This 18 year old Latina entrepreneur created a business from recycled car rims
Sarai Umansor Morales, a senior at Central East Florida’s Palm Beach Gardens High School, views a problem simply as a personal challenge to innovate a solution.
That’s what entrepreneurial minds do.
That’s what Morales’ father did when he immigrated to the United States from El Salvador, unable to speak the language but with a need to provide for his family. It’s a problem that can be found amid the nation’s 51% of adults from Salvadoran descent who are not proficient in English. Morales, a natural translator, was the solution to that language gap. At 8 years old, she teamed up with her dad to start a successful landscaping and lawn care business.
Morales used her entrepreneurial mindset in 2023 to win $1,000 and second place in Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s Southeast Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in Florida. She pitched a business idea for Fiery to address demand for affordable car rims by recycling a specific aluminum alloy to create them.
Last October she pitched the concept in NFTE’s national challenge in New York to become a top three finalist and runner-up. That on-stage moment when Morales confidently unveiled a polished showroom-ready prototype is indicative of the entrepreneurial mindset that has long been enhanced by the immigrant family experience in America. A U.S. Census Bureau paper suggests immigrant business owners on average have a high propensity to display innovation, use applied research and development and to create new processes, entirely new products, and enhancements to existing products.
Are Immigrants More Innovative? Evidence from Entrepreneurs also notes: “relative to total population, the immigrant self-employment rate is 62 percent higher” than the rest of the population and that “immigrants are responsible for a disproportionate share of businesses in the 21st century U.S. economy.”
That aligns with what the U.S. President said when the White House approved NFTE’s request to declare Nov. 17, 2023, as National Youth Entrepreneurship Day in honor of Morales and others among the next generation of diverse young Hispanic entrepreneurs. “We know that when we provide our youth entrepreneurs with the support and resources they need to start and scale their businesses, our economy grows stronger and our communities flourish,” said President Joe Biden.
Morales is among the 65% of NFTE’s students who are people of color and 43% who identify as female. Supporting entrepreneurship education, says NFTE CEO Dr. J.D. LaRock, fosters an entrepreneurial mindset in these young innovators and strengthens the economy.
“We believe that entrepreneurship education has the power to change the world,” LaRock said. “At NFTE, we do that by igniting the entrepreneurial mindset and helping students build critical skills, networks, and social capital.” Skill-building and capital are the next rungs on that ladder Morales started climbing when she fell in love with entrepreneurship as a child and when she took 40-minute public bus rides to and from a high school where she could study global business. “I decided to go that far away to school because I knew it was where I could learn about business and get opportunities,” Morales said. “I’m committed to having an education and value it because my family never was able to get an education.”
After graduation, Morales plans to pursue a business school education, perhaps at Babson College’s top-ranked entrepreneurship program. “While I further develop my business, I want to expand my skills and knowledge in engineering and business. I’m thinking about majoring in business administration and mechanical engineering. Maybe I can compete in pitch competitions through college or even after college to get funding,” Morales said. As for life after earning a degree, she said: “Perhaps I can work for a big car company or NASCAR and start my business.”
Through education, hard work and a creative idea, Sarai joins the growing ranks of Hispanic business owners.