Estefania Ayala traces her dream back to the day her mother started selling homemade tamales around their Houston apartment complex to make ends meet. The family recipe was a hit. Soon, they added fresh fruit to their sales. Then the business grew from the back of the family’s van, into an 850-square-foot store. Today, it is one of the largest Latino grocery store chains in the Houston area with 20 locations. Ayala, who is graduating from Regis with a bachelor’s in business administration, smiles as she tells the story. “It reminds me of where we came from,” she said. “I’ve spent my whole life in the stores. There’s not one memory I have outside the stores.” She always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. And she learned from her parents, Mexican immigrants turned U.S. citizens with fifth and eighth grade educations, that hard work and learning as you go could give rise to realized dreams. But it was her mother, in particular, who emphasized something that drives her approach to business still today. “She taught me that people always come first,” she said. “We are supposed to be in service to others and not everything we do in business should be for us. It’s not just about profit. It’s about empowering your community.” But Ayala is no spectator in the family business. She has balanced her role as student — which included specialized study in international business, management and marketing — with her role as vice president of the Teloloapan Meat Market, a 10-store piece of the grocery empire her parents built. That has meant twice-a-month trips home for meetings and to tend to other business she couldn’t handle from Denver. She also committed time as president of Regis’ fledgling Entrepreneur Club, serving on student government and volunteering. She said Regis’ emphasis on shaping people who understand their call to serve others and strive for the greater good was such a good fit because she’s been living it every day of her life thanks to the example her mother set for her and her four siblings. “She knows she can only take it so far. It’s up to us, her kids, to take it to the next level,” Ayala said. Ayala’s next chapter begins the day after graduation, when she returns to Houston to wrap up an important project that she’s been working on for months: a partnership with the Office of the Mayor to build one of her family’s stores in Houston’s most notorious food deserts in a neighborhood with 12 percent unemployment. If all goes well, they could break ground in June. It is a monumental opportunity. Ayala’s focus is on making the best of opportunities ahead through working hard, learning as she goes and carrying on what her mother and her Regis education instilled in her. “I will always be a woman in service of others,” she said. Explore a degree in business administration.