Opening Her Own Business: A Conversation With LIFT-LA Parent Dominga
Dominga first joined LIFT in 2016 when she came to our offices in search of an organization that could help her, her husband, and her kids Carlos (15), Valeria (11) and Mia (6) get back onto stable ground. She initially came to LIFT for assistance in securing subsidized public transportation and connections to food banks, and with the support and encouragement of her LIFT coach, she not only got back on her feet, but also learned how to dream big – and how to make those dreams a reality.
Since then, Dominga has accomplished incredible things with LIFT, including going back to school, securing a college scholarship, finding a full-time job, and opening her own business!
LIFT-LA Staffer Sophia sat down with Dominga to learn more about her powerful journey with LIFT and what she’s looking forward to accomplishing next.
Sophia: Dominga, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us today. Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell us how you first learned about LIFT?
Dominga: I was walking through the hallway outside your office and I saw a poster that said LIFT. I went to ask someone “what does this mean?” and they told me that they can help me – it’s a family organization. I entered and the first person I saw in the door was Christina (one of our former LIFT-LA staff members). She told me – “Come in. How can we help you?” And that’s where everything started.
Sometimes there are organizations that simply say “no.” They close their doors to you. You’re already facing so many obstacles, and it makes you feel powerless, like people don’t trust you because of you are low income.
But you guys, without even knowing me, welcomed me. To come to a place with an organization that says, “I’m here, I can help you, I’m going to help your family move forward” is incredible.
Sophia: And do you remember what you were feeling and thinking when you first joined LIFT?
Dominga: When I started with the program, I couldn’t believe what my coach was telling me was true. The things she told me LIFT could offer for me, for my family, I thought, “it’s not possible.” It was something new for us, but I had confidence. I had confidence that it could happen, and I could get to the point where I could obtain all the benefits from you guys.
Sophia: Why did you have confidence in the program?
Dominga: From the first person who I was with, the coach, she made me feel like she was on my side and that she would be helping me. Or like I wouldn’t be left alone, because when someone says to you: “You have a future and we’re going to help you achieve it. We can help you,” they make you feel like they’re on your side, helping you. When she said that I can overcome [my struggles], I felt confident.
Sophia: Thank you for sharing that. And what are some of your favorite memories that you’ve had with LIFT?
Dominga: My favorite memories? I have many, but the main one was when my coach Gema said to me, “do you want to go to school?” And I said, “me, even now as an adult? In school?” And she said, “there are many schools where you can go, and we’ll help you find one.” So, I said, “okay, let’s do it.” But on the inside, I didn’t think that I could go back to school. But my coach helped me find that confidence, and to get enrolled. I never thought that I would see myself with a backpack going to school. I remember my kids would say “mom, you’re going to school? How are you going to school?” That’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Sophia: One of your biggest accomplishments with LIFT has been opening up your own business. How did you get started on that goal?
Dominga: Well, I came to my regular appointment with my coach. I was doing my finances plan, and I told my coach I wanted to learn more about finances and so she told me about an opportunity that was coming up – it was actually a small business workshop that was starting the next week, so I enrolled.
Sophia: So, you started with the workshop because you wanted to learn more about finances?
Sophia: But also about business.
Dominga: That’s right, while I was going to school, I had an idea for starting my own business, but I didn’t know where to begin. The idea was something I was interested in for some time, but it wasn’t until LIFT’s workshop that I realized it was actually possible.
Sophia: And what did you learn in the workshops?
Dominga: In those workshops I learned about credit, how to get credit, how to do an application for the bank to get credit for a business, how to get a permit. Essentially everything you needed to know to get started.
Sophia: Could you tell us about the business you opened?
Dominga: It’s called Carlos Painting! It’s a reconstruction/rebuilding and painting business for apartments. It’s named after my husband and son because my goal is to pass the business on to my son when he’s old enough, and for him to give it to his children, and so on and so forth.
Right now, we have three employees and hope to hire three more.
Sophia: Four people in total?
Dominga: Yeah, the plan that we have is to start with four and grow little by little.
Sophia: And how is the business going?
Dominga: Right now, we’re just starting and it’s going well—but like they told us at the workshop, you start out with not a lot of earnings because everything you earn goes into growing the business. But if God wills it in two years, a year, we’re going to have earnings.
Sophia: What are your dreams for your business?
Dominga: My dream is that the business is big, and that we don’t have to work ourselves but would have people who work for us and we can dedicate our time to the family. We’ve lost so much time not being together as a family. But I think it’s worth it and the plan we have will get us further economically.
Sophia: But that’s also a goal for you too, that you can give the business to your son.
Dominga: Yeah, that is what motivates me most – being able to provide a legacy for my family.
Sophia: Beyond the business, can you tell us about the dreams and goals you have for you and your family?
Dominga: For my family, it’s that my kids go to college and that I have the ability to pay for college. That’s a big goal we’re working toward, and a big part of the business – to be able to afford college for all three of my kids.
And for me, for me it’s improving my English. As part of LIFT’s Holiday Fiesta event, my family was sponsored by a LIFT donor. I want to be able to communicate with them better and show them my gratitude.
Sophia: Thank you Dominga. For my last question: empowering parents is part of LIFT’s mission. Can you share a moment when you felt empowered?
Dominga: Yes, I think the moment where I felt empowered was when I felt capable. Before when I was younger, I didn’t think that I could do the things I’m doing now. And now, I know that I’m capable of running my business. I can do it, and I know that one day, I’ll be in a position where I will be able to give other parents like me a place to work. I know I will finish school and continue to university, and with your help, I am achieving it.
I also would say to any new LIFT parent that’s just getting started –you have to follow your dreams, you have to fight, because you will make it!
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