BY BLITHE WILEY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID TERAN
According to Fitsmallbusiness.com’s 2019 Best States for Women Entrepreneurs list, Texas is the #1 state for women entrepreneurs. Here in San Antonio, women-owned businesses have long been a vital part of the local economy. According to a 2018 study by St. Mary’s University professors Belinda Romån, Ph.D. and Steve Niven, Ph.D., local women-owned businesses in San Antonio employed 82,181 people, paid wages of nearly $3 billion, and generated total revenues of $9.6 billion in 2017 alone.
San Antonio women business owners come from diverse backgrounds and can be found in every industry in the Alamo city. In this article, we feature three local women entrepreneurs, each with a unique set of occupational skills and business models.
All three have made a positive impact on their clients, their employees, and the local community. What’s more, each woman is serving as a role model for future generations of San Antonio women entrepreneurs.
Yvonne “Bonnie” Garcia
From her humble beginnings on San Antonio’s South Side, Yvonne “Bonnie” Garcia has blazed a remarkable career path for herself, accomplishing many firsts and breaking barriers along the way.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, she became Austin’s first Latina disc jockey. Her corporate marketing career began in the early 1980s when most companies had barely begun acknowledging the importance of emerging consumer segments. After working for Stroh Brewing Company in Detroit for five years, she spent ten years working in marketing for Coca-Cola, including six years as the National Director of Hispanic Marketing.
After nearly two decades in corporate marketing, Garcia was bit by the entrepreneurial bug. She returned to San Antonio and founded MarketVision in 1998. Since then, the company has grown into one of the nation’s leading multicultural marketing agencies in the country, serving clients such as the Centers for Disease Control, Fisher-Price, Coca- Cola, MillerCoors, and Hershey’s.
“I was convinced that the field of marketing was going to shift dramatically from a demographic perspective,” she said. “If you can connect to consumers’ core cultural beliefs, that’s where the magic happens.”
Garcia started JFAYE Properties, a real-estate development company, in 2005. This past year she also renovated the building housing MarketVision’s headquarters into her newest business venture – INOV8 – an eclectic creative meeting and event space available to businesses and event planners.
One of Garcia’s latest projects is a new motivational book she has written called Dale Ganas. It is filled with a series on “consejos” or words of advice and little stories from Garcia’s life intended to inspire young women.
“Young women need mentors in their lives, and with this book, I hope to ‘mass mentor’ through engaging motivational stories,” Garcia said. “My advice to girls and young women is to ‘Be Fearless.’ Overcoming your fears is courageous. That’s how you will succeed and achieve your dreams.”
Nineteen years ago, stay-at-home mom Brenda Stewart started her direct mail marketing company, Reaching Neighbors, as a way to go back to work while still being home when her children got off the school bus. After graduating from St. Mary’s University with a business degree, she worked for ADVO, the nation’s largest direct mail marketing company, so she was familiar with that business model.
She was inspired to start Reaching Neighbors during a visit to her brother-in-law in Colorado. A successful real estate agent, he relied on direct mail marketing to stay in touch with neighbors and past clients in a professional manner. He was getting great results through the direct mail company he used. Stewart realized that, with her experience in direct mail marketing, she could launch a similar company in San Antonio.
Today, about 85 percent of Stewart’s clientele consists of real estate and mortgage professionals across the country. The remaining 15 percent of her business comes from real estaterelated businesses, such as home improvement and repair contractors. She notes that, while many people today think that digital marketing is the only way to go, she definitely disagrees with that school of thought.
“Direct mail is the only way to target and reach all homes within a specific geographic area, be it a specific neighborhood or zip code. When done correctly and consistently, it can deliver a lower cost per lead and a higher return on investment than digital marketing,” Stewart said. “Direct mail offers our clients some distinct advantages: First, everyone has a mailbox, so everyone gets the message. Second, mailing lists can be very targeted from geography, to demography to lifestyle. Third, direct mail is the best way to target and reach all of your past clients in a very personal way. This helps to establish long-term relationships and encourages referrals.”
Attorney Rachel Reuter readily admits she thrives on the varied challenges that the field of family law presents.
“I chose to specialize in family law for several reasons. With family law, you are truly touching people’s lives during a very difficult and emotional time for them. My goal as their attorney is not only to help them through this difficult period in their life but also to help them get to a better place.”
Working side-by-side with a client to come up with a plan that works best for his or her family is extremely satisfying, she noted. “One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the emotional connection I develop with each client,” she explained.
While Reuter has practiced law for more than 20 years, she established her own law practice, the Reuter Law Group, PC, in September of 2020.
“I had definite ideas about where I wanted my work to grow and expand, and establishing my own practice made the most sense to achieve that,” she said. Two other attorneys and two paralegals have joined her firm since she opened her doors.
“It is my intention for us to work as a team. I want everyone in the firm to work collaboratively to serve our clients from beginning to end. Integrity, creativity, and passion are essential qualities in all of my team members. I always want to hold my head up and say we did the right things for our clients.”
What advice does Reuter have for young women who want to pursue a legal career? “I tell young women that the world has changed significantly since I was their age. The law profession used to be an “old boys club,” but today, women can pursue any aspect of legal work that interests them. The doors are definitely open for them in the law field today.”