From the Fields of Delano to the University of California, Irvine-A Mother & Daughter Share Their Story

Graciela immigrated to California in search of opportunities. She joined her husband who was farming in Delano, California, and together they have been working the land, building a life, and raising three daughters. Guadalupe, the eldest, grew up watching her parents get up at dawn to pick blueberries and grapes for the family. Raised by hard-working parents, Guadalupe learned perseverance, the value of hard work and the love of family. Six months ago, Guadalupe and her family packed the family truck and headed south. Guadalupe had earned a scholarship to pursue her academic dreams at UCI. Apart for the first time, the mother and daughter embarked on the next chapter of their lives.


Graciela at work
Graciela at Work

I was born in Michoacán, Mexico, a beautiful place that has become very unsafe; people stay inside after dark.

Fourteen years ago, I made the decision to move to Delano, California. My husband was already a resident. He filed immigration papers for us, and we joined him. We came to fight for a better life and better opportunities for our children.

A Mother and a Farm Worker

I came to Delano with my daughter, Guadalupe, and her little sister, Itzel, who was only a year old. I started farming right away. My husband’s niece would watch my children and I also relied on daycare. When I got pregnant with my third one, I had to stop. It was a high-risk pregnancy, but after she was born, I returned to work.


Delano Life is Farm Life

In Delano, we grow grapes, pistachios, and blueberries. Grape picking begins in mid-July and ends in November. After picking grapes, we prepare the fields for the next year.

The grapes, they like to climb. Both blueberries and grapes are exhausting jobs. But I don’t mind hard work.  

Las Blueberries

Blueberry picking season begins in April and ends in mid-June. You pick them with your hands, which can be difficult because they are very small and grow all through the leaves. Luckily, the blueberries leaves don’t have thorns. Blueberry picking can give you a backache. You have to carry more than one bucket around your waist, and as they fill up, each weighs about 4-6 pounds. When picking, we look for the blue ones. The blue ones are the good ones. But if we only pick blue ones, the workers who pack, and sort, who take out the green ones and the leaves, they wouldn’t have work.

Picking Blueberries
Picking Blueberries


Blue and Green Blueberries

Grape Season

Grape season starts in April. You have to watch for black-widows, bugs, heat, and pesticides. Working the grape vines gives you a sore back, too.

The vines are really tall and so it can get difficult. It gets really hot. There’s a lot of dirt, dust, and chemicals. Sometimes, the work can make you feel like crying. As you reach upward to tend to the grapes, your head looks up and it feels heavy. Your neck gets sore.

Grape Season
Grape Vines

A Typical Work Day

We get up at 5:30 am. We work 8  hours and then head home. The company is not too far. It’s about 20 minutes away from our home. The work involves many tasks. You have to fit the vines, move them around, tie them up. We climb, we tie, we shift the plants and the branches. The process takes about two months.

I used to cry because the work is hard. Your arms are up, your head is up. It’s hot. But one adjusts. It is a sacrifice, but we are so grateful to have work.


They smell strong. Our bosses try to spare us and move us out while the neighbors spray.

But the Poison Travels in the Wind.

As they fumigate in nearby farms, there really is nowhere to hide from the fumes, even if we try to move away.

The workers in surrounding farms start to feel light-headed and dizzy. What we breathe is pure poison. Some people get so ill that they break out into hives.

They usually remove us for 2 hours while they fumigate. We are not allowed to stay there.

Breaks and Lunches

In the morning we have 15-minute breaks. We take another break in the afternoon and a half hour for lunch.  We get plenty of water to drink.

The work remains very tough work but the companies have made improvements. In the recent years, they’ve tried to make shady areas for us. When we pick blueberries, it gets so hot, so they build canopies, like greenhouses, to create a little bit of shade. They also give sick farmworkers i.v. treatments. If we faint, they send us to the clinics. We work really hard and they do what they can to help us stay healthy.

My Husband and I-We Have Always Been a Team

My husband and I have always worked together.  We have been married for 20  years and we do everything together, but he is losing his sight. He is 17 years older than I am and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. He can no longer see out of one eye and can barely see out of his other eye, so I am the family driver.

