In 1997, at the age of 18, Miguel Fuentevilla left the limited opportunities of his native Mexico and came to America. He arrived in Little Rock and quickly found work in a cookie factory—the first of many tough, low-paying jobs. Over the next six years, he worked at a dry-cleaners, a grocery distributor, a car wash, a waffle factory, and finally at a gas station, where he sometimes did two eight-hour shifts back-to-back.
At every job, Fuentevilla strove to improve himself. When a co-worker at the gas station lent him a self-help cassette, he got hooked. Soon he was devouring every personal improvement and, eventually, every business book he could find. “That helped me develop a lot, and realize that you never stop growing,” he says.
In 2003, six years after Fuentevilla arrived in the United States, he’d saved enough money to open a printing business in Little Rock. Imprenta Printing and Signs, which Fuentevilla runs with his brother and father, quickly won a loyal following among the city’s Hispanic businesses. “Latinos started coming out of nowhere—lawn-care businesses, house cleaning, construction, even the Mexican consulate,” he says.
Other immigrant-run businesses also flocked to Imprenta and, today, the thriving company has two locations, six employees, and annual revenues of over $250,000. About half of Imprenta’s business comes from American-born residents of Little Rock. The other half comes from the city’s many Hispanic, Arab, Asian and Indian-run firms. This has given Fuentevilla a good look at how immigrants help support the local economy.
“You can see it in immigrants in general, in our customers and our friends,” he says. “No one leaves their country and travels so far to be lazy or get any handouts.”
Now, Fuentevilla says he’s focused on making his business more efficient and opening new locations. He’s also teaching his 14-year-old son the importance of a strong work ethic. “I let him know that I’m an immigrant, and things weren’t just given to me,” he says. “There have been times that things have been challenging, but we don’t let that stop us. We’re always pushing forwards.