Many of us first-generation immigrants know the power of the American Dream, either from stories our parents have told us of leaving everything they knew in search of a better life — or journeys we made ourselves. 

The U.S. is often referred to as “the land of opportunities” for a reason, inspiring countless people to pack their bags and leave behind their families, friends, and jobs all in the hopes of bettering their lives. Ecuadorian Eliana Ortega had high hopes for her move to the U.S. — and it really paid off.

As reported by El Universo, Eliana Ortega was born in the province of Cotopaxi, Ecuador, and soon moved to Quito with her family when she was just three years old. She grew up in a household where she had to work from a very young age, and eventually she found a stable job selling insurance in Ecuador. While she was able to live a comfortable life, she saw it as “empty.” Her dream was to move to New York City, and in 2013 she finally made it happen by obtaining a visa.

But moving to New York City wasn’t easy: Ortega had an 8-year-old daughter, and they lived together in a basement without a kitchen. Even more, she didn’t know a word of English.

Ortega worked washing dishes, delivering pizza, and cleaning houses, making less than minimum wage. She was finally able to make $25 an hour working for a company that specialized in removing lice, and she was “surprised by how much [she] enjoyed helping families get through the trying times of a lice infestation.” 

Still, Ortega wasn’t satisfied. The single mother realized other people were making much more money offering lice removal services to people — plus, she always dreamed of being her own boss in order to dedicate more time to her daughter.

Ortega traveled to the Shepherd Institute in Florida to hone her skills as a lice technician, and quickly launched her own company Larger Than Lice in 2015.

Ortega put Larger Than Lice on the map by visiting schools around New York City and letting people know about her services. The boutique company specializes in going to people’s homes and offering the best possible services for quickly removing lice. That way, parents can send their children back to school faster, and the “lice problem” becomes less of a headache (or itch).

Ortega’s services aren’t cheap: each service costs around $450.

Making it as exclusive as can be, she explains: “I go to your house, I handle everything. The treatment can last from 15 minutes to two hours, depending on the level of infestation and the amount of hair.” Most of her client list are part of the New York City elite, including politicians and actors.

Today, Larger Than Lice has treated over 10,000 families, and Ortega even developed her own signature lice-removal system. Even more? Ortega also runs Larger Than Lice Academy, which teaches other people how to remove lice, and how to become business experts on their own terms.