"Things Happen for a Reason"
Mariel and Gerardo Diaz relocated to Hillsborough County with their two children after Hurricane Maria.
Once here, they decided to establish an offshoot of the pet grooming and supply shop the family still owns in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
But they needed help. Unfamiliar with local laws and banking practices, they sought no-cost assistance at the Florida Small Business Development Center a partnership between the County's Economic Development department and the University of South Florida, which operates out of the County's Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City.
A Florida SBDC consultant helped the Diazes create a business plan, secure a $1.5-million bank loan, and consider marketing strategies. The assistance they received was invaluable, the Diazes say.
Lucky Pet opened in a shopping center on Hillsborough Avenue in January. The couple's immediate goal is to spread the word about the new business. "When it comes to pets, people are more into word of mouth," Mariel says.
Meanwhile, the Diazes are keeping tabs on their shop in Guaynabo. They have sent pallets of dog food to island residents still struggling in the aftermath of the September 2017 storm.
Gerardo and Mariel are working hard, learning how businesses operate in Florida, and reaching out to new customers. They're also making friends, and their children, a 9-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son, are happy in their new schools.
"This feels like home now," Mariel says. "Things happen for a reason."
The Florida SBDC provides existing and emerging businesses like the Diazes' with professional business consulting, training, and information. Whether someone is starting a business, growing a business, or buying or selling a business, the Florida SBDC has tools, resources, and expertise to help them succeed.
Photo information: Mariel and Gerardo Diaz, left, with groomer Britany Robinson and Loki the Yorkshire terrier at the Diazes' new shop.