Texas and grew up away from her parents. In 2003 she moved to Omaha where she met Susan Aguilera Robles who supported her by offering her work and mentoring her. In the process, she discovered that she wanted to take care of children and start a business.
“I’ve always been a hard worker and I set out to do things with organization,” she said
She presented a business plan to a bank for a loan and in 2017 set up a 24-hour daycare center. Her main clients were healthcare workers and meat packers.
“I was doing fine. I earned $55,000 annually and I paid my debt,” Campos said.
With the pandemic in 2020, Campos had to close the daycare. Her current business partner proposed setting up an excavation company. She didn’t think about it much, and with a business plan in-hand and her good references, she got a $90,000 loan for buying the proper machinery. This is how she founded Emmpire Underground LLC and teamed up with her business partner.
The company installs underground pipelines – with required permission – that serve as protection for the wiring of its contractors.
“We have contracts with Verizon and CenturyLink for now, among other companies. We’ve been successful,” she said.
Her biggest obstacle, she says, is that she is sometimes confronted with Latin machismo.
“When I have to call to check the progress of the project and Mexican men answer me, they argue with me and ask to talk to my boss. So I have to show up with my partner so that they will listen to me. It is sad, but having the presence of a man at your side is necessary when dealing with workers. I like to do things right and professionally,” she said.
Flor hopes to reopen the daycare when the stage is set and can safely return to normal.
The Chinchorro Boricua in Omaha
After her divorce in Puerto Rico, Elie Berchal arrived in Omaha in 2009 to give herself and her children in college a better future, so she got a job at Omaha Steaks. However, because of the repetitive movements she made as a packer, she hurt her hand and had to quit that job. She was supposed to support the academic future of her sons and also her youngest daughter who had just given birth.
“On this road one sheds tears. I was single, and I knew I had to do something to help my kids. I remembered the words of my grandmother telling me to do what I’m passionate about and do well, so I decided to do what I do best: cook,” she said.
Berchal promoted her dishes in various places, including in the Cinco de Mayo festivity, where she sold out of everything. She decided to negotiate small space in a nightclub to operate El Chinchorro Boricua. It operated from 11 am to 8 pm.
In Puerto Rican slang, the word chinchorro means a small and rustic place that sells food and where families share and have small celebrations. This is the first boricua restaurant in the state of Nebraska. Her business was going stronger and stronger to the point that several companies asked her for catering. With the pandemic in 2020, the nightclub closed, but El Chinchorro Boricua continues to operate. Former loyal customers continue to call Elie for her wonderful Caribbean-flavored dishes.
Yesenia Goldstrom came as an undocumented immigrant to the United States in the late 1990s, in search of a better life. With little English professed, she studied at a massage school in Omaha. Also, she says that during that period she had received a lot of criticism from some Latinos.
“They told me I was an illegal and that’s why they gave me papers and that ‘I did the right thing and it’s cost me,'” Goldstrom says.
The criticism did not daunt Goldstrom, and she continued her studies with the support of her husband, until she graduated. She had to take a national exam in English in order to practice as a therapist masseuse. Her husband urged her to take advantage of the strength of her hands and all the knowledge acquired. So she rented a small room in a shop that was located between Leavenworth and 37th streets.
She wanted to look for bigger spaces, but this time with something new. She decided to use salt therapies for homeopathic purposes used since ancient times. She acquired a venue where everything would stay in harmony and founded Salt and Spa in 2016. The Salvadoran took care of the details of her new business and offers top-notch service with a wide range of physical care options. The place is decorated to ensure the harmony of colors, smells, and furniture. There are also blocks of salt on the walls and lamps, which are part of the treatment. Besides massages, she also offers advice on skincare products. Currently, the business is located at 7822 Wakeley Plaza Omaha.