What started off as a small family business has turned into a Samford alumna being a voice for her people in the Birmingham area. Dulce Rivera ’17 is the CEO of Mi Pueblo Supermarket and chair for Fiesta BHAM, Alabama’s largest Hispanic celebration. Rivera is a first-generation college graduate who originally chose Samford for the close proximity to her home.
Rivera knew throughout high school that she wanted to study business. Business leadership was in her blood. Rivera explained, “I kind of always knew. In high school I was in Future Business Leaders of America. I was very involved and held leadership positions. And all my aptitude tests I took growing up said I would be a good leader, manager, or businessperson. So, it seemed like a natural career path to take.”
On a more personal level, though, being a commuter and minority student could feel lonely at times. Rivera was an ambitious social butterfly in high school, so feeling unconnected to campus was a struggle for her. When former Samford professor, Carlos Alemán, started the Latino Student Organization, it opened a door for her to meet students with similar life experiences.
“That’s when my Samford journey changed completely,” shared Rivera. “I had found my people. I had a friend from theater appreciation who is still my best friend; her name is Nyeedra. The Latino Student Organization opened us up to socializing and having more friends. I always say the LSO kind of saved me.”
After graduation, Rivera was able to transfer what she experienced in Brock School of Business to Mi Pueblo. Rivera was impressed at how concepts learned in economics or for an accounting test prepared her for practical business matters. These skills are essential for this family business that is actually the largest multicultural store in the state of Alabama.
Rivera recounted the day her father realized the need for this business in the community.
“My dad is very entrepreneurial,” explained Rivera. “He’s worked in construction and previously owned a Mexican restaurant. One day he was cooking a special dish that called for cactus. He went to the market to buy it, and it was outrageously priced. He was livid, saying that quality products like this should still be offered at affordable prices. On his way home, he saw there was a building for rent. He pulled over, went into the parking lot and got the phone number to call. The next morning, he had a walkthrough.”
Rivera takes these family values like filling a community need and translates them into company values. Another value instilled in Rivera by her mom was to never forget her Mexican roots, which is played out by her leadership in helping to put on Fiesta BHAM every September.
“We attended the festival for years and loved it,” said Rivera. “My parents love giving back to the community, but they weren’t board people. They had been approached a couple times, but they suggested I do it instead. This will be my fifth year on the board, and I just love it. I love being behind the scenes of the festival and seeing everything come to fruition. And I love meeting all the students who receive the scholarship we give out. I’m always bawling; it’s my favorite part hearing them tell their stories.”
When asked what it means for Rivera to be a voice for her people, she shared that it means the world.“It’s just so powerful,” Rivera continued. “I don’t realize that it is until later, sometimes, when I realize I was a part of some change or movement or opportunity. It makes little Dulce proud.”