Meet our Integrated Services Navigator, Lindsay Merrill

SONY DSCLindsay Merrill joined us in September for a year-long internship as a part of her Masters in Social Work program at DU.  We are already benefiting from her cross-cultural expertise and wealth of skills, and enjoy her persistent cheerfulness.  Find out why Lindsay speaks Spanish so well, and what she likes to do in her free time—those brief moments when she isn’t hard at work or studying for exams!

How did you first hear about Mi Casa?
I first heard about Mi Casa through my field internship coordinator at DU. When I described the kind of work I wanted to do during my internship, Mi Casa was the first organization she suggested.

What made you interested in working for Mi Casa?
I was very impressed with Mi Casa’s long-standing history in the community as well as the wide breadth of programs they offer. I was additionally very excited to work in an environment where I could continue work with and serve Latino populations.

What are your primary job responsibilities at Mi Casa?
I am an Integrated Services Navigator for Mi Casa’s business participants. Mi Casa offers such a variety of different services that navigating all of them can be a daunting task. I help our participants access additional services and classes, both within Mi Casa and with our partners. I am also taking on the responsibility of hosting Mi Casa’s monthly Legal Night.

Where is your hometown?
I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area <3

Where have you traveled?
I have lived in Spain and Peru and travelled extensively in those countries. I have also travelled in other countries in Europe and Latin America, including Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium and Croatia.

Where else have you worked and in what position?
Since I graduated in 2009, I have had a variety of jobs in different fields. I have served with Literacy AmeriCorps teaching ESL, taught ESL in Lima, Peru and have also worked as an art preparator for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s public art galleries in Pittsburgh, PA. I am currently a student at the DU’s Graduate School of Social Work, where I am pursuing an MSW.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Hardworking, dependable and flexible.

What is your favorite restaurant in Denver and why?
I love sushi so I’m still looking for my favorite sushi place in Denver.

What are your hobbies/favorite pastimes?
I enjoy rock climbing, hiking with my dog and running. I also enjoy painting and drawing when I have the time.

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Meet our Evaluation Specialist, Brian Hartman

???????????????????????????????Brian Hartman joined Mi Casa for a year of AmeriCorps VISTA service, and brings a winning combination of strong skills and dedication to his role.  He describes himself as “phlegmatic” – thesaurus anyone? – and while he is quite calm and collected, we also appreciate Brian’s great sense of humor. Read about why he was drawn to Mi Casa, his travels, and his top choice for vegan cuisine in Denver.

How did you first hear about Mi Casa?
I learned about Mi Casa through AmeriCorps Vista; I was scanning through sponsor organizations and it really caught my eye.

What made you interested in working for Mi Casa?
I recognize that Latino families have particular challenges living in this country on a day to day basis.  I’m also passionate about immigration and its impact on first generation families in this country.   Mi Casa gives me a channel to indirectly offer support to these populations.

Describe your job responsibilities at Mi Casa:
Mostly my work revolves around evaluating and restructuring the organization of Mi Casa to fit a new service model.  A large part of this effort is designing and launching the database system.

Where is your hometown?
I’m originally from Charlotte, North Carolina

Where have you traveled?
I’ve been to most of the states in the US, but I’ve also visited Canada, the Bahamas, and I lived in Seoul, Korea.

Where else have you worked and in what position?
My career experience is really broad, and I can’t list it all here. From garbage collector to marketing coordinator to veterinary assistant, I’ve done it all!

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Altruistic, phlegmatic, and cerebral.

What is your favorite restaurant in Denver and why?
City o’ City because it’s vegan friendly and toothsome.

What are your hobbies/favorite pastimes?
I love backpacking solo, playing board games with friends, and philosophizing with anyone who will listen.

Do you volunteer anywhere in the community?
I just moved here and I’m still settling in, but I’m looking into opportunities at Peaceful Prairie Animal Sanctuary. I also have strong interests in immigration issues and environmental causes.

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Meet our Receptionist, Montserrat Stock

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Montserrat joined Mi Casa in October, and hails from the beautiful city of Guanajuato, Mexico.