Graciela's Husband
Jose Heredia-Graciela’s husband of 20 years.


Partners for Life-We are a Team
Partners for Life-Graciela and Jose Heredia share a lunch.

Work Groups

Typically, there are groups of 60 farmers overseen by supervisors. We work side by side with family teams but each family helps their own. We are friendly with others, but we are all focused on working fast and hard to bring money for our own families. Families move about, too. They move to other companies that offer better pay or better managers. They work with pistachio, mandarins, and oranges.

Slow Season-Means Relief to the Body but Tough on the Bills

I make ten dollars an hour. After taxes, not much is left.

In the last 3 weeks, we’ve only been working for 6 hours. This is not enough to survive. I still have to pay the rent and bills. They cut our hours because they say the coolers are filled with grapes. It is hard to survive sometimes, without a fixed schedule.

Our family, we are our own work team. We pack, and my husband carries the produce on a cart. My sister also helps pick the grapes and places them on trays. We bring everything out of the field, we pack it and put together boxes filled with produce. We get paid fifteen cents per box. We process about 80 to 90 boxes. I bring home about $380 per week, which adds up to $1200 per month after taxes. Our rent is $900 a month, not including utilities. Not much is left to eat. We live day to day.

Don Heredia

Jose Heredia Taking a Break
Jose Heredia Taking a Break

We used to be able to bring fruit home to eat but the rules have changed.  They told us that people used to bring home too much, and now sometimes they let us bring home one bag.


The Cold Months are Tough-When the Plants go to Sleep, Everything stops.

During the cold months, nothing grows. It is pointless to look for other farming jobs in the area because all plants are resting. It gets so cold. Everything freezes over. Sometimes, you can pick oranges but not many.

Surviving the Winter Months Requires Creativity. You have to Invent Jobs when All Families are Doing the Same.  

Most of us have to file unemployment during the winter months. But we don’t settle for that.

I Sell Makeup To Help My Family

When my girls were young, I told my husband,

“I’m not willing to live in poverty, and I don’t want to answer questions, like “what did you do with all the money?” “You already spent it all?”

Sometimes, we, women, want to buy ourselves and our families something extra.

One day, I had an idea. I was pregnant at the time and I thought, maybe I can sell makeup!

Graciela Heredia-Enjoying a Day Off and Preparing for the Holidays
Graciela Heredia-Enjoying a Day Off and Preparing for the Holidays

The inspiration came one day when I was doing laundry in a local laundromat. I saw an ad from Jafra, a make-up company from Mexico. The ad said, “sell makeup and keep 50% of what you sell.” So I went to my husband and said:

“Can you loan me $200?”

“Para que?” he responded. “Make-up? Woman, who’s going to buy make-up in Delano?”

“Come on. Trust me. Let me borrow your card. I promise. I will return what I borrow.”

My husband let me borrow the money and I ordered my first make-up kit, with perfume bottles and all.

I was so excited. I grabbed my kit, took to the streets and started selling. I went door to door and visited every woman I knew, friends and acquaintances. The best part? After a month, I went to my husband and said:

Here you go. Here is your money back.” “Look. I even have some money left over to buy us things.”

Ever since then I have been selling makeup to supplement my income during the winter season. The company is Jafra, a Mexican cosmetic company.

Jafra Makeup
Graciela’s Jafra Makeup

I have many clients, but I don’t always sell a lot. I give them facials, do their make up and spray perfume. The challenge is that when money doesn’t come in because we are not farming, women don’t have extra money to spend on makeup.

I sell more during farming season. Then, women work hard and they want to treat themselves. Sometimes my clients ask me to order special perfume or makeup as a special gift for their little girls.

I sell makeup because farming is not enough. We have to provide for our families. We have to charge forward.

Giving up and waiting are not options.

I have a sick mother back in Mexico who depends on me. My girls, here, they need shoes for school and other things. I don’t make much, but every bit helps.

When I get a little money from my makeup sales, I tell my girls, let’s go treat ourselves.

When I Can’t Sell Makeup, I Bake and Sell Bread. 

