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Mario Alonso, owner


Sometimes people go through mid-life career shifts and when that happens, it often requires a little creativity to keep the income flow going.

That happened to Santa Maria resident Mario Alonso—a couple of times, actually. When Alonso came to New York City from Guatemala on a student visa in 1971, he studied computer programming.



From Real Estate to Real Creativity

Mario Alonso’s new headscarf is designed to protect fieldworkers from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

That gave Alonso a chance to start his own business. He formed 4M Innovations and started manufacturing a certain type of headscarf. Then 10 years later he moved to Los Angeles to study accounting. In 1989, he settled in Santa Maria. He worked in the real estate market here, but it recently began to show signs of slowing down.

Designed with fieldworkers in mind, the headscarf is meant to protect against ultraviolet rays from the sun. Alonso said the headscarf design came by way of inspiration from his friends, some of whom are fieldworkers.

He noticed that some of the women he knows who work in the fields would spend an inordinate amount of time arranging a series of handkerchiefs around their heads to protect themselves against the sun’s UV rays.

Alonso noticed that the women would take about 10 to 12 minutes to cover their faces using nothing but thin, cotton fabric. He said that wasn’t enough protection.

“I noticed a lot of field workers have burned faces because of the sun,” Alonso said, adding that they would also complain about mosquito bites. “I wanted to create something easy for them to put on.”

He specifically looked for fabrics that could block most of the sun’s energy.

For now, Alonso and his wife manufacture the headscarves themselves with sewing machines, but he eventually wants to have his own factory and provide jobs for the community.

Alonso said that many other products are in the works for 4M Innovations. He’s also developing a type of visor imprinted with professional sports team logos. It’s the kind of product that’s not currently on the market, he said.

The headscarf comes in various colors (including camouflage) and is available to purchase for $15 at Los Comadres Salvadorean restaurant in Santa Maria.

Alonso added that the Spanish Self-Employment Training class he took at Women’s Economic Ventures in Santa Maria helped him get his business off the ground.

There he learned about the various aspects of starting a small business, including employment laws, insurance, and accounting (which he already had knowledge of). It’s a class he highly recommends to other aspiring entrepreneurs.

“It’s a really good program because many people get into business and they don’t know a lot of these laws and rules and licenses,” Alonso said. “They just jump into it and don’t even have a business plan or understand a lot of things that can affect their business in the future.”

Alonso is on a roll and constantly coming up with new ideas. He keeps a book with him at all times. When he has an idea, he immediately jots it down in the book. He said he gets up as early as 3 a.m. to begin working on his ideas.

“I’m not a designer,” Alonso said. “I just have ideas and I put them to work.”

4M Innovations is located at 429 E. Main St. in Santa Maria.


  • Want to learn how to invest with confidence? Certified financial planner Jim Watts will be giving a presentation in Solvang titled Broadening Your Knowledge of Investing: Rules for Investing and Strategies. The presentation will take place on Nov. 18 from 12 to 1 p.m. at Solvang City Hall, 1644 Oak St. The event is free. For more information, call City Hall at 688-5575.

Staff Writer David Minsky wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, email, or mail.



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