Mentoring Minds and making a difference

Mar 23, 2011 by

When Michael and Lisa Lujan set out to create their educational materials company Mentoring Minds, they sought the wise counsel of some mentoring minds with the know-how to turn their spark of an idea into a successful business.

They received critical support from a variety of East Texas groups, including Tyler Junior College’s Small Business Development Center, Tyler Economic Development Corporation, and the Tyler chapter of SCORE.

The Lujans have been named the Small Business Administration Texas Small Business Persons of the Year for 2011. This is the first time this honor has been awarded to an East Texas business, according to the Fort Worth SBA Regional office.

In May they will represent the entire state of Texas at the national conference in Washington, D.C., during National Small Business Week, which honors the estimated 27.2 million small businesses in America.

At a press conference announcing the Lujans’ award, Dr. Aubrey Sharpe, TJC dean of continuing studies said TJC has been a supporter of small local businesses for 24 years and finds it a great opportunity to find would-be entrepreneurs with good ideas but don’t know how to make it happen.

TJC’s SBDC give 60 percent more loans to small businesses than any other entity in the region, he said, adding that a big reason for that is the Lujans.

Lisa and Michael Lujan, founders of Mentoring Minds, an educational materials supplier.

SBDC Director Don Proudfoot said he had the privilege of working with the Lujans to secure loans for their business and he considers it a privilege to watch their business grow.

According to the SBA website, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and small businesses create 60 to 80 percent of new jobs in the country. Announcement of the “Small Business Persons of the Year” tops off the weeklong celebration and the Lujans will proudly represent small, but growing, businesses in the state of Texas.

Michael Lujan, a former school administrator, and Lisa Lujan, a former banker, founded Mentoring Minds in 2002 after developing an innovative study aid, designed as a flip chart, that would help elementary teachers and students in Texas better meet new state educational standards. They launched the company from their garage, maxing out their credit cards to print the first 6,000 copies. Less than 10 years later, Mentoring Minds is a full educational publisher, producing innovative learning products with more than $11 million in 2010 sales. One of the nation’s fastest-growing Hispanic-owned businesses, it also ranks No. 344 in Hispanic Business Magazine’s 2010 list of the largest U.S. Hispanic-owned firms.

To the Lujans, the key inspiration continues to be “the kiddos”, as Michael Lujan fondly refers to the students who reached him from his earliest days as an educator.

“It’s what inspires our growth,” he said. “We want to reach educators and kids across the country and our plans for the future will move us out of the ‘small’ business category very quickly.”

Through the rapid growth, the company continues to be based in Tyler, and to pursue its original mission: To develop affordable, effective learning tools that help children think critically – giving them the skills to succeed not just in the classroom, but in life. The company’s learning tools are now used in schools across the United States, reaching students in grades K-12. Through its flagship product, Motivation Math, and other quality learning and teaching aids, Mentoring Minds directly impacts thousands of students each year.

“We did not realize this dream alone,” Michael Lujan said. “Thanks must go to our many partners and very dedicated staff for helping us pursue our passion for providing quality educational materials to more than 1 million students in Texas alone.

“Several Tyler area organizations enabled us to take the leap more than eight years ago. Our partnerships with TEDC, the Small Business Development Center at TJC, and the SBA, provided us with a foundation to establish a business and now impact students nationwide.”


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Academics, Features, Spring 2011

About the author

Elise Mullinix is Tyler Junior College's Editorial Manager. She can be reached at 903-510-2370 or at emul2@tjc.edu.