When Rosa Macias and her husband, Venancio, moved to the United States in 1990, they faced some daunting hurdles. Rosa, a trained accountant, says she spoke “not a word of English” and had only been to the country once, to visit Disneyland. But the couple had a powerful motivation. “We didn’t know anything about the American system—education, taxes, the economy, nothing,” Rosa says, “but we knew what we wanted for our kids.” She says they dreamed of giving their two young children a better education and more opportunities than the generation before them had had—and a chance to truly succeed.
But Rosa didn’t have to wait for her children to grow up to take advantage of the opportunities America offered. Shortly after arriving in El Paso, Texas, she and Venancio began selling furniture at weekend swap meets, sometimes braving weather so cold Rosa remembers her near-freezing hands made it hard to write out invoices. By the early 1990s, the couple had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and partnered with a brother in law to open a 2,700 square foot furniture shop—Make a Deal Furniture—on the East Side of town. Catering largely to Hispanic customers, and distinguishing themselves by offering shoppers in-store credit to buy merchandise, the store was quickly a success. “Our motto in English has always been ‘furnishing dreams,’” Macias explains, “We don’t only sell furniture, but we also create dreams for people—helping them integrate into a big credit system that might not be familiar to them.” By 1997, Rosa and Venancio had opened their own store, Muebleria Del Sol, and created an independent financing company. And a year later, when they were having trouble finding a new space to expand, Venancio—who’d trained as a civil engineer—built a shopping center catering to other Hispanic entrepreneurs. Today, the Del Sol Group, which includes four large furniture stores, a credit operation, and a commercial real estate business with 13 tenants, brings in $6 million in revenue per year.
Macias says the last few years, however, have been a difficult time to be in business in Arizona. The financial downturn was particularly difficult on many of her traditionally Hispanic customers, and the decision of the governor in 2010 to sign Arizona Senate Bill 1070—an immigration law that calls on police officers to check for citizenship documentation—caused many more people to pull back on spending or leave the state altogether. “Every time the law is in the courts,” Rosa says, “It causes so much fear in the community, we see our credit-card defaults rise.” But after years of contracting, Rosa says her business today is focused on rebuilding its strength. Del Sol Group currently employs 70 people, up from a low of 40 employees in 2009. “We feel like we owe a lot to the state of Arizona—it gave us two grandchildren—so we want our future to be here,” Rosa says. And she’ll have a little extra help achieving that: She says her two children, both of whom earned degrees from Arizona State University, are now an invaluable part of the business.