In 1990 Fred Espinoza began working as a busboy at Churrascos, one of Michael Cordúa’s restaurants. Within four years, he was elected by his peers to be general manager. Cordúa recognized the leadership potential and offered, after Espinoza had earned a bachelor’s degree at St. Thomas University, to pay for an MBA at Rice. Today, Espinoza ’06 is chief operating officer at Cordúa Restaurants.
“We’re only as good as the people who work with us,” Cordúa said. “I will always believe in growing our talent.” Years before he supported Espinoza, Cordúa had made a personal commitment to further his education. “But entrepreneurship distracted my studies.” Watching his colleague flourish at Rice inspired him to go back. “I wanted to grow the company and approach the business with a greater understanding.” He graduated two years later.