At first glance, Turlock resident Elizabeth Mora seems like your run-of-the-mill business owner.
She’s professional, well spoken, courteous and displays a sort of benevolence that has an almost maternal feel to it.
However, behind the smiles, the faded Subway visor and the overwhelming spirit of entrepreneurship, are a pair of eyes that tell a much more tragic story.
A story that involves a homeless girl from Los Angeles, and her triumph over drugs, an abusive relationship and the bleak expectations of society.
Mora, who came to Turlock with a friend in 1991, left a life of living on the streets, not having parents and dealing with drug abuse.
“I grew up in the streets and I knew I had to get out,” said Mora. “We were caught up in the wrong crowd and I had to leave to do something for myself.”
Mora said that her catalyst for leaving was the innate desire to live up to what she believed was her complete potential. A potential that did not belong on the streets of Los Angeles.
“We got tired of being worthless,” said Mora. "Because when you’re someone who doesn’t have motivation, that’s what you are. Worthless.”
Since her time in Turlock, Mora has worked a variety of odd jobs, including picking strawberries in the fields, being a restaurant waitress and finally landing a gig at the fast food sandwich chain, Subway restaurants. It was at Subway where Mora truly began to flourish and display her skills as a manager and leader, taking the Lander Avenue store from a monthly revenue of $3,000 to $10,000 within a few months of working there.
These talents didn’t go unnoticed.
During her tenure at Subway, Mora has been offered more than 20 managerial positions to run other Subway stores, yet she has declined them all. Two years ago, Mora was offered part ownership of the Lander Subway, making a 30-year-old dream come true.
“I couldn't believe it,” said Mora. “I asked someone to pinch me.”
Mora credits her genuine love for her customers as the reason for her store's success.
“I have customers that come in every day,” said Mora. “To me, they're more than just money signs. They pay my bills and feed my kids and I love them for that.”
However, Mora’s success has come with its share of quite literal scars.
In 2009, Mora got out of an abusive relationship with her husband of over 30 years.
Mora said that the abuse had gotten so bad that she seriously began to fear for her life.
“It had gotten to a point where I thought I was gonna end up dead,” said Mora. “But, one day I put my foot down and haven't looked back since.”
Along with having to deal with an abusive relationship, Mora was also subject to drug abuse during her teenage years, largely spurred by her surroundings, and at many a times, the cold Los Angeles nights.
“The drugs were really the worst,” said a teary-eyed Mora. “You lose all self control and self respect.”
Despite the years of adversity, Mora never lost faith, constantly striving to improve herself and the lives of her children.
“I always stayed focus,” said Mora. “Never let anyone get you down. I truly believe that if I put my mind to something I can do it.”
Mora hopes that within a few years, she can own multiple Subway restaurants, and give her children a chance to live a life that she never had.
“I just want them to be kids,” said Mora. “Kids these days get involved in relationships when they're 12 and 13. There is no future involved with that.”
Along with setting up a comfortable life for her family, Mora is also incredibly passionate about partaking in philanthropic efforts to engage positive youth development in the greater Turlock area. At her own Subway store, Mora offers sandwich certificates for reading programs, donates to schools and one day hopes to open a recreation center to help keep teens and pre-teens away from drugs, violence and underage pregnancy.
“I truly believe that when you work hard, anything can be done.”