written by Sarah Cohn
Gerardo and Flor Martinez, natives of Mexico, are long-time Chapel Hill residents. They had already begun growing their small event rental business, Martinez Rental, when they enrolled in the CEF Latino business course in the spring of 2011. I met Gerardo and Flor several months after they had graduated from the program, as they sought to learn more about formalizing their business. The first time I sat down with Gerardo and Flor didn’t go so well. That is, I wasn’t at all prepared to answer Flor’s multitude of legal questions concerning permits, licensing, and taxes. I’m no business expert, and those are the topics that really confuse me most. It was obvious that Flor had done her homework, and that I hadn’t. I knew after that first meeting that working with Gerardo and Flor wasn’t going to be easy – because formalizing a business isn’t easy – but that Martinez Rental was going to be one of the most successful businesses we’ve seen.
I continued meeting with Gerardo and Flor for the next several months. It seemed at each meeting like we weren’t making any progress, as we would come into it with questions and leave with even more questions. What types of licenses are required for an event rental company? Can you operate outside the city that you’re based in? What about special permits? And insurance? And more insurance if you have a moon bounce?! The intricacies of legalizing a business is something I never saw myself being involved with. But there I was, trying to make sense of the Town of Chapel Hill’s Business Management website and calling the Secretary of State’s office with what seemed like an endless list of questions.
Gerardo’s hard work and Flor’s inquisitive attitude impressed me and inspired me to work through these problems with them. Actually, it really overwhelmed me at first, but as I continued working with the couple I learned a lot from them. I learned a little something about business, sure, but what I really admired was their persistence and dedication.
Martinez Rental is now formalized and growing steadily. Now that I understand a little more about what it takes to run a business, I call that a huge success. I’m proud to have been a small part of Gerardo and Flor’s story, and I can only hope that CEF made as much of an impression on them as they did on me.