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Bilingual Business Builder

Three years ago, our local Patch affiliate sent out an open call to spotlight local small business owners for Small Business Saturday. I worked with Francisco to recount his story, and it was published on "Framingham Small Business Spotlight: Barrios Landscaping."

Here is my husband's success story as a rising emerging bilingual,  told by Francisco Barrios and composed by his wife. It's evidence that bilingualism is a rewarding lifetime journey.

I came to the United States from Guatemala 13 years ago with the American Dream. Nineteen years old and hoping for a better life and more opportunities for work, I had no idea then of the trials and challenges that lay ahead of me, nor of the possibilities for success that awaited me in the distance future. I knew not a word of English and began my American life as so many other immigrants--working two part-time jobs at two different supermarkets.

It came as quite a surprise, actually, that I didn't really need to know English in order to find a job or live comfortably in the US. I had siblings, cousins, and friends from home in the area, in addition to various Spanish markets and restaurants where I could find many comforts of home, like tamales, tortillas, and coffee. But I knew if I wanted to succeed in the US, not just exist, I needed to learn the language of this country.

A friend of mine told me about free English classes at Fuller Middle School two evenings a week. It was my lucky day when I went to the lottery and I won a seat in the level 1 English class. It took me the next six years, but I progressed through each class and at level 6, I earned my certificate for English fluency, with nearly perfect attendance in almost every class. Never having even finished 8th grade in Guatemala, that day was the proudest of my life.

About this time I starting working in the housekeeping department at the Natick Mall and my newly-acquired bilingual skills earned me a promotion. In seven short years, I had progressed from the produce department at Roche Brothers to project manager of a national company, in charge of 53 employees.

But my story does not end there, because I still had my unfinished education in my mind. When the opportunity arose, I returned to the Framingham Adult ESL Plus program at Fuller and enrolled in the GED classes. That proved to be doubly fruitful because not only did I pass the HiSet exam, I also met my future wife: my beautiful, intelligent, math teacher.

Although my managerial job was a huge success, I yearned to be my own boss and to have my own company where I wouldn't be inside all day. I had been working landscaping part-time on my days off from the mall and I loved designing beautiful lawns, walkways, and gardens. In 2013, I ventured out on my own and began my own company, Barrios Landscaping. I was able to utilize my managerial and organizational skills I'd learned as a project manager, in addition to the communication and networking skills I'd learned from FAESL+, to build the company. Now I can proudly call Barrios Landscaping a growing small business here in Framingham, as I provide fall and spring clean up, mowing, snow removal, patios and all landscaping services to homes and businesses around MetroWest.

My journey has not been easy, but it's been worth it. What I've learned is that you get out of life what you put into it, and with years of working, studying, and learning from my fellow immigrants, my student peers and colleagues, my family, my wife, and the people of Framingham, who invested in me and took a chance with me, I am living proof that the American Dream is possible.

I had hoped to share this post on Saturday, but with holiday travels, Thanksgiving, and Friendsgiving, I just didn't have the time! But that's okay, because every Saturday should be Small Business Saturday, and I encourage you to shop local any chance you can during this holiday season.


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