By Mariana Arevalo

For the South Texas small business interview portion of the Disaster Strength Research Program, I had a primary source perspective on how circumstances fluctuate for these owners.

As I interviewed people from my community, I realized they all shared something in common: passion. They each spoke in the same tone of resilience with a spark of hope, and yet they differed in the ways they utilized the resources available to them. Although the path was challenging for all of them, they felt satisfied with their progress.

It is difficult to leave the Rio Grande Valley due to the strong attachment among Hispanic families. As a result, the region has created an ongoing pattern of staying in the Valley and not seeking challenges outside of Brownsville. All the business owners felt there was a degree of ignorance surrounding how Brownsville residents understand and support entrepreneurs — including small businesses. After listening to them express these ideas, I congratulated them for taking the initiative and having the courage to do things differently and starting their small businesses in our community.

Although a disaster like COVID-19 adversely affected many businesses, in many cases it activated the creation of at-home ideas that led to small businesses. All the businesses I interviewed said that now they have extra merchandise to sell in case panic shopping begins. Brownsville is an area that often receives flooding, and none of the small businesses had an emergency plan because they adapt as they go. However, they reached out after the interviews and told me the UT link with guidance on how to be prepared for natural disasters did certainly help.

All the business owners mentioned that the City of Brownsville is growing. The leading factor that will encourage a boost in growth is support for incoming infrastructure to the city to create more jobs and raise salaries.

In conclusion, Brownsville has talent, but they often need more community awareness around the important role entrepreneurship plays in our community. However, the close connection among residents could serve as the spark to raise awareness and help these small businesses succeed.

Read Mariana’s first blog post here.

To learn more about this project and see more student and researcher’s blog posts, click here.