EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – An El Paso Hispanic entrepreneur makes her way to the top with one thought in mind, “giving back to the Borderland that helped and saw her succeed.”
Born and raised in El Paso, Crystal Martinez is a State Farm agent/owner who’s been in the insurance industry for over 20 years. She opened up her agency in April 2011 and offers insurance and financial services since then. However, it took her some time to realize she wanted to pursue a financial career.
“I actually studied communications. When I went to UTEP, I studied mass communications, and I minored in business. So, I wanted to work at CNN. I wanted to write stories, which I interned at Channel 7 twice when I was a college student,” Martinez said.
Martinez is one of a series of Hispanic business owners being profiled by KTSM.com during Hispanic Heritage Month, which lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Martinez said she enjoyed the internship. However, she was working full time to pay for school and that led her to the insurance industry.
“When I was working in the insurance industry, I came to State Farm and the mentorship and leadership there were always very positive; Go to school, get your education and when you finish and graduate, we want you to look at corporate and maybe open up your own agency,” she said.
Martinez said she never thought about it long-term until she finished college in 2008.
“I had to make a decision and to be honest, State Farm was just so good to me, and the offer was better. I was very blessed for the opportunity and after a year of working in corporate, then I looked at opening up my own agency,” she said.
Being the first one in her family with a college degree, Martinez said the process was tough since she had to figure it out on her own. She said she didn’t have much guidance and was “very naive,” when she started college at 17 and moved out of her mom’s house at 19.
“My parents divorced when I was in the 2nd grade, so mom raised me, my sister and her little sister which is my aunt. All women living in a mobile home when my parents divorced,” she said.
Martinez said she never felt that she was poor, but she knew they were on a very tight budget.
“I was never hungry, but my mom had us working 24/7. She had her job Monday through Friday and on Saturday when she had a day off, we were selling enchiladas, gorditas, flautas, menudo to pay the bills,” she said. “On Sunday before we went to church, we had to go to the flea market to sell clothes because mom was a single mom.”
Having a Mexican mom from Aguascalientes, Martinez said she knows her Spanish because of her mom.
“My mom speaks both English and Spanish, but I speak in Spanish with her. The church that we went to and the one that we go to today is in Spanish, so I’m used to my preachings and everything in Spanish.”
Because of her background and surroundings, Martinez said that working in the corporate world was “very weird” when she had to go to a meeting outside of El Paso because she stood out.
“I stood out because I was a female, Hispanic, my color was a little bit different, and I like salsa and spicy food. I was the only one ordering for jalapeno or Tabasco at the table,” she said.
Martinez said she never felt like she struggled, she just felt different. She said her mentors were Hispanic as well, and they offered such amazing support in the process.
“When I graduated, and my mentor hired me as an agent, he told me that he needed me to come to South Texas. Back then, my mom was already living in South Texas, and he initially wanted to hire my mom, but she said no because she was doing retail,” she said.
Martinez said her mentor needed more “Latinas” in South Texas and she accepted the offer. She did her training there for over a year and was being persuaded by her mentor to start from “scratch” and open her agency there.
“I was supposed to open my agency in Edinburg. They told me that I was the ‘lady in waiting,’ which basically means that if someone retires or passes away, you take over that book of business,” she said. “It was already a little bit over a year and that didn’t happen, so my mentor was encouraging me to start from scratch.”
At the same time, another mentor in El Paso reached out to Martinez saying there was a retirement and a book of business opportunity.
“I was torn because I missed home and I talked to my South Texas agent about going back and yeah, I went back home,” she said.
Martinez said she came back in December 2010 and started recruiting customers in January 2011.
“I wouldn’t be able to open up my business in El Paso if it wasn’t for my connections. I wasn’t getting any loans from any bank because I was a startup with no collateral. I had a great credit, but I didn’t have anything,” she said.
Martinez remarks how her mentor helped her get a loan from a local bank in order to open her business. She said the Borderland gave her so much that she wants to give back.
“Take care of people and you will be blessed,” she said. “Do it right and ethically and everything will fall into place. Work in your network and connections and you will success. Don’t give up and work hard.”
Martinez continues to run her business, do charity work, donate and sponsor different causes in El Paso.
For more information about Martinez and/or make an appointment with her, click here.
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