Whispers of decent work and possibility propelled Maria and Luis Molina's 3,500-mile pilgrimage north from Ecuador to Minneapolis in 1992. They had no contacts or job leads. They had four children in tow. Their immigration of faith was based on hearsay alone. Awaiting in Minnesota, they'd been told, was a shot at better.
The family slept six across in a one-bedroom apartment in south Minneapolis. For 12 years, Maria and Luis mopped up spilled Jägermeister and swept plastic cups off the floors at First Avenue after bands had boarded their tour buses and fans made their way home. The Molina kids pitched in at the fabled music venue as young adulthood beckoned.
Son Wilson became a homeowner when he was only 16 years old and a student at South High. The condemned pad was purchased in his mom's name. Thus began the journey of scooping up orphaned real estate and renovating it into somebody's home while making a buck in the process.
Fourteen agents currently staff Wilson's real estate brokerage. Molina Realtors sold 150 homes last year. The 30-year-old does double time flipping houses. His parents remain business partners. They're looking to turn eight or nine properties in 2016.
"As a minority business owner, Minneapolis has been very good to me, to my family," says Wilson. "People have been welcoming and they respect hard work. When I began my real estate business in May 2013, I identified a market. I found a niche. Affordable houses and personalized service. Owning a business isn't hard. It's about putting in the time and treating people right that's allowed me to grow."
As Gov. Mark Dayton issues a $100 million racial equity proposal, which includes cash infusions for minority business-development programs, the free market percolates with stories like Molina's.
According to the financial research site NerdWallet, the Twin Cities boasts the 19th-best market in America for minority entrepreneurs. Its "Best Places for Minority-Owned Businesses" shows people of color owned more than 12 percent of area businesses in 2012. The data also reports that from 2007 to 2012, the number of minority entrepreneurs going into business for themselves increased by almost 54 percent.
Wilson's voice carries a timbre of pride when revisiting what's been built. He's psyched to see other Latinos launching their own gigs, fellow artisans toiling to create their version of prosperity.
"You see people with their own clothing store, taco trucks, and supermercado. They're starting to get the hang of it, realizing they can do it too," he says. "I know they can because I'm living it."