When Sylvia Lozano began charging a few dollars for haircuts out of her living room nine years ago, she had high hopes and little money. A longtime resident of Mexico, Lozano came to California thinking of the state as a place where a woman could succeed in the male-dominated world of business.
"In Mexico at that time, men didn't respect a woman with ambitions," said Lozano, 46, the mother of five, who was born in the United States but raised in Guadalajara. "When I came here and saw so many women working, I knew it was the place for me," she said, "but my family thought I was crazy."
Today, after much hard work and some advice from an East Los Angeles professor of business, Lozano's foray into the beauty business has flourished. She now employs 10 and owns and operates the Rizo Beauty Salon and the Ellechante Modeling Studio and Talent Agency.
"Sometimes I can't believe our rise," said Lozano in crisp Spanish that she occasionally tempers with terms such as cash flow and marketing.
Lozano said her break came about two years ago when she received a mailer announcing the services of the just-opened Business Assistance Center in Huntington Park.
That letter was written by Roger Holguin, who teaches business classes at East Los Angeles College and moonlights as a pro bono consultant for the Los Angeles Business Development Corp., a nonprofit consulting company that provides entrepreneurial training and management assistance to businesses in economically disadvantaged areas.
Holguin's first step was to help Lozano devise a 12-month business plan to track her salon's revenue and expenditures. Along with the plan came a budget, complete with realistic projections and forecasting.
After consulting Lozano on the principles of bookkeeping, Holguin invited her to free seminars on sales and advertising, where she learned the importance of image in the fashion industry and the need to cater to each client's particular needs.
From her second-story office along Pacific Boulevard in Huntington Park, Lozano's well-groomed staff banters in Spanish while receiving faxes from such fashion hubs as New York, London and Tokyo, all requesting some of the 500 models represented by Ellechante.
Business is going well, Lozano said, because of the changing trends of the fashion industry and new trade opportunities in Mexico after the passage this year of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"Right now we're seeing the apogee of Latinas in modeling--you open any fashion magazine and you'll see lots of Mexicans, Venezuelans, Brazilians. . . . Our exotic looks are in high demand."