Mariel Cota began her journey toward becoming a successful entrepreneur 18 years ago when she started a home-based flower and balloon arrangement business in Mexico to help her neighbors celebrate festive occasions like quinceaneras and weddings. Surviving domestic abuse and becoming a mentor for other victims has made her much more than an entrepreneur however, providing her with a passion and purpose to help others in her community.
After escaping a 12-year abusive relationship, Mariel and her children became homeless overnight, ending up at a local YWCA shelter in downtown San Diego. During her stay, Mariel was referred to Access, Inc, a community-based organization that provides legal assistance to immigrants who are battered women. She decided to start a home-based business so she could care for her children and provide income for her family while living at the shelter. Mariel was then referred to Accion, and eventually enrolled in the Accion Academy, an eight-week intensive course where entrepreneurs receive practical, hands-on training on how to start a business. Through the Academy, Mariel learned how to get started, manage her finances, promote her business and develop a business plan.
Mariel officially established San Diego Flower Solutions in September 2015. As an Accion Academy student, she was eligible to receive a loan to expand her business and purchase equipment allowing her to complete her work in half the time and purchase additional inventory of balloons, vases for flowers and decorative items used in her arrangements. This loan was made possible with support from The Hartford through its Communities with HART program, which supports entrepreneurs like Mariel who are having a positive impact in their communities.
Mariel has continued to work closely with the organizations that supported her decision to find a better life. She is an instructor at Leap to Success, a local nonprofit helping women recover from domestic violence, homelessness, and other challenges. She also works as a caregiver for an organization called Respite, assisting a family with a boy who is disabled. Mariel remains dedicated to helping others thrive after domestic abuse and feels that sharing her story with the world is an important part of her own recovery in addition to helping others who find themselves in a similar situation.
Mariel has used her connections in the community to establish business relationships with some big businesses in the San Diego area. She feels through grassroots marketing, she has maintained and acquired future business while growing her network through word of mouth referrals. She is excited for her future as a small business owner and for the future of her family; something that she could not envision just a few years ago.