Coral Gables

Navarro employee gets his MBA funded by owner Mike Fernandez, Magic Johnson, FIU

A Helping hand: Edwin Meza chats with former NBA player and businessman Magic Johnson, who is contributing to the tuition for Meza’s executive MBA program at FIU.
A Helping hand: Edwin Meza chats with former NBA player and businessman Magic Johnson, who is contributing to the tuition for Meza’s executive MBA program at FIU. GERLINDE PHOTOGRAPHY

Edwin Meza, 24, left everything and everyone he knew back home in Mexico about seven years ago to start a new life in the United States.

Meza worked a series of jobs in California and Missouri before coming to Miami — as a waiter, construction worker, soccer coach. He then became motivated to be a successful businessman.

“I had a dream and wanted to help my family,” he said. “When I started working, it didn’t take too long before I was hungry.”

Now Meza is managing two Navarro Discount Pharmacy stores, in Coral Gables and in Miami International Airport, and will soon start an executive MBA program at Florida International University in January.

In October he found that his $65,000 tuition would be covered by the one of the company shareholders, Michael B. Fernandez, former NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson and FIU.

Meza, who met Fernandez at St. Thomas University, had been invited to a networking event at Fernandez’s house so he could meet some of his business partners from his healthcare private investment firm, MBF Healthcare Partners.

There, Meza was surprised to meet FIU College of Business Dean David Klock and Johnson.

“It was probably one of the best and most-important days of my life,” Meza said. “I cried, I had tears in my eyes.”

When Meza first met Fernandez, he asked him for career advice. The two connected and stayed in touch.

“Just like me, he came to the U.S. without anything,” Meza said. “He probably identified with me, too.”

After graduating from St. Thomas last year, Meza landed a job with Navarro Discount Pharmacies.

“I never thought I’d go to a retail pharmacy store,” he said. “When I was looking at huge companies, Navarro took me in.”

While working at Navarro, he reached out to Fernandez for advice as he made the decision to go back to school for his master’s degree.

“He excelled at school while working full time at Navarro Discount Pharmacy, where he started at an entry level, and today is responsible for operations at two locations,” Fernandez said.

Meza rose up the ladder through the Navarro store management training program, said company CEO Juan Ortiz.

“He’s a great kid. He’s very intelligent,” Ortiz said. “As long as you’re willing to put in the hard work, that should get you far in life.”

Meza worked as assistant manager at the Coral Gables location and was promoted to store manager of two location in August.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s two different neighborhoods.”

He accepted the challenge and has found ways to cater to the different communities his stores service.

For example, he noticed that Coral Gables had limited parking, so he began to offer delivery to the retirement home across the street, where many customers lived.

Meza hopes to continue growing as a businessman and as an affluent member of the community in the future.

Following his mentor’s advice, he wants to give back to the community and inspire others like him that left everything behind to seek a better future.

“Some people don’t think it is possible,” he said. “If I can make it happen, why not them?”