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Roseville woman teaching Latinos how to find success

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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When Ana Rojas moved from her native Columbia to the United States, she received quite a culture shock. Starting from scratch, Rojas and her husband made several attempts at success in America, but she said she was as naïve about the culture here as she was about business. “When I came here, I didn’t know anything,” Rojas said. “I tried to make the business the same way we did in our county. I didn’t know they have so many regulations here, so I learned the hard way.” Thirty-two years later, Rojas is a successful restaurateur and is helping other Latinos find business success in America, too. Rojas founded the Business and Culinary Agency, a nonprofit organization that helps boost the self confidence of Latino immigrants and provides the resources necessary to become successful. “When you come here, if you don’t speak English, you don’t feel like yourself,” said Rojas, who resides in Roseville with her husband. “In Columbia, I was a very spoken person, I was very active. When I came here, I didn’t know how to really be myself. I was so shy.” Rojas said she teaches her students how to have more self confidence and recapture their identity so that they can accomplish what they set out to do. “Before you go into business or before anything, you have to be sure about who you are, and how you are going to be effective in this society,” she said. Rojas began her philanthropic work at Opening Doors, a Sacramento-based organization that provides tools for immigrants, refugees and low-income citizens to build or grow small businesses, and to better handle their personal finances. When funding for her work at Opening Doors ran out, she said she secured new funding through the Latino Leadership Council and from Placer County to open the Business and Culinary Agency (BUSCA). BUSCA offers business seminars and workshops that teach accounting, expenditures, profit and loss statements and filing of sales, profit and property taxes. One of the programs offered is Ana’s Kitchen, a working kitchen that gives students the necessary education and tools to successfully open their own restaurant. “Almost everybody wants to have a restaurant, and you know how difficult it is in these times to have a restaurant,” Rojas said. “So I teach them the regulations and what they need to know.” She said she has graduated about 60 people from the program so far, many of whom have gone on to open their own successful restaurants and cleaning businesses. Rojas has been running her organization in Sacramento for a little more than one year, and is now teaching classes in Roseville and other areas of Placer County. Juana Barajas, of Lincoln, recently attended one of Rojas’ seminars and said she learned how to know herself better. “When I come here, I leave feeling more positive about myself,” Barajas said through translator Maria Cordova. Cordova holds a Latino support group in Lincoln at the Lighthouse Family Resource Center each week and frequently asks Rojas to come and speak to her students. “This is why we gather so they can raise their self esteem and know themselves better,” Cordova said. “They learn that they have something to offer.” Rojas said it is through her experiences struggling to be successful that she is able to share her story with her students and help them develop a business plan. “People who come here and work hard, they can achieve any dreams,” Rojas said. “This is one of the beautiful things about the United States and I really emphasize that.” Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT.