Paradise Flowers and Gifts

Rosa Funes | Paradise Flowers and Gifts
Redwood City, California

Rosa’s childhood was filled with flowers. She grew up in El Salvador in a house surrounded by just about every type of flower you can imagine. She learned their names by going out to cut flowers with her grandmother who lovingly recited their names — rose, gladiola, hyacinth — as she tenderly cut each stem.

But blooms became bullets in October of 1979 when a conflict between El Salvador’s military-led government and a coalition of left-wing groups escalated into a full-fledged civil war. The deliberate terrorizing and targeting of civilians, the recruitment of child soldiers, and other human rights violations soon followed. Ravaged by war, El Salvador was no longer a place to raise flowers or a family so, in 1985, Rosa left her childhood home and came to the United States with her three young children, ages nine, five, and two and a half.

Rosa settled in Redwood City. When her daughter was 11 years old, she got sick and Rosa had to quit her job to take care of her. As the months passed, she needed a break from the constant care giving so she signed up for a class on how to start and run a small business. Soon after, Rosa answered a knock on her door. A stranger stood at her door, who introduced himself as Eric Weaver and said that he understood she was taking a class  about starting a small business and he was interested in learning more. She invited him in, and the pair began talking about everything — her dreams, the type of business she wanted to start, her family.

Rosa told Eric that she dreamed of opening a boutique, but she wanted to start off small. She liked sewing and figured she could begin by making gifts and clothing in her home while she cared for her daughter. She wasn’t sure how to get started or even how much money she would need to launch her business. The two agreed that $500 would get her going and, together, they filled out the paperwork. Rosa got her loan the same day. When Eric found out that Rosa didn’t have a bank account, he brought her to a bank to open one. Other help followed, with Eric offering advice on saving and running a business.

Rosa took everything she learned from Eric and opened a flower shop. She always thought she would open a clothing boutique, but decided that flowers suited her better. They remind her of her past and a place she used to call home. She named her store Paradise, which is exactly how she remembers her grandmother’s big home surrounded by rolling hills and flowers, so many flowers.

Rosa is firmly planted in Redwood City now. She thinks it is important to give back to her community and she gives back to her new hometown in many ways, but her favorite is Tres, a program for kids at Segway High School. Every holiday, the schoolkids reach out to Rosa and she provides flowers that they can then sell to raise money for trips and books and school supplies. She likes encouraging them. They just like Rosa. They visit her shop, shower her with hugs and affection, and have even given her an award for the time and support she’s given the program, but her favorite reward was a t-shirt the kids made just for her.

She thinks it’s important to support and mentor the children in the Tres program because she knows it’s not easy for them to sell flowers. In the beginning, running a business was difficult for Rosa, too. Her English was not good, so she had trouble communicating. She also had to learn a lot about budgets and managing money and running a business. But she’s mastered all that – mostly by working hard, being responsible, and persevering, which are the same skills that she’s passing along to kids at Tres. Now her challenge is finding the time to fill all the orders that flood her shop every day. She has support from her husband and three kids, but her days are long, with early morning visits to the San Francisco flower market where she picks flowers to fulfill each day’s orders before heading back to her shop to work on floral arrangements, sometimes staying late into the night.

People often ask Rosa if she ever gets tired of flowers. Not a chance. Rosa says she will never tire of creating bouquets and floral arrangements, and she will always have time to share her love for flowers. Another thing she will always have time for is Opportunity Fund, especially founder Eric Weaver. She still gushes about how he helped her all those years ago and, every year, she creates a special floral arrangement to give to Eric and the Opportunity Fund team to celebrate being an Opportunity Fund client.

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