We spend much of our lives sourcing and enjoying the clothes we wear and the foods we love, yet we rarely know or involve ourselves in the life circumstances of the artisans who create our favorite things.
That’s where 20-year-old FGCU entrepreneurship wunderkind Myra Jaimes stands apart from the crowd, both for the apparel and culinary delights she markets and sells on her eye-popping debut website Mexituras.com (its name a mashup of Mexico and Cultura) and the financial stability she hopes to provide for the Mexican artisans in her family’s homeland.
Jaimes recently completed her undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship just one year after graduating from Immokalee High School and is now enrolled in the master’s program. She launched Mexituras while participating in the fall 2020 FGCU Runway Program Startup Incubator, for which she was awarded $3,000 from the Runway Program in 2020 and $2,000 from the Frank and Ellen Daveler Entrepreneurship Program at the University of South Florida in 2021.
Her hardworking family’s history, which included Mexican migration and seasonal harvesting, resulted in Jaimes speaking nothing but Spanish once her parents settled in migrant-rich Immokalee, one of the poorest communities in Florida. Since her family couldn’t afford to send her to college, she devised her own strategy (and taught herself English).
“I started going to college at FGCU when I was a sophomore in high school, so I was definitely an early bird,” she chuckles. “Ever since I was little, I was marked as a gifted student. When I was in elementary school, I was basically taking middle school classes. In middle school, they had me taking advanced and high school classes. When I got to high school, I noticed that juniors and seniors were taking college classes, and I thought, I can do that!”
She finally convinced her skeptical guidance counselors to let the 15-year-old high school freshman try college. Just one problem: she was too young to drive. The solution: online courses offered by Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers.
“Then, in my junior year, I was accepted into the Accelerated Collegiate Experience at FGCU, where basically the public schools would pay for your college education if you were accepted, and they would only accept 100 students every year. So I was one of them,” she says proudly.
In her spare time, Jaimes quenched her entrepreneurial thirst by joining a group of high school students, backed by the local 1By1 Leadership Foundation, to create a salsa company that they named Taste of Immokalee.
“I was co-president when I was in high school and we got Taste into Oakes Farms and Publix markets,” she says. “We got a grant from State Farm to start the business to give back to the community, and it has now expanded to Naples. They’re in Lely High School now and they’re able to go to a Miami Dolphins game in the front row. It’s just amazing the opportunities we had!”
Thinking ahead, Jaimes pondered ways to create a win-win enterprise of her own that would improve the lives of buyers and sellers alike.
“I had a whole bunch of ideas,” she admits. “One of them was to help women learn about their vehicles, because my dad is a mechanic. One of them was to help people find employees, because I knew it was hard. And one of them that I got a little bit of funding for in high school was called EMOBE, which stood for Entrepreneurs Making Ordinary Bags Eco-friendly. That one was inspired by people in Japan who tried to eliminate non-ecofriendly plastic grocery bags by creating paper bags seeded with local wildflowers that customers could plant instead of toss.”
Two years ago, following a spontaneous sit-down with Entrepreneur in Residence Mark Bole of the Rist Family Foundation Institute for Entrepreneurship at FGCU as well as a monthlong visit with her grandfather to his Mexican homeland, Jaimes stepped centerstage and launched Mexituras.
“When I sat down with Professor Bole and started talking about all the craziest ideas I had, he ran through all those ideas with me and he was like, ‘Myra, why don’t you turn that into a business? If you see that people make these things and they just don’t know how to get the customers they need, why don’t you help them?’ Then, when I went and visited with my family there (in Mexico), I started realizing how talented they were. All of the kids would just follow me around everywhere, and I started realizing things that I just had to help them with.”
The eye-catching handmade sombreros, textile skirts, huipil pants, camisa shirts, serape jackets, handbags, phone accessories and jaw-dropping huarache footwear currently featured on Mexituras.com are only the beginning for Jaimes, who will soon introduce must-try custom food items to her menu.
To help Mexituras survive and thrive, she has also signed on as a teaching assistant for FGCU multi-million-dollar donor turned adjunct professor Brian Rist, creator of Fort Myers-based Storm Smart hurricane windows and shutters.
“I’m forever grateful to be his teaching assistant because I help him teach a class about growth and development for his undergraduates and none of them know my age,” she laughs. “I always kind of not tell them because they’ll be like, ‘Are you serious? I’m older than you and you’re teaching this class?!’”
Mark Bole says youth has proven to be a powerful incentive for this master’s student.
“Over the last four years, I’ve seen Myra grow from a young dual-enrolled student who cares deeply about her community into an entrepreneur focusing on changing people’s lives. I couldn’t be more proud of her growth as a person and as an entrepreneur. She has tremendous potential and I look forward to following her on her journey.”