GCU, Mexican consulate empower businesswomen

Marlene Carrasco, a graduate of the Consular Entrepreneurship Program for Mexican Women Abroad, speaks about her business during a press conference Tuesday at Canyon Ventures.

Photos by Ralph Freso/View slideshow here

“Don’t ever lose sight of your dreams. Be consistent,” Eduardo Borquez told Marlene Carrasco when Grand Canyon University’s New Business Development Center (NBDC) was just getting off the ground.

Carrasco soaked up everything she could in the center’s one-on-one business trainings. Now, five years later, she addressed a dignitary-filled crowd at GCU’s Canyon Ventures, including the Consulate General of Mexico.

At a Tuesday press conference, she spoke about Caring Companion Assistance, her nonmedical, in-home care business for the elderly.

Carrasco is one of the graduates of the Consular Entrepreneurship Program for Mexican Women Abroad, which embraces women entrepreneurs and is promoted by the Mexican government through the Institute of Mexicans Abroad in collaboration with the Consulate General of Mexico in Phoenix.

The women entrepreneurs are taking the next step in the process: putting their business plans into action at Canyon Ventures. It is the culmination of a partnership between the Mexican consulate and the University.  

“She is now part of this program. … Now she’s HERE,” said Borquez, who was amazed at how far Carrasco has come in her business journey from those NBDC trainings a few years ago to now helming her startup at Canyon Ventures. The Colangelo College of Business professor — and the NBDC Director — saw firsthand how the fruits of the center’s efforts in the community have come full circle.

Ten to 15 of the program’s graduates will have office space for about six months at Canyon Ventures, where they will receive help from the NBDC’s ambassadors — students who can assist them with everything from marketing to accounting and financial literacy.

GCU President Brian Mueller (right) said he sees the partnership with the Mexican consulate and its women entrepreneurship program as an extension of what GCU is doing in the community.

“We are so happy to be able to be part of their Mexican entrepreneurship program,” said Borquez, who added how GCU has been working with the Mexican consulate on different initiatives over the past couple of years and, after this cohort, will continue to work with the consulate on helping ensuing program graduates.

“This is another big day for Grand Canyon University in what we’re trying to accomplish,” University President Brian Mueller said in his address to representatives of the Mexican consulate. “We’re honored that you would consider us for this partnership and we have a chance to work together going forward.”

Mueller spoke of the two grand ideas that have driven GCU: its Christian worldview of serving others and the free-market economy.

He said GCU was on the verge of closing its doors before bringing on an investor in 2004, then became a publicly traded institution in 2008 in order to gain access to capital and grow the campus to what it is today, a thriving university of approximately 25,000 ground students (including its largest incoming class this fall -- 9,700 freshmen).

“We needed to bring this neighborhood with us,” Mueller said of GCU’s success. So the University put together its Five-Point Plan to transform the community, which includes job creation, making the neighborhood safe, improving home values in the surrounding neighborhood, supporting K-12 education and serving families in need.

“We see this as a natural extension of all that,” he said of the partnership with the Mexican consulate in its support of women entrepreneurs.

Consul General of Mexico Jorge Mendoza Yescas said helping women, migrants and people in need is part of the consulate's duty.

Jorge Mendoza Yescas, Consul General of Mexico, said this entrepreneurship program “will change the lives of many people … many Mexican women,” and that partnering with GCU was a natural fit.

“GCU is a university that, at a high level, impacts our vulnerable people so much — and that’s also what we believe,” said Mendoza. “Helping vulnerable communities, especially women, migrants and persons in need? It is part of our duty, part of our goal.”

It’s the same for GCU, which also shows its support for the west Phoenix community with another university initiative adjacent to Canyon Ventures — the Learning Lounge. The space is open to K-12 students in the neighborhood who need academic help, much of that help provided by the University’s Students Inspiring Students scholarship recipients.

Sandra Cisneros, one of the entrepreneurship program graduates whose business, Valency Studio, specializes in custom-made T-shirts, was excited to hit the ground running at Canyon Ventures.

GCU President Brian Mueller (second from left) and New Business Development Center Director Eduardo Borquez (right) help cut the ribbon to welcome the women entrepreneurs into Canyon Ventures.

“We have six months,” she said of the time she’ll have at GCU’s business incubator, which helps young companies such as hers develop and grow.

“We want to expand,” she emphasized.

She said being at GCU will help her do that by inspiring her clients to have confidence in her business. She added that the University’s students are going to be “una ayuda grandisima” — “a great help” — to her.

The company next to the program’s shared space in Canyon Ventures is GCU alumnus Jayce Candrea’s Washed Clothing, which uses serigraphy, or screen printing, just as her business does.

To be in a place with shared business goals? Invaluable.

Rosa Pastrana, like Cisneros, is eager to grow her business.

Pastrana, already a leader in her community after organizing the Osborn Block Watch to reduce crime in her neighborhood, founded the Arizona Commission of Wrestling.

The Latina wrestler grew up watching lucha libre, a unique style of wrestling in which the “luchadores,” or “fighters,” don colorful masks, execute a lot of high-flying maneuvers in good vs. evil matches, and are often beloved celebrities. For her, lucha libre growing up meant fantastical storylines and costumes and a bit of fun escapism.

She arranges matches in Phoenix between Arizona luchadores and fighters from Mexico.

She said sports such as basketball and football receive strong financial support. “But there’s no support for lucha libre,” she said in Spanish, despite its huge fan base. She wants to change that.

Marketing and advertising senior Nallely Torres shared the story about starting her own acrylic nail business.

Nallely Torres, a senior GCU marketing/advertising student with her own acrylic nail business, was one of three students asked to speak at Tuesday’s ceremony.

“I never imagined I could ever own my own business,” she said. “But it’s important to know that, regardless of where you come from, you can do it.”

As Borquez said, don’t lose sight of your dreams; be consistent.

“With a little help and support, you can achieve those things,” Torres said.

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

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Related content:

GCU News: Developing local businesses with student leadership

GCU News: Investors see the value in Canyon Ventures Center

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