Mariscos Don Miguel: A Story of Humility and Tribute

Do you ever wonder what goes through the mind of entrepreneurs?  What keeps them motivated and inspired? Though the entrepreneurs in our communities are no Zuckerberg, Musk, or Bezos, they provide our communities with so much more than just economic boost. If I were to bet, I’d say deep down, our local entrepreneurs aren’t so different from the mainstream entrepreneurs so many aspire to be like. Vale Topete, co-owner of Mariscos Don Miguel agrees with that sentiment as throughout her brief interview with us, she repeatedly stated:

“I don’t believe anyone is above anyone else. At the end of the day, we are all human beings trying to make the best out of our lives and the lives of our loved ones”.

In hindsight, the best part of getting the opportunity to talk with so many business owners in our community have been the insights they’ve provided us with. It has been wonderful getting to know what keeps them motivated and getting to know the underlying factors that drive their success. In the case of Vale, the ultimate factor that has driven her personal success and the success of her family’s business is humility. It became a recurring theme throughout the short interview for Vale to answer things such as, “I can’t really say what drives me as a entrepreneur or business owner because I don’t feel like one, I feel just like everyone else, just trying to create a good life for my family”. The more we spoke with Vale, the more we realized that the story of her and her husband is truly a story of hard work and humility. After a combined thirty years in the restaurant industry, Vale and her husband decided they wanted to build something they could call their own. As former residents of the city of Chicago, Vale explained their moving to Elkhart in the following way:

“During our time living in Chicago, my husband and I would travel to Elkhart often to visit friends and family. The more we traveled to Elkhart and the more we got to know the community, the more convinced we became that Elkhart was the place we needed to be”.

Mariscos Don Miguel, a family restaurant specializing in seafood dishes, officially opened their doors to the public in July of 2016. “Everything we do, we do with passion”, Vale said, “it has always been that way, and it will continue to be this way as long as we are around”. Indeed, passion is a necessary attribute among all business owners we’ve spoke with, it has hard to believe that anyone would be willing to risk everything and put their heart and souls into a business if they were not passionate about what they did. As we progressed through our interview with Vale, we asked her about her thoughts on building a strong team that can truly represent the vision and mission of a business. Vale responded:

“There is real secret to building a strong team or creating loyalty among your staff, you simply have to treat your team members as you’d like to treated, treat them as you’d like someone to treat your children if they worked for someone else”.

The strength of the internal business team is something that is often overlooked. Many times we take a look only at the leadership, the business owners themselves but don’t consider the efforts by their teams or consider the critical importance of that team. Vale emphasized that her team is like her family, “they have my back and they know I have theirs”. It is said that commitment is build through connection and Vale and her team exemplify that.  

Throughout our time with Vale, she explained her important her family is to her and how important it is for her business to have a sense of family within their work environment. As another common theme among all previous business owners we’ve spoke with, family is always a tremendous factor. In some cases, we saw that family had a direct impact the life of the entrepreneurs as family guided them in the direction of entrepreneurship. In other cases, entrepreneurs became such for the reason that they knew entrepreneurship was the only way grow and provide for their families without limits. In the case of Vale and her husband, not only does their sense of family and unity drive their work culture but also it is family that motivated the couple to give their business the name they did. Four years ago, Vale and her family suffered a terrible tragedy, her husband’s brother Miguel passed away in tragic accident. When Vale and her husband Martin decided they wanted to open a business, they wanted to make it a tribute to someone who meant so much to them and their children, they wanted to make their business a tribute to their beloved brother, Miguel. Not only is the couple motivated by the simple fact of growing their business but most importantly, they are motivated by living up to the tribute they made for their brother and honoring their brother’s name in the best way possible.  


As usual, we wrapped up our interview with Vale asking her about her personal definition of success. Vale’s response was:

“I believe success is a journey above anything else. I think the idea of becoming ‘successful’ keeps us motivated day in and day out but I do not believe success is every accomplished as if we believed we were already successful, why would we keep working so hard”

Without a doubt, Vale’s response of success was one that left us pondering on what our own definition of success was and whether success might actually just be all about “the chase” rather than something that can actually be reached. Nonetheless, personal success is something that will be forever subjective and that is the beauty of it.

As always, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece and we hope you’ll be able to take some valuable insights from it. We look forward to sharing the last couple stories of this series. 

Address: 1700 Toledo Rd, Elkhart, IN 46516

Phone: 574-327-6364


The Latino Entrepreneur Story Writing Project is sponsored by the Center for Intercultural and International Education at Goshen College. 

Sergio Ortiz