Montserrat found this position by first meeting with Indya Clark, Career Specialist at the Mi Casa Innovation Lab. Indya connected Montserrat to Leesly Leon, recruiter for our social enterprise staffing agency, Mi Casa TalentSolutions. The rest is history!

Learn about Montserrat’s extensive international travels, and why she likes winter so much.

How did you first hear about Mi Casa?
A couple of years ago on the radio, Mi casa was offering free tax preparation and inviting people to celebrate Dia de Muertos, my favorite Mexican tradition.

What made you interested in working for Mi Casa?
I believe that if you really want to help people, you need to help them to help themselves, and Mi Casa offers so many different programs to help the community. I believe in the mission of Mi Casa, so I thought it was the right place to work for me.

What are your job responsibilities at Mi Casa?
I work at the front desk. I give people information about Mi Casa’s programs and I have administrative responsibilities.

Where is your hometown?
Guanajuato, Mexico.

Where have you traveled?
I lived in Toronto, Canada for 2 years. I have visited the eastern part of Canada (Quebec, Ontario) some countries in Europe like Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, all of central and southern of Mexico and some states in USA (New York, Florida, Nevada).

Where else have you worked and in what position?
I have experience in Human Resources (recruitment, payroll and training) in automotive companies.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Adaptable, Adventurous (I like to take risks, and say “yes” to any kind of new opportunity), and Positive.

What is your favorite restaurant in Denver and why?
I love Mediterranean food.  I’m still looking for my favorite Mediterranean restaurant.

What are your hobbies/favorite pastimes?
I love to travel, spend time with my husband and our *jungle family* (Our cats, Catti and Mommo). I love snow! I like to walk in the snow and the feeling of the cold air, and cross country skiing.

 

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Meet our Support Specialist, Theresa Hayes

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A Denver native, Theresa has brought both expertise and enthusiasm to the Mi Casa Career Team.  Learn about her love of travel and her passion for community development—plus her favorite local pizza joint!

How did you first hear about Mi Casa?
Growing up in Denver, I remember hearing about Mi Casa but not really understanding all that they did.  I became a bit more familiar with the scope of the organization’s work during my time at the Graduate School of Social Work at DU.

What made you interested in working for Mi Casa?
I was really drawn to Mi Casa because of the holistic approach to economic advancement of individuals, families, and the community and the strong history it has in the Denver area.  I love working with individual participants but also feeling like we are joining participants in effecting larger social change.  Plus, the Career Team (and everyone else at Mi Casa who I’ve since met) is AWESOME!

Describe your job responsibilities at Mi Casa:
In many ways, I’m still figuring out my responsibilities and rolling with the constant change of the Career Development programs.  My primary responsibility is providing supportive services to participants in the Customer Service and Bilingual Bank Teller training programs, beginning before orientation, through the training program, job search, and after a participant gains employment.  While other members of the Career Team focus more on technical job skills and the professional side of job readiness, I support participants with the personal aspects of job readiness.

Where is your hometown?
Denver (and proud of it!)

Where have you traveled?
I love to travel!  I studied abroad in college in Denmark and El Salvador, and also spent some time living in Bolivia.  I was very fortunate to travel to several places throughout Europe, Central, and South America.

Where else have you worked and in what position?
In grad school, I was a Social Service Project intern at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN) and a Case Management intern with Work Options for Women (WOW).  At RMIAN, I supported adults who were detained in the immigration detention center in Aurora throughout their immigration case and WOW provided my first introduction into workforce development and job training programs.  Prior to grad school, I was a Volunteer Coordinator at Cabrini Green Legal Aid in Chicago as an AmeriCorps volunteer.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Thoughtful, passionate, and caring.

What is your favorite restaurant in Denver and why?
I think it would have to be Bonnie Brae Tavern because I love a good pizza, and I have so many childhood (and recent!) memories going there with family and friends.

What are your hobbies/favorite pastimes?
Brunch, skeeball, hiking, reading, finding and occasionally finishing Pintrest craft projects, being an aunt, traveling, happy hours, and watching Broncos football!

