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Hispanic Forum Award Nominees

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It's the down home feeling that makes these customers keep coming back for more. Hundreds of glossy photographs crowd the walls of Mi Cocina Restaurant in Bryan.

Polly Martinez, a Bryan native had no experience in the restaurant business and opened the first Mi Cocina location in Bryan in 1991.

After leaving the telephone company, Martinez wanted to try something different.

Mi Cocina is a family affair, from her husband in the kitchen to her father cleaning the tables. Now, Mi Cocina thrives as customers flock to its three locations in Bryan and College Station.

"I'm not a person that expects to get rewarded for this. That's just me, that's just the way I am," says Polly.

Elaine and Stella Nolen, owners of Nolen's Formal Apparel in Bryan, started their business renting tuxedos in 2002, but ventured into formal gowns and bridal dresses about a year and a half ago.

The Rio Grande Valley native worked at a bank until her daughter, a former retail manager, talked her into the tuxedo business. They make sure a groom's shoes are shined or a high school student is ready for the prom.

The mother-daughter duo say attention to detail and friendly service are the secrets to their successful business.

"I don't feel like I've done anything special. We work very hard. It's just the two of us. We have some part timers that we hire from Bryan High School. So everything we do is us," says Stella.

Manuel and Theresa Rodriguez dreamed big, and now they are teaching others to do the same.

In the cosmetology industry for 25 years, these high school sweethearts have owned five salons around town over the years and along with their daughter, Crystal they've established a hair design school in downtown Bryan almost 3 years ago.

The family reminds their students as they cut, color and curl that the power to make a change in one's life lies within.

"In order to make a difference, it has to be done through education, training, and awareness. I believe that plays a major role in our success," says Manuel.

They plan to expand their business to other parts of Texas within a few years.