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Hispanic Entrepreneurs: Immigrant Opens Her Dream Dance School

Lily Urzua came to Queens from Mexico to pursue her dreams of owning a NYC dance company. Despite hard work, she's making it happen.

NEW YORK, NY -- Just two years ago, Lily Urzúa came to Queens, New York from Mexico to pursue her dreams of owning a dance company. With one suitcase and $200 in hand, she founded the Urzúa Queens Center of Performing Arts.

She’s realizing her dream, but the Latina entrepreneur concedes it requires more hard work than she expected.

“You just want it that bad that you think, 'when I’m there everything is going to be nice,'” said Urzúa. “I just want to be enjoying it without suffering it."

Urzúa is one of the many business owners in Jackson Heights, Queens, a New York City neighborhood where over 60 percent of its residents are foreign-born. The streets are jam-packed with Latino, Asian and Indian restaurants, bakeries, stores and beauty salons. Urzua’s Performing Arts Center fits right in.

Like many entrepreneurs, Urzúa has invested a lot of time and money to make her business succeed. Yet, some dance seasons are harder than others. At times, she has not been able to afford paying her dance teachers.

“It’s part of the work, we’re still learning. My husband and I have been trying to really be on top of the bills even when there’s no money,” she said. “They [the teachers] know that we are working for a dream and not the money.”

Many of the the dance students are Latino. The Center teaches different classes, from salsa to gymnastics to Zumba. Urzúa wants the children to learn discipline, commitment and passion, and wants to be able to provide a full performance center to meet the students' artistic needs all in one place.

The idea to create an all-in-one performance center started in Mexico. As a child, Urzúa’s parents had to travel far so she could make it to her dance, gymnastics and music classes. Sometimes it was difficult for her family to take her to different places, so she has been working on expanding her business to make it easier for children to tap into their creative sides through music or dance.

“I dreamed of this school and the way I wanted it since I’m like 5 years old,” said Urzúa.

She plans to continue working to expand the school and live her American dream.

“I don’t mind the 60 hours a week or 100 hours; whatever time I have to work, if I am enjoying it [and] my kids are enjoying it.”

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