Do you volunteer anywhere in the community?
I’m still adjusting to my work schedule, so I haven’t been volunteering as much recently as I’d like to.  I do stay connected to area nonprofits that I’ve known and supported for a long time, such as EarthLinks and the Women’s Bean Project.  Before I started working at Mi Casa, I was volunteering with the Denver District Attorney’s office.

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Meet our VP of Development, Joe Haines

???????????????????????????????Joe Haines joined Mi Casa in August. A native of Washington D.C., Joe brings extensive experience to Mi Casa, and has already pulled off our most successful fundraiser to date. Learn about his wealth of nonprofit experience, and find out why he calls himself a “nerd.”

How did you first hear about Mi Casa?
I heard about Mi Casa when I was working at another local non-profit

What made you interested in working for Mi Casa?
I am very passionate about helping families in need. Mi Casa is about economic self-sufficiency, I like that.

What are your job responsibilities at Mi Casa?
I currently oversee development, communications and volunteer programs. That also includes the AmeriCorps VISTA’s we have.

Where is your hometown?
Washington DC is where I was born.

Where have you traveled?
I have been to quite a few places in the US. A lot of the east coast and Midwest. I have been to Mexico and a few places in the Caribbean. I have also been to Spain and Greece.

Where else have you worked and in what position?
I actually moved out here 11 years ago to run a Camp Fire council. Since then I have worked with Disabled Adults at Mosaic, raised money to help get feral cats spayed and neutered at Rocky Mountain Alley Cat Alliance and Goodwill. I spent the majority of my time out here at the Action Center in Lakewood.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Passionate, Quiet, Funny

What is your favorite restaurant in Denver, and why?
Chicago’s in Lakewood. They have the best Italian in the area.

What are your hobbies/favorite pastimes?
I play chess. I love baseball. I enjoy computer games. I like playing board games. I am a nerd basically. I am a Kiwanian.

Do you volunteer anywhere in the community?
Yes. I am a member of the Alameda West Kiwanis Club.

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Taking the Plunge: Robyn and Becki’s Story of Business Ownership

Business partners Robyn and Becki met while working for the same company, providing therapeutic-based exercise to seniors. Robyn, a registered kinesiology therapist, and Becki, an exercise science professional with a focus on geriatrics, soon realized they could venture out and provide their services on their own.

“At the time, our company was really the only entity offering therapeutic exercise for seniors, and we wanted to offer a lower price so more people could access these services,” said Robyn.

Possessing a passion for filling the needs of underserved seniors with disabilities, as well as connections across the community gained from their professional experience, Robyn and Becki began searching for start-up resources. During her research, Robyn came across Mi Casa Women’s Business Center, and both she and Becki enrolled in Mi Casa’s 13-week Business Success class.

“Mi Casa’s Business Success class helped us build the foundation for our business,” said Robyn. “We went through a step-by-step process to develop a comprehensive business plan, including the financial aspect, which was really helpful since that is not our background.”

Each Business Success class features a guest speaker who shares from their area of expertise – covering topics from legal issues, taxes, marketing, accounting, and more – giving participants an understanding for each area of small business development. These guest speakers are often successful small business owners themselves, which serves as a source of encouragement to budding entrepreneurs.

senior fitness 1 “Starting a small business is truly daunting, but ultimately Mi Casa’s Business Success class gave us the confidence to take that leap,” said Robyn. “Hearing the different stories of success from the guest speakers gave us the reassurance that we could be successful too.”

Robyn and Becki established Senior Functional Fitness in July of 2012, several months before graduating from the Business Success class.

Startup funding was gained through a loan from one of the partner’s family members as well as a traditional loan of $8,000, which helped Robyn and Becki purchase a laptop, QuickBooks software, exercise equipment, and also supplemented their salaries while they were building a client base.

“Mi Casa Women’s Business Center helped us realize and think through all the challenges of starting our own business, so Becki and I were prepared for what lay ahead,” said Robyn.

Armed with a thorough business plan developed through the Business Success class, Robyn and Becki experienced a gross net of $96,000 in their first year of business.

