Marlene Flores, 41, of Greenvale abides by a simple philosophy: "always be doing something."
"A minute that we don’t do something, it’s a minute that we lose," she says.
The owner of the coffee shop, Mar le Cafe, in Glen Cove has done gigs as an insurance broker, entertained the idea of pursuing real estate, sold homemade food straight from her kitchen, and worked in hospital administration.
Then two years ago, Flores decided to do something with coffee. She spent a year traveling back and forth to her native El Salvador, learning about the product, eventually importing some beans to Long Island to sell in her community.
Then last year, she took the next step and decided to turn her small business into a gourmet cafe, where locals could pick up coffee and espresso prepared from freshly ground beans imported from abroad, including El Salvador, Costa Rica and Ethiopia.
On Tuesday, Flores was recognized as the Hispanic Business Owner of the Year by Stony Brook's Small Business Development Center in an event hosted by Bethpage Federal Credit Union.
The recognition is for Hispanic business owners who have taken advantage of the Small Business Development Center's Hispanic initiative, which aims to help Hispanic business owners expand their business opportunities through a series of workshops and a bilingual business counselor.
Flores said participating in the initiative helped cement her determination to open a business of her own despite the hardships. Weeks after Flores signed the lease for her shop last summer, her 16-year-old son was in a traffic accident and in a coma for eight weeks -- he was only able to return home this January. When she finally opened her shop in early October, superstorm Sandy hit three weeks later and left her without power for a week.
"It wasn't easy, but now I feel like it’s worth it," she said, looking back at her experience running her small business so far.