For Dina Estrada, the new owner of Ruiz Tires in Greenville, having the support of her family and community and access to knowledge and resources have been key to her ability to own her own business.
As a 25-year-old “Dreamer” whose family moved to South Carolina in 2004, Estrada said she learned early the values of hard work and staying connected. With parents who are entrepreneurs themselves, she said she grew up in an encouraging environment where she was taught that dreams could be achieved through persistence and dedication.
After graduating from Furman University in 2018 with degrees in communications and Asian studies, Estrada joined the staff of the Hispanic Alliance as programs and outreach coordinator. While there, she took a class in entrepreneurship sponsored by SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and began thinking about starting her own business. She subsequently connected with SCORE mentor Terry McKenney and eventually found the opportunity to purchase an existing business, Ruiz Tires, near the intersection of Cedar Lane Road and S.C. 253, from a family member.
Barely a year later, after working extra jobs to underwrite the purchase, Estrada was able to leave her primary job at the Hispanic Alliance in February of this year and become the full-time owner and operator of Ruiz Tires.
McKenney said he knew Estrada from the Hispanic Alliance and that she had done a lot of her homework even before he became her mentor.
“Dina’s a client of mine but she pretty much did all of this on her own,” he said. “She used everybody’s resources and put it together.”
Estrada said having McKenney to bounce ideas off of and access to his years of experience in the automotive service industry were invaluable as she developed her plan. She added that, although the prospect of becoming a business owner was a bit daunting at first, having a support network helped her stay focused.
“It’s not just the person who runs (the business) but the people who support it,” Estrada said. “I think that says a lot about Hispanic culture.”
Now, when children come by the shop and see her changing a tire, she takes it as an opportunity to help the next generation to dream bigger dreams. She said it is part of her values of servant leadership which stem from the support she’s received from mentors like McKenney. She also said she feels an obligation to pay it forward to others who have dreams similar to her own.
“I feel like I’m in debt to the world, in a way, because I’ve had so many blessings,” she said.
Estrada said she hopes to be able to grow the business over the next two years, perhaps by adding another location in the Greenville area. She also said she wants to continue learning by earning business-related certifications and possibly even pursuing a master’s degree.
McKenney said that for aspiring entrepreneurs like Estrada, SCORE offers a wealth of resources beyond connecting with a mentor. Piedmont SCORE’s website offers access to live and recorded webinars, workshops, guides and document templates, along with a variety of other helpful tools.
SCORE is funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Learn more by phone at 864-271-3638, email at email@example.com or online at https://www.piedmont.score.org.