Senior Functional Fitness recently celebrated its two-year anniversary and continues to thrive. Robyn and Becki expect their business to grow by 12 to 15 percent in the coming year, and are currently in the process of hiring their first employee.

Senior Fitness 1“We just formed a new partnership with a large, in-home senior care company to offer group exercise classes to their clients,” said Robyn.

This in-home senior care company spans multiple locations across Colorado as well as several states, and Robyn and Becki expect their new partnership to grow and expand their business.

Robyn and Becki are also actively growing their clientele base through strategic marketing efforts, including social media, and networking.

“The benefits of starting a business definitely outweigh the stressors that come with being an entrepreneur,” said Robyn. “Starting Senior Functional Fitness created a way for Becki and I to provide our services to populations that have been traditionally underserved, allowing us to more fully follow our passions.”

Robyn said, “Mi Casa both prepared us and gave us the confidence to take the big step into business ownership, and it has been so worth it.”

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Mona’s Story

????????Before attending Mi Casa’s Customer Service career training, Mona – a single mother of a son with a disability – was struggling to make ends meet. Unable to work due to the amount of care and handful of weekly doctor appointments her toddler son required, Mona was receiving help from TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), but this assistance was not enough to cover the necessities.

Mona came to Mi Casa confused and overwhelmed, knowing she needed extra training to stand out among other job seekers due to her period of unemployment, but unsure of how or where to begin the job search process.

“Right away, Mi Casa’s career training made me feel hopeful for the future and my employment goals,” said Mona. “The instructor’s advice to find a job that fit well with our needs was really helpful, because I knew I needed a job with more flexible hours in order to care for my son.”

Besides learning industry focused customer service skills, Mi Casa’s career training taught Mona about time management, conflict resolution, self-care, personal finance, goal setting, and more.

“Not only did I learn how to demonstrate a strong work ethic and professionalism, I learned how important it is to plan for the future and to budget and save my money,” said Mona.

“I also learned a lot about myself, such as how to indentify my strengths, as well as how to identify areas I can improve on, and turn my weaknesses into strengths.”

Mi Casa’s career training also provided Mona with job search support, including resume writing assistance, effective job search techniques, and interviewing skills.

After graduating from Mi Casa’s Customer Service training program, Mona was hired by a car dealership as a Verifier. She has almost completed her first year of employment there and is thriving.

“I love my job and see myself staying here, I feel valued and there are opportunities for growth,” said Mona. “And for the first time I am receiving benefits, I just signed up for my 401k which makes me feel even more hopeful for the future.”

Mona has already received a raise and is in line for a possible promotion.

“I love everything about Mi Casa, I learned so much from the career training and grew a lot both professionally and personally,” said Mona. “”It was an amazing experience and I always recommend Mi Casa to others.”

Mona said, “Not only did Mi Casa help me get this job, Mi Casa helped me keep it by preparing me for employment and giving me the tools to be successful.”

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THIS CLASS IS FULLTo learn more about our classes, please contact Lisa Shook at 303.539.5606 or lshook@MiCasaResourceCenter.org.

Learn what financing options are available to you small business owners and entrepreneurs in this free class.

This class will cover:

  • Traditional financing methods
  • Newer methods of financing
  • The risk levels of each financing method

 

This class is offered in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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Business Success: Andrew & Tommy’s Story

fleur2Business partners Andrew (second from left) and Tommy (third from left) both come from entrepreneurial families, having relatives that own restaurants, grocery stores, pool halls and everything in-between, so it’s no surprise that they both got the itch to start their own business.

With nearly 18 years of professional hairdressing experience and 20 years of client service experience between them, Tommy and Andrew began dreaming of opening a salon.

Referred to Mi Casa Women’s Business Center by a mutual friend who completed the Business Success class, Tommy and Andrew enrolled in the same comprehensive 13-week class to figure out how to turn their dreams of opening a salon into reality.

“We were mesmerized by the amount of information and resources presented to us in the class, and by the helpfulness and knowledge of Mi Casa’s staff,” said Andrew.

“We took advantage of every opportunity the class provided and the connections Mi Casa has to other professionals and community organizations, which proved key in moving our business aspirations forward,” said Andrew.

