“There aren’t a lot of single mothers going to law school,” says Mary Grace Gúzman. Born to a Mexican immigrant father and a Mexican-American mother, and the first woman in her family to go to college, Mary Grace achieved her dream of going to law school only to face a poverty of employment options upon graduating. Taking care of a chronically ill three-year-old while pursuing her education meant that her résumé was not as strong as many of her peers. “My professor told me I would have to be creative,” she recalls, so she considered solo practice. Unsure about the first steps towards becoming self-employed, she decided to go back to school — this time enrolling in a small business training course from Women’s Initiative for Self Employment. Even though she held a post-graduate degree, she found that she knew less about how to run a business than many of her classmates with high school educations or less. “I learned so much from those women.”
Starting her own practice was a bold step, but she says it was the best possible path she could have taken, and one she wouldn’t have been able to take without the skills she learned from Women’s Initiative. Her father, an immigrant to this country who has run his own business for many years, inspired Mary Grace to go into business for herself. “I thought to myself, if my dad could do this, I can too.” Family plays a big role in her success as an entrepreneur, being able to advance her own intellectual pursuits while balancing her work and home life and caring for her family. This also means setting a strong example for her young daughter. “One day we were laying in bed and I asked my daughter, who was 8 or 9 at the time, what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said ‘I want to be a paleontologist, or singer, or maybe an actress… But if none of this works out, maybe I’ll be a woman-owned business.’ ”
She had a steadily-growing practice until 2012, when she put her business on hold to pursue an exciting opportunity with a Bay Area law firm. Beaming with passion and excitement about the work she is doing, she says that it was her connections with the Women’s Initiative community and her unique entrepreneurial skill set that got her in the door.
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