Author:Rodriguez, Rosa

PACO FERNANDEZ never realized his knack for words and social skills would pave the way to entrepreneurship. Fernandez, a native of Tamaulipas, Mexico, is the owner of Chicago-based Paco's Custom Clothiers, a hand-tailoring shop.

Before he began his journey to success in the United States, Fernandez assisted his mother working with her in the restaurants she owned in Mexico. Fernandez experienced a unique upbringing. His biological father, who was already married at the time he courted his mother, didn't know he existed. His mother was also married. Knowing the extramarital relationship would not be allowed in her family, Fernandez's mother often moved from one Mexican town to another where she opened small restaurants. Both of his parents came from affluent families, with his father serving as governor of Zacatecas.

"I was born into two very rich families, but I grew up very poor," he said, adding that his mother was disowned from her family after discovering the affair she had that lead to his birth.

Fernandez arrived to the United States when he was 11, settling in Chicago with his mother. He continued his education in the U.S. after two years of elementary school in Mexico, but the educational experience in the United States scored him a striking difference from his Mexican education, one that appeared more accelerated. His inquisitiveness in class led to his teacher becoming frustrated and upset.

"Are you really that stupid that you have to ask so many times?" he recalls his teacher asking him. Fernandez walked out of class disillusioned and never returning.

Fernandez began his employment in the United States as a window washer. His big break came during a sidewalk sale in which his boss asked him to guard the merchandise ' of the neighboring stores that participated in the sale. His mingling with customers and social skills at the event generated greater sales than any that had been produced in each store.

"I didn't do anything," he said. "I didn't offer anything."

Fernandez's ability to interact and connect with others led to a temporary sales position at The Custom Shop, a national chain tailoring business, where he acquired the skills and knowledge that created his pathway to entrepreneurship. He established a career at The Custom Shop where he was employed for 28 years. Positions he held ranged from sales to associate director of training, leading up to another...

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