After graduating from the Business Success class with a strategic business plan, Mi Casa Women’s Business Center served as an ongoing resource for Andrew and Tommy. They received one-on-one business consulting in order to obtain the proper licenses and permits as well as secure the financing needed to open their salon.

“Andrew and Tommy hit a roadblock when applying for loans due to effects from the economic downturn and the fact that banks were not counting Tommy’s sole proprietor experience as if he had been a business owner,” said Mi Casa Women’s Business Director Elena. “So we approached our partner Solera Bank on their behalf.

“We vetted for their solid business plan, and they were able to secure a $65,000 SBA-backed loan,” said Elena.

Armed with start-up capital and a third business partner – Tommy’s longtime friend and fellow hairstylist, Kristianna – Tommy and Andrew found a space for their salon in downtown Denver.

In January of 2014, Tommy, Andrew, and Kristianna proudly opened Fleur Salon. The salon currently has five full-time employees and fluerexperienced a first quarter gross profit of $54,196.

In 2015, the salon plans to hire three new full-time stylists and expand operations by $165,000. Future plans for the salon also include creating a scholarship program to allow underserved GLBT youth to attend hair school.

“We got to where we are because of help from Mi Casa and others in the community, so we make a point to remember what we have been given and to give back by partnering with several local nonprofit organizations.”

Integrated into Mi Casa’s business programs is a culture of giving back.

“Our guest speakers who work on a pro bono basis with our participants serve as an inspiration to give back,” said Elena. “And we encourage our alumni to remember how they have been helped by others and that it pays to give back to the community.”

When asked what business advice he has for new entrepreneurs, Andrew says “Do your research, stick to a plan, and make sure to revisit that plan.”

Once they have been in operation a few years, Andrew and Tommy plan on taking Mi Casa’s Business Breakthrough class to learn how to take their business to the next level.

Elena said, “It is very rewarding to see Andrew and Tommy’s business taking off and to see how they are already making a difference in the community.”

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Meet our Small Business Assistant!

Lisa shookMeet our Small Business Assistant, Lisa!  Lisa brings extensive customer service experience and a degree in marketing to her position at the Mi Casa Women’s Business Center.

The interview below reveals Lisa’s passion for the Latino community and Denver.

What made you interested in working for Mi Casa?

I appreciate what Mi Casa is doing for the Latino community and the Denver community as a whole. Here at Mi Casa, we are giving people the tools to improve themselves, their families and the community. Empowering people with new skills to successfully start a business or launch a career gives our participants confidence, knowing they can achieve their dreams and pass on their  knowledge to their children and grandchildren.

What are your job responsibilities at Mi Casa?

I am working in the Mi Casa Women’s Business Center, which is a very fast-paced work environment, which I love.  We help people by giving them information on how to start or grow a business with tools, classes and the individual counseling necessary to help entrepreneurs take their business to the next level.  It is very exciting work and I look forward to seeing all of our students become successful business owners and take their businesses to the next level.

Where is your hometown?

I am from Seal Beach, CA.  Nobody has heard of this tiny town so I usually add that it is between Long Beach and Huntington Beach.

Where have you traveled? 

Outside of the United States, I have been to Ecuador, Costa Rica, Spain, Portugal, England, Guatemala and Italy.

Describe yourself in 3 words. 

Innovative, Loving, Enthusiastic

What is your favorite restaurant in Denver?

My favorite restaurant is Ave. Grill on 17th Ave.  They are consistent with their service and food quality. The staff is always friendly, they have delicious and innovative food, and they make a great Lemon Drop martini.

What are your hobbies/favorite pastimes?

I enjoy gardening, cooking, hiking, snowshoeing, dancing, and hanging out with my family and friends.

Do you volunteer anywhere in the community? 

I volunteer at the Denver Rescue Mission where I prepare food, greet guests and serve food.  It reminds me of all the things I am grateful for in my life while helping the homeless in the Denver metro area.  I also volunteer and dance for a non-profit organization by the name of Barrio E’.  Their mission is to create a space where people from all different backgrounds can come together and learn that we all come from the same roots through song, dance, and music.

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