By BRANDON LaCHANCE
MENDOTA – If Francheska Diaz would have been asked, “Where is Illinois?” a year ago, she wouldn’t have had an answer.
If asked, “Where is Mendota, Illinois?” she would have been completely clueless.
But after a business opportunity, she not only knows where Mendota, Illinois is on the map, the town has found a place in her heart as she moved her and her two children (Ailani Pedro, 5, and Joniel Navedo, 2) to Mendota on March 24, 2022.
“I have a marketing business, Franchy Networking Services, in Florida and I’m also a pharmacy technician. All I do is medicine and promoting,” said Diaz, 31, who is half Dominican from her dad and half Puerto Rican from her mother. She was born in Puerto Rico and lived in Florida since she was 2 years old. “I used to sell food from my home to businesses. This one guy contracted me to come weekly. I cooked his food weekly until we weren’t in business together anymore.
“Fast forward a year later, he was out here in Mendota, Illinois because he’s a welder and owns his own business. He said, ‘Hey, I need you. I don’t speak as good of English as you do. They’re going to love you. You speak English. You speak Spanish. I need you. Please be my secretary.’
“I told him, ‘Bro, I’m from Florida. What are you talking about Illinois? Where is Illinois? A few months later, in February, he convinced me to come visit Mendota. So, here I am in this amazing town. I brought my children to see what life would be for my children if I was to relocate to Mendota.”
Illinois is the first state Diaz has lived in besides Florida.
Mendota is the first town she has ever called home as she lived in massive Miami during her stay in Florida.
Her initial thoughts of Mendota were, there is plenty of opportunity and Illinois weather in February is very nice.
“When I came to visit, I saw so much opportunity. I saw all of these beautiful, abandoned buildings,” Diaz said. “My goal is to be the next Oprah Winfrey. I want a hair salon. I’m a pharmacy technician. I own my own marketing business. I’m a mother. I’m a chef. I want to open a Caribbean restaurant and I want to take over some of these abandoned buildings.
“I’ve never seen snow. It was amazing. My skin is used to radiating sun. This will be my first white Christmas. I’m already buying Christmas things here and there because my house is going to be epic. I want it to look like Santa Claus was born and raised in my house.”
After the initial visit in February and before the move in March, Diaz did some research.
She had questions.
Is Mendota a good place to raise children? What is the crime rate? How bad are taxes?
Could she get her pharmacy transferred from Florida to Illinois?
Diaz’s findings made her think the move was a wise decision and she hasn’t differed from her decision since the three-day drive from Miami to Mendota.
“Mendota is very safe. I appreciate being in a safe environment where I know I’m going to be protected,” Diaz said. “Cops are passing by all the time and they enforce the rules. I love that. I totally love that. I hope I get the opportunity to make this community even wider and cooler by utilizing some of these buildings that have so much potential.”
Diaz has visited all the Mendota businesses and establishments, Starved Rock State Park, Chicago, and neighboring suburbs with her children and fiancé, Jereme Elam.
The Mendota community has made her feel welcome and that this is the right place for Diaz to become Oprah as she plans to expand her Franchy Networking Services, create a Caribbean Restaurant, operate a hair salon, remain a pharmacy technician, open a concession stand and food truck, be a mother, and enjoy life.
“I was very surprised that Illinois is the state of corn. There is an entire three-day festival because corn is amazing,” Diaz said. “Now that I live in the state of corn, I had to represent, so I bought a Mendota Sweet Corn Festival T-Shirt. This is my first year here and I want to celebrate each and every moment.
“People think it’s a joke that I’m always smiling. If you give people love, you’ll receive three times the love in return. There is no reason to be angry. If we can afford bananas and eggs, which is expensive, then everything will be OK. No reason to be angry.”
Entrepreneur isn’t the only word to describe Diaz.
She is also humble.
While waiting to settle her empire in Mendota, Diaz is a cashier at Sullivan’s Foods.
“I was a cashier when I was in college. This is easy work. It’s a side gig for residual income and some pocket cash while I’m getting things started,” Diaz said. “No one likes a sad or angry cashier, so like everything else I do in life, I try to make people smile and know that I care. I’m here to bring smiles.
“I’m now an Illinoisian. I’m a Mendotan.”