Featured Above: Founder and CEO Alfredo Figueroa (left) and employee Maria Bastidas (right) in the San Mateo store.
Perseverance, equality, and understanding are key tenets of Alfredo Figueroa’s personal life, serving as business models for Canaan Express, a money services/shipping business that connects immigrants with friends and family in Mexico and South America. He has created a neighborhood store that makes its customers feel safe, at home with “people speaking the same language”, and first-name-basis familiarity. Figueroa, the son of immigrants, influenced by his own childhood struggles growing up in a low income neighborhood was inspired by his parents’ determination and resilience. He opened Canaan Express three years ago to better “cater to the needs of the Latino community”. His goal was to help eliminate barriers for low income individuals, facilitating easier access to people back home in Latin America. His success as a “reliable shipper” and financier is notable. His customers are lined up around the block every morning before the store opens.
“Do you give up? Do you let it all go? Do you let something you created die? No. You keep fighting,” explained Figueroa. Earlier this year, faced with a spontaneous administrative error that left his bank accounts frozen, Figueroa nearly lost not only his entire life savings but also three years of hard work building his business and establishing a strong line of credit. His prompt action in rectifying this glitch saved his refuge for fair treatment, low prices, and reliable services.
Figueroa admits that it’s difficult to balance school and the rigors of running his own business but has found that the immediate application of concepts taught at Haas “make class and business easier”. He spends his days juggling classes, near-constant phone calls and emails from international vendors, and working in or managing his store and employees. Haas has helped him develop “skills to be competitive in the community” by “personalizing” the experience for consumers with the goal of “increasing community impact”. Figueroa “want[s] to understand [his] customers so [he] can offer them the best service possible,” applying Professor Fanning’s example of visualizing yourself in the client’s “wooden chair” as you make business decisions.
Figueroa’s goal has always been to make a positive difference in his community, believing in Haas’ principle of think ‘beyond yourself’ as one which promotes changing lives for the better. To Figueroa, this means making decisions that will benefit the greatest number of people. His passion has driven his enterprising spirit. Encouraged by his own hard-fought success, Figueroa encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to “pick something [they] are willing to lose sleep over” because if they “don’t have passion…[they] won’t have the strength to fight for it”.
He is fully committed to creating a better future for others. When he isn’t at his store or in class, Figueroa has taken a leadership position in a variety of teaching and guidance roles- managing a tutoring center that helps over 100 youngsters through afterschool programming, volunteering (with his friends in Hermanos Unidos) to play soccer with inmates at San Quentin and helping them learn to read and write to earn their GED. Figueroa believes that if you “can change one life, it branches out quickly” and you change many more.
Figueroa has remarkably and successfully negotiated through the struggles and dangers of shipping, ensuring successful delivery of packages to Mexico and South America. The threats from crime, corruption, and lack of a protected postal service create substantial challenges for Hispanic immigrants that want to send help to their families back home. Figueroa described a proud and satisfying moment when a package, unaccountably delayed, was successfully delivered. The elderly woman, who had shipped the parcel from his San Mateo business, came in one morning to personally thank him. Because of Figueroa, her “nieces, nephews, and grandkids ha[d] new clothes.”
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