Grocers’ Daughter Forges New Path for Her Business

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Photo by Jennifer Marquez/Hola Iowa
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By Christina Fernández-Morrow, Hola Iowa

When America Zaragoza’s family moved from Elgin, IL to Marshalltown, she never thought she would grow to love the small town. Going from a population of almost 150,000 to less than 40,000 took a lot of getting used to for the eleven-year-old. “I struggled a little bit. I thought, when I grow up, I’m going to move to a big city, like everyone says.” She did eventually set out for Chicago for college in 2019, but Covid 19 forced her to return home the next year. That changed her life. 

A few months later a derecho hit Iowa and their home was destroyed. “Watching them find a new home, seeing them go through the process made me think, maybe I can do that.” Her family owned and managed apartments so real estate wasn’t a stretch, but it didn’t please her parents that she wanted to put off school to get her license. “I had tried UNI, and it was such a culture shock. Coming from a place with a large Latino population to being the only Latina in my accounting class. It was hard.” She began working at her parents’ grocery store with a new appreciation for Marshalltown. “Coming back from UNI really put everything into perspective, how grateful I am to have a community of people who look like me.” Her time in the grocery store was like a new awakening, too. She grew up helping in the store but became more focused on customer service and practicing her Spanish. Little did she know that she was building relationships that would help start her business. 

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In January of 2023 Zaragoza got her real estate license. In a conversation with a family friend and a vendor at her family’s store, she learned about an all-Latina real estate team called ELLLA. She was intrigued by the idea of working with the Latino community. The team was looking to expand beyond Des Moines and the following May she kicked off her career as a real estate agent with them. “I fell in love with the ladies and their commitment to our culture that I had been embracing more and trying to tap into. Having the right people around you who are like-minded and want to help you achieve your goals versus those that tell you no, you can’t do it, like the women in leadership on my team. I see them as mentors and friends.” She admires their drive and confidence. “When I first started, I asked if they get backlash for being women and they told me no because they’re confident in what they do. They really take pride in their work. We’re the experts and if someone doesn’t see that in us, that’s OK, they’re not someone we want to work with and we can refer them to someone else. Thankfully, my clients really trust me. and I appreciate that about them.” 

Photo by Jennifer Marquez/Hola Iowa

Her family’s support, even though they feared she had chosen a tough job and might not make any money, was vital. “When I was first trying to build my clientele, to let people know I was an agent my parents advised me to create a flyer that they would put in bags in their store.” Zaragoza was hesitant. “I didn’t think people would want to buy a house from the girl who sold them groceries. But it was really me against me at that point. I talked to some of my teammates, and they encouraged me to do it.” It was a smart move. She got a lot of clients from that and began to establish herself as a businesswoman, separate from her parents’ store.

The payoff has been better than she expected. “My first year I was able to pay off my credit cards, start a Roth IRA, and create a savings account.” That’s due to Zaragoza going the extra mile to help her clients, many of them who are first-time homebuyers, and others who never knew they could purchase a house using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). “I really take pride in educating my clients and being able to help families begin to create generational wealth. That’s where I feel like my job is very rewarding.”

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While Zaragoza chose a different path from her parents to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams, their example of helping customers, working hard, and not letting obstacles get in their way guides her as a business owner. With plans to invest in rental properties that her brother can manage, she hopes to keep growing as a real estate agent and keep her business in the family for generations to come.

JEFAS Magazine is a collaboration of writers, photographers, social media managers, editors, translators, and designers from across Illinois, Iowa and the Midwest – all of whom are Latinx. It is the first magazine created by the Latinx community, for the Latinx community that focuses on how they are boosting the economy, giving back, and filling the gap between what is needed and what is available in the state. 

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To see the locations where you can find the magazine visit @JEFASMagazine on Instagram and TikTok

You can find the digital magazine here:

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https://holaamericanews.com/jefas-latinas-in-business-magazine-may-2024/

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