When no one buys makeup, I bake breads, and my neighbor and I sell them together. During the winter months, this allows us to make extra. My neighbors have gotten used to my bakings and expect it:

You are going to start baking soon?” I bake my wheat bread, sell it and sometimes I even make $20 from my sales.

We have to work hard to survive the winter season. Unemployment takes a long time to kick in. This means, that there are a couple of weeks with nothing coming in, which is difficult. I try to anticipate and plan. I will think of side jobs and work extra hard so my family won’t go without.

There used to be five of us to support in our Apartment. My daughter Guadalupe is Off to College Now.

Heredia Family Celebration-Guadalupe's High School Graduation
Heredia Family Celebration-Guadalupe’s High School Graduation



My daughter Guadalupe started kindergarten in Delano. I am extremely proud of her. She has always been a great daughter, very studious. Her youngest sister even says: “My sister Guadalupe  is the most of intelligent of all of us.” Guadalupe is very organized. One of Guadalupe’s dreams is to graduate and help her family. I wish all her dreams will come true; that she will charge ahead and let nothing stand in the way of her dreams.

My husband used to always tell Guadalupe: “Study hard, hija, so you can go to college in Fresno.”

But Guadalupe  would answer: “Ah, no papi, I am studying so that I can go wherever I want.”

My husband insisted: “No, go to Fresno! How will we take care of you if you go too far? Stay close to us.”

But Guadalupe always thought for herself.

Looking Back on My Childhood 

When I was young, we would wake up at 5 a.m. My mom would take us to my aunt’s house where we would go back to sleep until it was time to go to school. After school, we would go back to my cousin’s and stay there until my parents came home.

Growing up in Delano, I went to Del Vista Elementary school. Most families sending their children there were either farmers or did field work to supplement their income.

I never worked in the fields until this past summer. I worked in a potato line, throwing out the rotten ones, removing the rocks, dirt, critters, just sorting the potatoes. I worked about 12 hours a day, and yes, it was hot!

My parents work very hard, including Saturdays. My mother dedicates part of her time to go out to do her little business. On Sundays, when she doesn’t work she really likes spending time with friends and family.

How a Girl from Delano found out about UCI

I have always been self-driven.  I learned about UCI (the University of California, Irvine), through my charter school, the Wonderful College Prep Academy, which was founded by the company that owns, Wonderful Halos and Wonderful Pistachios. It is a school for the children of farmers, for the parents who work for the Wonderful Company, and for the community. The Wonderful Company offers $6000 UC scholarships and $4000 for the Cal States. The award gets sent quarterly and we have to manage it. Even though we have graduated and are now at the university, the academy continues to send regional retention coordinators that meet with us once a week. We talk about our classes and our grades and how we are doing. My coordinator works for the company and travels from LA to see me every week at UCI.

Image result for Wonderful College Prep Academy
The Wonderful College Prep Academy is owned by the Wonderful Company, which promotes a range of philanthropic activities that focus on investing in and collaborating with the communities where their employees live and work. The company established the program, Wonderful Education, in 2012. To date, they have reached more than 55,000 Central Valley students across 83 schools in 24 districts. The company awarded more than 1,500 college scholarships and incentives, as well as 1,300 teacher grants.

The charter school is the reason I learned about UCI, and the majority of my classmates ended up going to college. We learned about our college options because the school took us on lots of trips sponsored by the company. We did college tours during the winter break, Thanksgiving, and summer. We visited colleges all over California, and on Fridays we wore college t-shirts to celebrate college.

I visited all of the UC campuses except for two, most of the state colleges, and some private schools.

Guadalupe and Anteaters. Having fun at UCI.
Guadalupe and Anteaters. Having fun at UCI.

I chose UCI because I liked the environment and the structure of the school. Everything is in a circle. I thought to myself, it will be easy to find my way here. I just completed my first quarter at UCI. I have passed all my classes and done well. I was able to manage my time and handle the heavy course load. Right now, I’m thinking of majoring in Economics and Political Science. I’m also considering some type of government job, but I’m not sure. I’m still exploring.

