Husband died
Husband died
Entrepreneur: Lydia Gutierrez

As an assistant to a "tortilla peddler" in inner city Detroit, Lydia Gutierrez answered phones, made deliveries and helped with sales, never realizing she was learning a business... until she married the boss.

Her husband, Richard, shared his vision of growing Hacienda Mexican Foods to a national company and the couple set out to make his vision a reality. When Richard died unexpectedly in 2005, Lydia knew that she would continue to realize their shared dream. Sustained by the feeling she had "an angel on her shoulder," Lydia expanded the product line to include chorizo, corn chips and Mexican spices. She hired even more neighborhood residents -- eventually employing 85 people -- and hit $10 million in annual sales.

Lydia believes respecting her employees is the key to her success. "Those that walk with others never walk alone," she said. She added that hopeful entrepreneurs should seek out a mentor. "Everybody needs their own angel," she said.

By Kitt Walsh, contributing writer @CNNMoney - Last updated December 29 2011: 5:49 PM ET
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