From Cuban empanadas to artisan mocktails and community-focused endeavors, these three young professionals share how the locals invite business owners to connect and what an impact one person can have here, making it an ideal location to take risks.
Ashley Zubia left Denver for Lubbock. The Colorado native and her husband had never heard of Lubbock until they were researching real estate opportunities. In fact, when they moved to Lubbock – after just one successful house hunting trip – the only person they knew was their realtor. “My husband didn’t even have a job,” says Zubia, a second-generation Cuban and the owner of Llano Cubano. “We really had no reason to move here. But we loved that people go to church here and love Jesus, and that most of the kids say ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir.’ A lot of these values that are important to our family were really apparent here in Lubbock so it was a good fit for our family.”
The risk has more than paid off. After just one year in town she’s already getting ready to go from owning a food truck to opening a brick-and-mortar location (complete with salsa lessons). What Zubia loves most about living in Lubbock is the big city perks and small town feel. “No more traffic, no more sirens 24/7. You drive five minutes and you’re in the middle of a cotton field. You drive another five minutes and you’re at a shopping center with everything you need.”
The relatively low cost of living is a huge plus, too. “We’re not spending our entire earnings on our mortgage, so we’ve had more flexibility and ability to do more with our money,” says Zubia. One thing she does with her newfound disposable income is shop locally. She gets clothes and gifts from boutiques like Texas Two and Tillie Rose. She also enjoys supporting her peers in the food truck scene – especially Mijos Tex-Mex BBQ and Outlaw Eggrolls. Here, they aren’t considered her competition, they’re her tight-knit community. Yes, she’s already a part of it – even if she’s new to town.
“Moving here was never something I imagined doing,” confesses Zubia. “But I saw the opportunity and just had to jump on it.”
“My kids’ school is just 5 minutes away,” brags the dad of three who left the big city because he didn’t like commuting an hour each way for work. “We don’t have to deal with traffic in Lubbock. The work-life balance here is so much better.” This is important to Hernandez. In addition to selling commercial furniture, he has not one, not two, but three side hustles.
First, there’s Hometown Hats & Co.,which supplies retailers in five states. “Lubbock was our first hometown we repped,” recalls a proud Hernandez. When local retailer Mountain Hideaway agreed to carry Hometown Hats & Co. from day one, it opened doors that Hernandez isn’t sure he would have gotten through in other markets. His sentimental design also helped the hats take off. “By featuring the Llano Estacado, we showed a side of the “Hub City” that often gets overlooked - the geography,” he explains. “Locals know the beauty of the caprock when you're driving back from a trip to somewhere else. When you see the windmills and drive onto the high plains, you realize you're home. That same emotion is what we put into our patch.”
Hernandez is also the brains behind The Embargo (Em-bar-go), a bartending service. “Lubbock was dry until 2008, so bartending is relatively new here,” he says. Yet, he’s now in his third year and business is booming. The fan of puns also founded So. Bar (sober) South. When one of their artisan mocktails calls for honey, Hernandez uses his own. “I have an apiary called Casita Honey,” explains the beekeeper and president of the local Beekeepers Association. He supplies Lubbock residents, coffee shops, and restaurants with his liquid gold.
It’s only a matter of time before Hernandez starts business #4. “I think Lubbock has a lower opportunity cost for trying out a new idea,” he says. “Lubbock is growing and that leaves a lot of runway to see if a business is going to succeed. There aren't a lot of crowded markets and that means you can explore what people really want.”
It’s easy to assume Hernandez was born and raised in Lubbock. But he wasn’t: his wife was. “People joke about my in-laws dragging us here or my wife making us move here to be closer to her parents,” he laughs. “But I think the city is really what brought us here. Having in-laws nearby is just a perk.” If there’s anything he likes to emphasize, it’s this: “I chose to come here.”
Some parents want to keep their kids close for college. But Maricruz Rodriguez’s mom encouraged her to leave her hometown. She did, but only on one condition. “The deal was I could come back and go to Texas Tech for my masters,” says the communications manager for Betenbough Companies. “I knew in my heart I always wanted to be a Red Raider.”
Still, Rodriguez – who grew up thinking of Lubbock as the big city compared to her hometown of Ralls, Texas – mentioned there’s a stigma about living in Lubbock as a young professional. “People think they have to move to a big city to obtain their dream job. But it’s not true. I get to do my dream job here. And, I get to do it with so many talented and driven professionals.”
Meanwhile, friends who have moved to larger metros within the states are dealing with the challenges of congestion and higher living costs. Rodriguez was the first person in her friend group to become a homeowner, which she credits to the affordable cost of living and competitive salary. Moreover, she appreciates her employer’s West Texas respect for work/life balance.. “My company is a people-first employer. I feel seen and appreciated, not only as an employee but also as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister.”
Part of her greatest joy at the office is sharing stories of how each of the eight companies of Betenbough directly impact the people of Lubbock. “I am who I am because of the people here who really chose to pour into me,” says the Lubbock – by way of Ralls – native. One thing is for sure - her instincts were right. Lubbock is her home.