A Young Entrepreneur’s Journey
By Debbie Nelson
Photo by Amy Randall Photography
Samuel Castro left his home country of Honduras 10 years ago when he was 21 years old. While it was difficult to leave his birthplace behind, he chose to follow his dreams. Opportunities to succeed and move ahead are very scarce in Honduras. If Samuel wanted to be a successful business owner someday, he would have to take some risks and embark on a journey into unfamiliar territory.
“It was difficult to leave Honduras,” Castro said. “I love this beautiful country full of warm and kindhearted people. People who come together during trying times. This has certainly been the case during Hurricanes Eta and Iota. So many lost absolutely everything; and it was the Honduran people who came out and offered help to all of the victims.”
Castro brought his hard-working Honduran spirit to Miami in 2011. He worked tirelessly for two years before a new opportunity knocked on his door. A company in Greenville offered him a position. While he did not know a soul in South Carolina, he took a leap of faith and packed his bags. He was ready to take the next step on his journey.
He relocated to Greenville and settled into his new job, but Castro knew immediately there was more in store for him. He had grown up in a family of merchants and he aspired to do the same here in Greenville. He quickly found a natural fit for his future when he visited Supermercado El Sol located at 6304 White Horse Road.
Castro started as an employee at El Sol six years ago. He happily explained, “I loved it immediately because it was something similar to what I had been doing in Honduras. In a short time, I became the manager of the store. Then when my boss decided to sell, I wanted to take on the new challenge of being the owner. I didn’t realize my dream would happen so quickly. I was only 29 years old!”
From an early age, Castro’s parents instilled in him that everything you get in life, you get through hard work, responsibility and commitment. He brings these values to El Sol seven days a week from 8:00 am until 9:30 pm, where you will find him and his wife, Iris Judith Castejon, greeting customers. They have been able to keep their doors open during the Covid pandemic with more than 500 shoppers each day. Evenings are particularly busy for them.
El Sol is stocked with basic groceries along with a variety of unique products from Hispanic countries. “We want to offer our customers the foods and ingredients they enjoyed when they were growing up in their countries. We try to provide our products at good prices so they can afford the foods they are the most comfortable with,” Castro said.
He and his team of eight employees take customer service seriously. “My philosophy is to learn and grow each day. I believe that with hard work and education we can reach our goal of providing the best service to our clients. I always say the client is first—our main purpose is to fulfill their needs,” Castro said.
El Sol’s customer service philosophy extends well beyond its four walls to its support of the Greenville community. Growing up, Castro’s family did not have much; however, they always made it a priority to share whatever they had with others. He continues this empathetic tradition today in Greenville. He is especially proud of his business’ involvement in Canasta Básica, an initiative of the Hispanic Alliance.
When the Hispanic Alliance saw the harsh reality of food insecurity during the Covid pandemic, they mobilized the local Hispanic community to support each other through Canasta Básica. Working collaboratively, they brought together a variety of businesses and community resources to support families in need with food baskets.
Local Supermercados, like El Sol, supply the Hispanic staples. In addition, the families receive vouchers to buy fresh ingredients at the participating stores that are the cultural centers of Hispanic neighborhoods. As this trusted place in the community, El Sol has served as a canasta distribution site many times.
“It has been a rewarding experience to work with the Hispanic Alliance,” Castro said. “They are working with people of limited resources and offering them a little bit of comfort and peace during the pandemic. There are a lot of people who have lost their jobs and they don’t have the resources needed to provide for their families.”
So what’s on the horizon for Castro in 2021? This 31-year old entrepreneur will focus on the growth of his business. He will continue to provide his customers with great products and outstanding customer service. He anticipates adding more jobs. And without a doubt he will make sharing with the Greenville community a priority.
And there will be an added bonus - Samuel and Iris will celebrate the arrival of their first child. Their daughter will grow up hearing the stories of her Honduran heritage and her father’s journey to provide her with a world of opportunities.