2015 Business of the Year Award Winner
Owner, Lindo Mexico Restaurant
Originally from Mexico, Mata is the second oldest of seven, all six siblings brothers. Like many immigrant families, father Cristo, left Mexico for the United States to do what he felt was necessary to best provide for our family. It was during this time that Mata learned the importance of hard work and leadership at an early age, helping her oldest brother care for their five youngest siblings. At times this meant having to work in the fields in her native Michoacan to contribute to the family financially.
Mata first arrived in the United States at the age of 11, her family settling in Chicago. Naturally, Mata missed Mexico daily, primarily because she spoke no English and this was a strange land for an 11 year-old. At 15, after feeling settled into living in a different country, Mata got her first job as a cashier. Her senior year in high school, her life took another turn, and that’s where her adventure in West Michigan begins, and when her roots were planted in the Greater Grand Rapids community.
Mata was enrolled in Central High School. Shy by nature, and feeling uprooted once again, Mata felt like a stranger in yet another strange land, this compounded by the fact that there were very few Hispanics in her new school at that time. Despite having to work part-time during her senior year to help support their family, Mata graduated in the top 10% of her class. Her dream of becoming an architect or a lawyer, however, was put on hold due to her family situation – she neither had the resources nor support necessary to pursue higher education at the time.
So upon graduation, Mata started working full-time at the same factory she worked during her senior year – she and her older brother Chris did not have a choice but to help support their family financially.
Mata quickly realized that this is not what she wanted to do with her life: work the second shift in a factory, wake up sore and then do it all over again the next day. So, she enrolled at Davenport University, and still kept her second shift job in order to pay for her classes. After receiving her accounting certificate from Davenport, Mata landed a job in an office setting, something she had set her eyes on after years of working in a factory setting. The office job was not what Mata had envisioned; it was not as grueling as the jobs on the factory lines, but there was no flexibility in her schedule, and she still wasn’t happy. Then, in 2000, her brother Chris spoke those magic words that became an important and adventurous turning point in hers, and eventually her own family’s, life. “I saw this spot available on Clyde Park, we should open our own Restaurant,” he said to her. So with minimal restaurant experience and a one-year accounting certificate in her pocket, she simply replied, “Why not?”
With the guidance, mentorship, and equally important, original family recipes, of their parents (her father had spent most of his life in the restaurant business) their first restaurant venture began. In a year’s time, Mata got married, opened a new restaurant and had a baby – life was a little hectic and stressful. But her experience growing up had prepared her for all this.
Between 2000 and 2009, when they opened their current location at 1292 28th St. SW, Mata was focused on learning what she could about running a business – from accounting to operations, and recruitment and training of employees. There were also some hard lessons learned, like being initially declined a loan for their relocation from their Clyde Park location, which they had outgrown. And despite only being one class shy of earning her associate’s degree in business management, Mata has no regrets – she’s keeps looking ahead, having learned from experience and at her own pace, what it takes to be a successful business owner.
As Mata prepares to move into a brand new building and location, one that offers more seating for customers, a bar and a deck, she understands the value of all the support she and her brother have received from her family, the community and, most importantly, Lindo Mexico’s growing customer base. It’s the latter that has driven her to become involved in the community, from hosting meals for low-income families, to supporting the fight against breast cancer.
Mata appreciates the lessons she’s learned that cannot be replaced with a formal education: hard work, perseverance, tenacity, delegation of responsibilities, innovation and creativity, and the importance of focusing on the customer in order to have a successful business. These lessons, and the importance of having a great chef like her brother Chris, whose attention to quality in their foods and constant search for that next great menu item, have contributed to their growth.
In 2015, Lindo Mexico was named Hispanic Business of the Year from the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Mata was nominated for two prestigious awards – the Grand Rapids Chamber’s Athena Award and the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” annual list.
Outside of Lindo Mexico, Mata keeps busy with her family: husband Servando (who has supported her every step in the growing process), her first-born Clarissa and of course, little Miguel.