In July 2016, Victoria Coronado’s dream came true. The Flint resident opened up Cocino Mio, a charming restaurant that serves up fresh, authentic Mexican food.
“There are a few Mexican restaurants in Flint and the surrounding areas, but not one that offers the Mexican food that I grew up eating. Homemade tortillas, breakfast tacos, barbacoa, my mom’s enchiladas,” says Coronado.
Today, her business continues to grow and Coronado is quite happy. But, she recalls having to navigate some rough patches that popped up quite early on.
“My financial journey has been difficult,” says Coronado. “I completely underestimated how much time and money goes into owning a restaurant and keeping it afloat.”
Thankfully, she got invaluable assistance from Metro Community Development, a community development financial institution.
“Metro gave me a loan to purchase the building [restaurant], as well as the make-up air unit and its installation at a time when I had nowhere to turn,” says Coronado, who experienced her first roadblock just after she signed her lease and purchased equipment and inventory needed to launch her venture.
She quickly learned that she missed something important in her planning process – an air system.
Considered a legal requirement, Coronado was able to open the restaurant with the approval of an inspector, who gave her a one-year window to purchase and install a system.
Grateful for the buffer time, Coronado started to price make-up air systems, but the “cost was eye-popping and disheartening,” according to the (then) fledgling entrepreneur.
“They were a lot more than what our new restaurant was making. Even if I could purchase a system, the installation was just as costly,” she recalls.
Her research showed that the cost for the unit, and it’s installation, would be a whopping $18,000 to $20,000. By the time the year grace period was up Cucina Mio had no make-up air unit and Coronado had no options. She started to brace herself to face the fact that she would have to shut down shop.
“I tried everything and was out of options. When the inspector called I was told to close the restaurant until the unit was installed,” she says. “Had it not been for Metro I would not be open today.
“I wish I would have went to Metro before starting my business,” says Coronado. “I believe that everything would have gone more smoothly.”
The road since then has indeed been smoother, according to Coronado, who has been able to replenish add to her savings and is looking into an expansion in the near future. She would like to expand the dining area slightly and would love to add additional signage that would be more visible to passersby. She is also entertaining the possibility of adding a drive-thru.
Her advice for others wanting to repair their credit or improve their financial situation generally?
“Both situations take time, dedication and patience. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are organizations out there to help with the process, as well,” she says.
She also strongly recommends that everyone who wants to achieve the kind of financial freedom she’s achieved to come see her and Metro’s staff on Feb.1 at the organization’s annual Show Me the Money event, which she will be catering.
The free event is taking place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Community Outreach for Family and Youth located at 1015 E. Carpenter Road). Billed as a “pre-Super Bowl party,” it is designed to help residents gain financial literacy skills.
“We’re very excited to host our ninth annual event. Everyone is welcome,” says Grace Taylor, community outreach specialist at Metro.
“There will be two game show segments that the audience can participate in this year,” says Taylor. “The sessions will be packed with information participants will need to compete in our game show. Everyone is encouraged to stop in to the money moves sessions to become more competitive in the game show which will take place at the event close,” she says.
Winners of the Money Games event will take home prizes.
According to CEDAM, Metro had one of the largest Show Me The Money events in Michigan with 200 people attending in 2019. This year they are expecting to draw 300 residents to take advantage of applying for free home repairs, increasing their income and walking the path to home ownership or starting a business.
“Every year, we raise the bar,” says Taylor. “Flint residents are hungry to see continued improvements in the city’s economic recovery as well as their own.
“A part of recovery requires controlling your financial assets,” says Taylor. “Gaining control of your money is an integral part of household stability. We’ve witnessed wonderful examples of what happens when people are able to raise their credit scores. Renters become home owners, job seekers get jobs and entrepreneurs like Cocino Mio are able to launch and expand their business ventures.”
Having a better handle on her money has given Coronado a peace of mind that has been priceless. The security of knowing that there is real, tangible help in the community is also something that she can’t put a price tag on, according to the firmly established restaurant owner.
“I would encourage everyone who needs help with their credit, buying a home, or trying to start a business, to attend the event. The Metro team will do all they possibly can do to assist you,” says Coronado, who recently received additional marketing assistance and a catering contract from the financial development institution.
“When program participants choose to move forward with Metro, we as an organization continue to support their success,” says Taylor, who hopes that this year’s Show Me the Money event will be her organization’s largest ever.
.”We are restoring communities and providing opportunities,” says Taylor.
What can be better than that?
Editor’s Note: Cocino Mio is located at 3322 Davison Road in Flint. To learn more call (810) 336-0926 or visit their facebook page.