Many businesses start with a dream. For Rancho Markets, it was President & CEO Eli Madrigal’s dream of owning her own business and being her own boss. To make that happen, in 2006, against the advice of her friends, she opened her own supermarket.
“Why a supermarket?” She asks like she has heard the question a time or two before. “It’s what I know and what I’m passionate about. I started working part-time in a Hispanic supermarket when I was 15, and I’ve loved this business ever since.
“When I opened the first store, my friends told me I was crazy, that supermarkets are too hard to make profitable. It’s true that they do require a lot of work, but so does everything worth doing.”
Hard work is something Eli talks a lot about. Clearly it’s also something she practices, as over the last 11 years, Rancho Markets has opened nine more stores. However, it’s not just her own hard work that she’s proud of.
“In any business, one of the keys to success is having employees who share your vision and dedication,” Eli says. “Rancho Markets has wonderful employees. We all share and work toward common dreams, especially the dream of growing by serving the people of Utah. We love our communities and customers, and our number one goal is to save them money every day. We’re so grateful they continue to choose us. I think they do because they know our commitment to providing them with the best goods at the lowest prices.
“Prices and costs are always a major issue for us,” Eli says. “One of the other big challenges in this business is having to track everything down to the penny. We buy and sell our products in real time, so daily money management can make or break us. That, and a willingness to take risks. For instance, if you get a call from a vendor in mid-February offering you a load of watermelons, you have to make a quick decision. You have to ask yourself if it’s worth the cost to you and your customers. But taking that risk means being able to offer our customers something unexpected that they can’t really get anywhere else—watermelons in the middle of winter. Many supermarkets don’t take risks like that, but we do. Sometimes they don’t work out, but more often than not, we turn them into a success.
“But that’s all a lot to handle,” Eli continues, “so it’s good to have people looking out for us. Like the right financial institution. In finding someone to help us manage some of that stress and stay on top of our finances, I did a lot of research. Many of the financial institutions I looked into didn’t really seem to care that much about small businesses or Hispanic businesses, but it became clear to me pretty quickly that America First did. They care about the success of all of their members. It doesn’t matter how big or small your accounts with them are, they treat you like you are important, like you matter. And that shows in the service they provide. I’ve never seen such great service at any other bank or credit union.
“But the biggest benefit of being a business member of America First Credit Union isn’t good service. It’s the great services we’ve been able to take advantage of. Particularly those that focus on the needs of small businesses. Like their credit card processing and merchant deposit services. Using them has made just about every one of our transactions more cost-effective. And making every dollar and every minute count is the only way to be successful in this business.
“Still,” Eli adds, “the most important thing I’ve learned at Rancho Markets is that success is never guaranteed. You have to be humble and never take anything for granted. You have to work hard and you have to see every day as chance to improve.”
Eli is confident that the patience and work are worth it. “To anyone who isn’t sure they can make their dreams come true, I say, don’t give up. Our dreams are beautiful. But success doesn’t just fall from heaven—we have to get up and go out and work for our dreams. There is a phrase I use constantly: dreams don’t work unless you do. They don’t. We have to make them happen.”