Having Fun at a Summer Event-UCI
Having Fun at a Summer Event-UCI

There is a small group at UCI from Delano, including my roommate. Whenever we get a break from school, we meet up with other friends in LA and take the train back home. In a 3-5 hour train ride we are back in Delano. My mother gets so excited when I come home. She picks me up at the train station and she always loves to see me.

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

The first time I came home, everything seemed different. People were tatted up. The hair colors were different, they even dressed and spoke differently. And at the same time, I felt like I was back home like I had never left. My friends and I, we continue to hang out.

I made the right decision choosing UCI. But sometimes I get homesick.  I’m studying to have a great profession someday, but more importantly, to help my parents so that they don’t have to work this hard the rest of their lives. They have made incredible sacrifices for their daughters. Soon, it will be my turn to give back.

In the meantime, my mother and father will work the land. I will study hard, looking forward to breaks when I will get to board the train and head home.  What awaits me in Delano is home, family, love and delicious posole.

Homemade Posole
Homemade Posole made by Graciela and devoured by her family.






Leaders in Entrepreneurship Share 8 Paths to Becoming Great

Below are 8 Takeaways from this Year’s Top Entrepreneurs Fireside chats at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

#1 Great Leaders Attract The Best and The Brightest Talent

Great Leadership creates an environment that attracts the best and the brightest people. Progressive leaders understand that talented professionals seek workplaces where autonomous judgement is encouraged. This means less micromanagement, and more empowerment. “With them you share the financial and psychic rewards of success,” states Mark Leslie, who teaches courses in Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Organization for Stanford Graduate School of Business

For basketball prodigy-turned-business mogul, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the best and brightest talent comes in diverse packages. “Magic” argues that great leadership “hires the way America looks,” adding that “in the next 20 years, half, or more than half of America is going to be minorities.”  Hiring bright minorities has multiple payoffs. On the one hand, they bring a desire to prove themselves, states Johnson, and on the other, they also contribute valuable insights into cultural markets and communities.

For me it’s easy. I like to hire young, bright people. You have to have people skills to work for me, too. It’s not just being smart. I want somebody who can also go out, represent us and grow the brand,” states “Magic” Johnson.

#2 Great Leadership Builds Stewardship not Proprietorship

Talented professionals seek more than just a paycheck. They are looking for a feeling of belonging that happens when an employee is well-matched to a work community; they want to be an integral part of something special. Great leaders tap into this knowledge, and adjust their language to reflect inclusivity.

In a proprietorship, states Mark Leslie, the language of a company is “I, Me, Mine, What can you do to make me more rich?” In a stewardship, “it is we, us and ours.” The idea of stewardship focuses on collective power, and companies that practice stewardship use words like, “together.”  Bright professionals seek to join the latter, knowing that their talent will not only grow someone else’s business, but also their own.

#3 Great Leaders Know How To Build Community And Pay Attention To Culture:

The responsibility of a leader is to think of the group as a whole, states Stanford Graduate School of Business professor, Jesper Sorensen.To attract and retain talent, a good leader strategically organizes their people with particular attention to incentives. Without them, bright talent may experience a block in their growth, and look for opportunities elsewhere.

#4 Great Leaders Build Trust

To build trust, a leader trusts first.  “This is something many people are reluctant to do,” argues Leslie. Going first, means sharing decision-making that most companies wouldn’t dare to allow. There are some risks in trusting first, concedes Leslie. The trust you place in your group can be betrayed, “but the cost of the occasional betrayal is far lower than the benefit of building trust with the rest of the people.”

 It benefits leaders to build a trusting environment. “Trust is like a bank account. Someday, you are going to have hard times and you are going to want people to stand by you. And if you haven’t’ made any deposits in the trust bank, then there’s going to be nothing to take out,” stresses Leslie.

#5 Great Leaders Check their Ego At the Door and Learn from Failure

If great leaders expect punctuality, they are the first to get to work. They lead with confidence, but they are also aware of their weaknesses and surround themselves with experts who complement their expertise. They have overcome adversity, faced criticism and experienced failures. But these have not defined nor defeated them. When projects have fallen apart, they have searched for lessons, what did we learn when we didn’t win?

