My Story Started at GRCC: Business and community leader Paola Mendivil says GRCC was her ‘second chance at life’

Paola Mendivil smiing.

Start at GRCC and go anywhere. Every former student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful. “Consistency, patience and hard work.”

Sometimes a key ingredient to a restaurant’s success doesn’t appear on the plate.

When Paola Mendivil started at GRCC, her family had just taken over an old restaurant at 950 Bridge St. NW that reopened as El Granjero Mexican Grill in 2007. That move guided her decision to major in business.

“I needed all the resources available to make sure the business was successful,” she said. “GRCC helped me prepare for business ownership because the classes were relevant to the world we were living in — having just started a business during the recession. Team projects were a huge part of learning, applying the concepts into real scenarios for my small family business.”

Mendivil earned an associate degree in Business Administration in 2010 and a bachelor’s in business administration in 2017 from Ferris State University. She is now the catering coordinator for El Granjero Mexican Grill, which has seen its sales grow from $65,000 to $900,000 over the past 14 years.

“My experience at GRCC was valuable because the instructors were experienced in their field and provided a lot of knowledge and relatable examples to apply in the real world,” she said. “They were kind and approachable — I still keep in touch with many of them!”

Mendivil believes relationships are crucial to the success of a business and a community and began working with the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce soon after graduating from GRCC. She served on Grand Rapids’ Planning Commission for two years and on the board of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women for three years. She’s also been involved in the Latina Network, FSU’s LEADeres program and Latino Community Coalition.

El Granjero Mexican Grill was named a Top Women-Owned Business by the Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Mendivil was honored as one of the Top 50 Latinas in Michigan by the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan. In 2019, she became the first Latina featured on the cover of West Michigan Woman magazine.

“Grand Rapids Community College was my second chance at life!” she said. “I had dropped out of high school in my home country of Mexico and had just moved to Grand Rapids. If it wasn’t for GRCC, I wouldn’t have found my passion in business.

“I’m a Raider for life!”

Let GRCC help you start your story. The first chapter starts at grcc.edu/apply.

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