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Bonnie Garcia: Founder and President/CEO of Market Vision

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Coming up through the business ranks as a Hispanic female hasn't been without its challenges. It frequently meant that Yvonne ''Bonnie'' Garcia had to teach herself the ways of the industry in order to succeed, because often there were few willing to help her and even fewer who were like her. Still, she has thrived in this once male-dominated field, working for one of the most successful corporations in the world, founding her own marketing firm, and helping others along the way. ''I really, really believe that [because] no one was there to put a hand out to me that if I can, I will [be there] for young Latinas,'' Garcia says.

While attending the University of Texas at Austin as a radio, television, and film major, Garcia began a stint as a radio disc jockey during her junior year. While in that position, she was given the opportunity to participate in various promotional activities with corporations such as Coca-Cola, as well as non-profit organizations. "I really enjoyed that part of it, and as I did these radio-centered promotions and worked with corporations and non-profits, I really was intrigued with the whole marketing aspect of it," she explains.

After moving back to San Antonio, the city from which she originally hails, Garcia was contacted by a headhunter who was looking to fill a college marketing manager position for Stroh Beer Company. Garcia soon interviewed for, was offered, and accepted the position. Initially participating in merchandising activities, promotional programs, and college spring break tours — the purpose of which was to promote Stroh's products to students — she eventually moved into Hispanic marketing.



Soon, Garcia was again contacted by headhunters who eventually set up interviews with competitors Pepsi and Coca-Cola for senior marketing manager positions. Garcia says, "Ironically, I got an offer for both within days. When it came down to it, they were pretty close in terms of offers, but Coca-Cola was my choice."

Within six months of being hired on, Garcia was promoted to Director of Hispanic Marketing at the age of 29. After six years in that role, she again changed paths as she became the Director of Marketing for the company's Midwest division, a feat that Garcia accomplished almost exclusively on her own. "If I were to say that one individual influenced my life in marketing, no. I wish. I would have died for a mentor at Coca-Cola. There was no one there who took me under their wing. I was always pretty much on my own."

Ten years in a fast-paced and stress-laden corporation has its perks; however, it also has its downsides. "I had been working in corporate America forever, had worked with a lot of great agencies along the way. And I just decided that it was time to come back home and take a little bit of a break. I had been at it a while." So at the age of 41, she retired.

Like many who are used to the stimulation, energy, and satisfaction that comes out of working, though, only six months later Garcia found herself yearning to take on new challenges. With some encouragement from a close friend, and with her own ongoing passion for Hispanic marketing — a sector she felt (and still feels) is often overlooked by businesses — Garcia took a loan against her Coca-Cola stock and founded Market Vision with her sister and her best friend.

In order to make the company a success early on, each had to make many sacrifices along the way. For instance, both Garcia's sister and best friend took $20,000 pay cuts, while Garcia took no salary at all for nearly two years. And, they faced much rejection. "It's amazing, [when it was] 'this is Bonnie Garcia from Coca-Cola,' everybody wanted to talk to me…and then all of a sudden [it was] 'there's Bonnie Garcia,' and no one wanted to talk to me. It was tough. I think it was probably one of the most humbling experiences of my life. No matter how much knowledge I had — you know I was a marketer for 20 years and it didn't matter — but you know all we needed was one break," Garcia recalls.

That big break came in the form of a Corn Nuts account that involved a campaign aimed at Hispanic youth. As Garcia says, that was all that the company needed. Nine years later, Market Vision has 42 employees and offices around the country, including locations in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and San Antonio, the firm's headquarters.

Today, Market Vision focuses extensively on the Hispanic market, as was its major intention when the firm was founded. As part of her mission, Garcia continually strives to show companies the true potential of the Hispanic market and what it will mean to a company's bottom line on a long-term basis. However, it is her ultimate hope that all companies will eventually realize the potential of all minority markets, not just Hispanic ones.

"My name is Market Vision. It has no Latino twist to it. At the time [when Garcia wrote her business plan], I purposely did that because the vision was that the market was going to morph into being a nontraditional consumer market…so my vision was that we would take ownership to marketing not just to the Hispanic market — of course we knew that very well — but eventually becoming a multicultural marketing organization. And that's where I'm headed."

This ever-changing business environment, unlike most of Garcia's experiences while in corporate America, always provides new and exciting challenges. According to Garcia, in the corporate world, the overall weekly, monthly, and yearly activities remain consistent. Annual planning, for example, is always against the same brand set. In terms of her firm's activities, though, the clients, market, and products and services continually change.

"Everyday is a new adventure. I think that's what I like about where I am today," she says. "I never stop learning now. In corporate America, there's only so much that you can learn and know regarding brands in that category. Here, I work on unbelievable categories from automotives to soft drinks to toys to corn oil."

All of the varied and dynamic experiences throughout Garcia's career, from her radio days to her time spent as CEO of Market Vision, have helped to establish her as a strong Latina in the industry. And understanding the importance of this role, she actively seeks to transform the field in order to make it easier for other Latinas who are rising through the ranks, just as she did.

Q. What was the last piece of music that you listened to?
A. There's this young Latina talent that I saw at an outdoor festival about two weeks ago, and I asked if she had a CD because I was so amazed with her voice and her skill. Her name's Nicole Maurico, so I was listening to her CD on the way to work this morning to think how I can utilize this girl in some sort of a marketing proposition with one of my clients because she, to me, is on the cusp of being the next Selena. She's just amazing.
Q. Throughout your lifetime, what movie have you watched the most?
A. There are a couple that I've watched several times. Let's see, A Star is Born and Cabaret.
Q. What was the last book that you read?
A. I have them right here. There was a book that I was reading again, that I had read a couple of years ago — Confessions of a Mad Man [by] David Ogilvy.
Q. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
A. Cold and vanilla. I'm very easy.
Q. If you had an extra hour in the day, what you would spend it doing?
A. I'd probably spend it shopping.

"Over the course of the last five years, I've purposely looked for other Latinas who have small businesses and then utilized them as an outsource for some of our event marketing," Garcia explains. This led to the creation of LAA, the Latina Agency Alliance. The alliance itself has several purposes, including sharing capabilities and resources, collaborating on business issues to find solutions, and most importantly, mentoring young Latinas who hope to one day establish their own companies.

And as a mentor, Garcia has one key recommendation for success — guidance that is applicable to every member of the field. "Be fearless. Don't be afraid to interview for those positions. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone because when you do, it's amazing what you're able to accomplish."

Pointed advice from a woman who has lived and breathed it, and accomplished everything she's wanted and more.

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