#6 Great Leaders Seek Mentors

Great leaders are not shy about asking questions. “Mentors were so important to me. That’s why I was meeting with so many people, because I was hungry for knowledge,” states Magic Johnson on his transition from basketball player to CEO. “Magic,” recalls that his first test as an entrepreneur was gaining respect and credibility from the business world. He had raw ideas but needed help to translate them into power.

Great leaders listen, tweak their plans when necessary, swiftly alter paths, and can adjust to unforeseen circumstances without losing their vision. They understand that flexibility and adaptability are not signs of weakness, but rather strategic adjustments to change.

#7 Great Leaders Figure Out What a Company is Doing Right and Does More Of It

When joining a new company in a senior leadership role, HP CEO, Meg Whitman, encourages leaders to figure out what a company is doing right, and do more of it.

Your instinct will be to fix what is wrong,” argues Whitman, “to make a list of all the things that need to be fixed and go after them. You’ll eventually get to your to do list, and your fix it list. But if you come in and talk about what is going wrong, you will lose hearts and minds.”

Instead, Whitman advises to start with what’s working and to get acquainted with a company’s DNA. When it comes to good leadership, Whitman states that it is important to win the hearts and minds of people, to promote talent from within, as well as attract talent from innovators in the industry. When people connect over a shared area of business, the company’s culture thrives.

As you immerse yourself in your new role, and find that you lack in technological abilities, “surround yourself with people who will help you plot the technology path.” Even when you try to protect what is working in a company, there will be those who will challenge your new role and test you, “don’t be afraid to push back, and lead.”

#8 Great Leaders Know They Cannot Do It All

As she wrapped up her interview with Stanford graduate students, a student asked the HP CEO how she juggled her leadership role with family duties. She responded that it had not always been easy. At first, she had struggled to be the perfect mother, perfect CEO and the perfect charity person. Once she realized perfection in all areas wasn’t possible, she gave up on some things.

My house does not look like Martha Stewart just left. Everything’s a tradeoff.”




Continue reading “Leaders in Entrepreneurship Share 8 Paths to Becoming Great”

Celebrating National Entrepreneurs’ Day-Entrepreneurial Spirit Remains Strong in the U.S.

Small Businesses On The Rise

On November 3rd, 2015, Rep. Steve Chabot [R] from Ohio proposed RES. 511, a bill expressing support for designation of the third Tuesday in November as National Entrepreneurs’ Day.

Below I share highlights of the text. Also included, are charts and maps from various reputable sources that underscore the immense contributions of small business owners to the economic fabric of the United States. Continue reading “Celebrating National Entrepreneurs’ Day-Entrepreneurial Spirit Remains Strong in the U.S.”

Career Pivoting-A Sign of the New American Dream



Today’s professionals are looking for more than stability and a paycheck.

Gone are the days when you took that first job right out of college, and stayed with the company for 20 years. In fact, the Bureau of Labor states that our generation’s average tenure at a job is 4.6 years, with 2.5 years being the typical length of stay for the younger professionals.[1]

Career experts argue that this is the result of a complex vision of Success that has emerged in our generation. For today’s millennials, compensation is not enough. Equally important are passion, professional growth, variety and flexibility.


Wage-earners seek flexibility and control over their personal lives.

We are living in the era of the independent professional, a trend fueled by technological innovations that enable us to work from untraditional places– to be work nomads, if we please. This move is part of the new American Dream, as witnessed in HGTV shows like, Househunter’s International, where entrepreneurs grab their laptops, surfboards and passports in search of that perfectly balanced life.

The thirst for independent work is enabling the rise of e-lancing with 53 million people, 1/3 of the workforce, identifying themselves as freelancers or doing independent work, according to Jody Greenstone Miller, the Founder and CEO of Business Talent Group.[2]


Here are some signs:

  • You are uninspired
  • The drive to work fills you with dread. It’s not only the long commute. It’s everything.
  • You have plateaued. There is no more room for growth.
  • You call in sick more than you should, and you don’t care.
  • Your job is really making you sick
  • You are leaving; it’s just a matter of when.
  • You would like your family’s support but you are willing to leap out without it.
  • You picked the wrong major, now you hate your job, and despite the loans, your professional happiness is nonnegotiable.
  • A new passion is calling you.
  • You are over working for others. It’s risky but want to work for yourself.
  • You want less work, more play, and less structure.



