By Vincent T. Davis
San Antonio Express-News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Marketvision CEO and founder Yvonne “Bonnie” Garcia shares the inspiration for her new book “Dale Ganas: How to make your mark in life“
Yvonne “Bonnie” Garcia’s parents knew from early on that their youngest was different from their three other children.
One day, the little girl with blue eyes and light brown hair planted chicken feathers in the backyard of their two-bedroom home on the South Side, hoping to grow flocks of fowl to sell.
Another day, she found abandoned kittens, put them in a box and tried to sell them at a nearby cantina.
Her parents, Johnnie M. Garcia and Felisitas Tejerina Garcia, encouraged the girl’s independent spirit. Her mother’s dichos (sayings) and her father’s consejos (words of advice) shaped a work ethic that propelled her to a career as a pioneering Latina in the world of advertising. Today, she runs her own multicultural ad agency.
The founder and CEO of MarketVision shares her journey in a new book, “Dale Ganas: How to Make Your Mark in Life.” On the cover is a depiction of a colorful piñata being shattered. The saying “dale ganas” can be translated as “give it all you’ve got” or “hit it hard,” Garcia said.
“If you hit life as hard as you hit a piñata as a child,” she said, “dulces (candies) will fly and the sweet things in life will come your way.”
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Garcia has shared her story with female high school and college students, talking about her humble beginnings in San Antonio, her rise in corporate America and her path as an entrepreneur.
“I tell the girls you’re on a journey,” Garcia said, “and whether you know it or not, you’re learning all of these wonderful lessons.”
Her mother, a seamstress, toiled in a workplace without air conditioning. She and Garcia’s father, who worked at Kelly AFB, paid to send their children to a private Catholic school through the 8th grade.
Garcia wrote that the experience taught her to have faith not only in God, but in her herself.
At Burbank High School, she learned about team building as head cheerleader and a class officer. After she graduated in 1975, her father wanted her to go to college. She said no and took a job at Joske’s Department Store, in the budget basement. Her co-workers, “Big Mary” and “Little Mary,” offered advice that echoed her father’s.
“Do you want to end up like us, working in the budget basement for 25 years?” the women asked her.
“No, I don’t think so,” Garcia replied.
She attended San Antonio College for a year to improve her grades. Then she followed in the footsteps of her two brothers and was accepted at the University of Texas at Austin.
When she showed her father the letter of acceptance, he wept tears of joy and sadness: joy that she had been accepted, sadness because the family couldn’t help her with tuition.
Garcia paid her way with loans, financial aid and scholarships, along with earnings from working at Builder’s Square and Jack Brown Cleaners.
A radio-television-film major, she wanted to be a disc jockey. Garcia took her demo tape to the top disco radio station in Austin, Disco-98 KHFI-FM, and refused to leave until she could hand the tape directly to the program director. The director took one listen and hired her on the spot.
As the city’s first Latina DJ, Garcia learned about commercials, marketing and promotion while spinning tunes.
After she graduated, the station was sold, and the staff was laid off. She returned to San Antonio and was hired at KTFM 103 FM. Her duties included serving as MC at concerts that featured bands such as the Jacksons, featuring Michael Jackson. Later, Garcia was hired for the midnight-to-6 a.m. shift at KTSA.
Her dad, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, was her biggest fan. As always, he weighed in with consejos — constructive critiques of her broadcasts.
When he died, Garcia was distraught and needed time to grieve. She left radio and drew on her experience in marketing to rise as the first Latina director at national organizations.
As a local marketer for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, she launched the first Halloween fajita cook-off at Market Square. As director of Hispanic marketing for Stroh’s Brewery, she created “Strohling Down the River,” an event featuring bands and barges along the River Walk.
Garcia was 29 when she was hired as director of Hispanic marketing for Coca-Cola North America. During a six-year tenure there, she signed Latino recording artists to the company’s ad campaign, including Luis Miguel, Emilio Navaira and a then 17-year-old Selena Quintanilla.
Garcia recalled driving to Corpus Christi with her mother to present Selena with a $50,000 check at her high school graduation.
“I was able to do so much with young talent at the time,” Garcia said.
In 1998, after four years of leading Coca-Cola’s Midwest Division, she returned to San Antonio and launched MarketVision. Her sister, Norma Casillas, and her best friend, Alexis Baldwin, quit their jobs to work with Garcia for half what they had been making. Garcia worked without pay for more than a year.
Eventually, she partnered with CoActive, a New York agency. After six years, Garcia bought MarketVision back from the agency and merged with Garcia 360, a Hispanic communications agency in San Antonio founded by Luis Garcia.
She said the most gratifying part of her journey has been to bring others along with her. “When a person succeeds, it gives you the ability to help others succeed,” she said. “It’s a good feeling.”
During her professional ascent, women of color were rare in executive suites and board rooms. Without mentors to guide her, she relied on the lessons she learned from her parents.
“Maybe I can make a difference in girls’ lives with the book, by sharing my stories of things that I was able to overcome,” Garcia said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
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