Teenaged Entrepreneur Supports SMA Peers Through JA
By Don Krim
Seventeen. Bright. Personable. College bound. And already her heart is with those less fortunate.
Gabriela Reyna has just finished a summer vacation with her extended family in San Miguel de Allende. Her grandmother lives here, as do many cousins, aunts, and uncles. Gabriela’s mother moved at age 15 from San Miguel to Austin, Texas, to finish high school in the United States. She is now a naturalized US citizen. Gabriela’s father, also naturalized in the US, is from the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras.
When Gabriela contacted me, nothing about her email revealed her age; she simply wanted to advise me of her intention to donate 10 percent of her business profits to Jóvenes Adelante and told me she wanted to meet. As I entered Starbucks that day we met and looked around, she introduced herself, then graciously offered me tea or coffee, adding that she would ask her father to bring it to me. I like to think I did not skip a beat, and, of course, I did not yet know just how young she was.
About to turn 18, this poised and ambitious Mexican-American high school graduate is set to enter St Edward’s University in Austin on scholarship. An athlete for years with already-bad knees, she wants to be a physical therapist, so she is majoring in kinesiology and minoring in business. Not content to make her additional costs her parents’ responsibility, she will use her new business to generate funds for her expenses.
Encantada Austin, her new business, was launched only this past spring. She imports goods purchased mainly in San Miguel de Allende for resale online or in pop-up stores in Austin. Her biggest client-base demographic so far has been Austin grandmothers who buy colorfully embroidered children’s clothes for their grandkids. Her next project is embroidered jeans.
JA is not Gabriela’s first encounter with nonprofit social consciousness. She was moved when her community raised over 100,000 pesos for a classmate’s college fund. This was perhaps her first exposure to the power of mutual giving and how people can join financial resources for collective good. Her first donation to Jóvenes Adelante was 100 pesos.
At 17 years old, after volunteering to do everything from gardening to gift-wrapping, she is already on the board of directors of Austin Community Steelband, an Austin nonprofit organization providing classes and transportation for disadvantaged youth to teach them how to play steelpan instruments.
Gabriela knows that her studies will be her first priority, but she has no intention of giving up her business or discontinuing her extracurricular work helping others. And she wants to expand her cross-border connections—in whatever form—with her peers in SMA.
An inspiration to those around her, Gabriela is being mentored by her boss, Nina Berenato, owner of a handmade jewelry store that gives back to empower women. It is evidence of how Gabriela surrounds herself with sources of inspiration, like her parents, who were not fortunate enough to go beyond high school but instilled a powerful drive in Gabriela to succeed, to go farther, and to give back.
“I feel blessed and fortunate,” she says. When she looked around at how to give back to her SMA roots, she seized upon her peers via JA. She recalls her own family’s struggle to support several university-bound cousins in SMA. Whatever else the family did, Gabriela asked, “Why stop with one person?”
Gabriela embraces JA’s vision of providing scholarships, mentors, and other means of support to disadvantaged local honor students. And giving a percentage of her profits is only the beginning. She intends to help JA not just financially but by spreading the word about its work, perhaps opening a social media dialogue between Austin and SMA students.
Jóvenes Adelante is proud, honored, and grateful to welcome Gabriela’s support and passion.
Encantada Austin can be found on: etsy.com/shop/EncantadaAustin