Marketing Makeover

To smooth the transition, you will need to market yourself, give your resume a makeover, and identify areas where you are weak and in need of training. Highlight your transferable skills. Prepare to convince a new industry that you are ready to succeed in a new environment.

Online Makeover

Spruce up your online profiles. Update your photos, reorganize your skills and talents, and make sure that your LinkedIn profile doesn’t box you into an old persona that could confuse prospective employers.

Convince Your Employer That your Pivot is not an Accident But a True Career Change

If you are career changing, expect prospective employers to be skeptical. You will have to defend your new passion and convincingly explain the end of your previous one.

Avoiding Mistakes

The biggest mistake is waiting for a perfect moment, because it will never come, states Elli Sharef, guest writer for Forbes.[3] Insecurity will keep you stuck and your mind will give you countless excuses why you should not move forward. This is fear talk. If you know you are ready for the change, don’t look back.


It won’t happen overnight. When you finally make the pivot, you may find that the position is not everything you thought it would be. You may have to start in an entry level role, regardless of your years of experience in a previous industry.  Your degree may have little to do with where and how you are placed. You may be assigned duties you feel are beneath you, or responsibilities that push you out of your comfort zone. Getting the pivot right could take a series of trial and errors.

It May Take Some Time

To minimize detours, do your research and make sure you understand the lifestyle, environment and responsibilities that will come with a career shift. It might not work out the first time. If you err, don’t beat yourself down, or backpedal into safety. Take the lessons the detours will teach you, shake it off, and start over.

In the Meantime-Freelance, Intern, Volunteer

Since it can take time to transition successfully, Jody Greenstone Miller suggests taking on project work, freelancing and even interning, a practice, she argues, that is not the sole realm o f college students, but could also work for professional adults. Mature interns, as the movie The Intern (2015) starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway captures, bring a lot to the table; a beneficial collaboration could be reached between the company you are considering and your experienced self. In the meantime, working on projects, or interning will help you stay balanced, avoid obsessing over the timing of the switch, and keep you sociable and sharp.


Sometimes the pivot is not from one industry to another, but from working for someone else to becoming your own boss. In the ultimate leap of faith, the entrepreneur may leave a stable salary, a predictable career path, reserved parking, perks, and a trail of accomplishments behind.

Taking the leap to be your own boss can be scary. Very scary. This is especially true if your background is in one industry, but your dream is to start a business in another,” states Darrah Brustein, a contributor for Entrepreneur.[4]

In addition to the fears associated with leaving a secure job, entrepreneurs may risk disappointing family, a risk that Brustein argues is worth taking, since those who love us tend to come around and support our happiness.


You may find yourself facing this type of fork in the road. From the outside, you may seem like picture of success. But inside, you may be uninspired and done. For Kelsey Ramsden, writer for Entrepreneur, this is a telling sign that an imminent career pivot is in the horizon: “I’ve never met someone who says she regrets leaving a situation she dreaded each day.[5]

How will you manage your next career move?

Will you allow passion and curiosity to drive the next step? Or will you play it safe?

What is at stake is your happiness.

How will you choose?

[2] [Stanford Graduate School of Business]. (2015, May 15). Career Pivot: Build Your Knowledge Base. [Video File]. Retrieved from
[3] Sharef, E. (2013, July 26). An Entrepreneur Tells All: How To Make A Career Pivot. [Web log post]. Retrieved from
[4]Brustein, D. (2015, July 20). 9 Entrepreneurs Tell Their Stories of Pivoting 180 Degrees to Start New Careers. [Web log post]. Retrieved from
[5] Ramsden, K. (2014, August 26). Bravely Facing the Epic Decision of a Career Pivot. [Web log post]. Retrieved from