Lucia Tovar-Matthews never finished college, but she’s one of the lucky few who are following their lives’ calling. She says she was born to communicate and connect people, and she’s doing just that for a living. Using her innate skills, hard work and foresight, she became the founder of her own company, which grew at 100 percent its first three years — before she turned 30.
Her company, DIÁLOGO Public Relations, was born in 2006, and today it is an influential Hispanic public relations and social marketing firm, with offices in New York City, San Diego, and Mexico City. In 2011, she received the 40 Under 40 Award from San Diego Metro Magazine. She says her secret to developing such a successful company, her first time around, was being able to develop and maintain connections, being able to look way ahead, and being honest — to herself and her clients.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” says Tovar-Matthews, who only moved to San Diego from Mexico City 11 years ago. “Thankfully it’s been growing organically. I’ve been very lucky to find a niche in the Latino community that I know very well.”
Now in her mid-30’s, Tovar- Matthews is still as giggly and high-spirited as ever. She says she got all of the business experience she’s needed from working in the field. She got her first job when she was 18, right after she finished high school in Mexico City, where she was born and raised.
“I started working in the World Trade Center in Mexico doing office and commercial events,” she says. “I fell in love with the personal relationship…I love to be in front of the events, not behind the events, that’s my passion.”
She says she also learned that the best way to run a company is to have the staff work as a team, without a sense of hierarchy.
“I’m the CEO, but I’m part of the team,” says Tovar-Matthews, whose business has grown from 3 employees to 41. “Everybody in our company has a voice…We have executives all around the country — a good way to be accessible with clients.”
She says she remembers when she first moved to the U.S. and she was a homemaker, but she felt bored. She says she always wanted to help the Latino community, and she thought there was a necessity in the market for not just a one-way conversation, but a dialogue. That is what inspired the idea for her company — DIÁLOGO.
“I invested all my savings into the company,” says Tovar-Matthews, who also maxed out her credit cards for the start-up costs. “It was totally worth it. I was able to pay all my credit cards… The company has given me more than I expected. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been able to connect so many people and grow the Latino market – which is my primary goal.”
She says some of her start-up costs included a really good, easy-to-navigate Web site to help people find the information they need, office space, and the company’s incorporation. She also recommends finding a good mentor to help you.
“There are a lot of sites out there that help a lot of Latinos and tell you how to create your company, and how much money you need to have,” says Tovar-Matthews.
Not only does Tovar-Matthews focus on helping Latino clients, she also serves on the advisory board for the California Diversity Council and the San Diego Community College District Board to promote diversity for Latinas. She additionally started a multi-cultural internship program through DIÁLOGO to help young Latinas starting out in their careers.
“We actually send them out there to work, which is what I did,” says Tovar-Matthews about her 3-month internships which have benefited four girls so far. “They work with real campaigns. I love to push for that, because that’s the way I learned.”
Since she says she’s always looking further ahead than the average person, Tovar-Matthews also recently established the 2012 Hispano Blogger Awards. Her team will choose the top 25 bilingual Latina bloggers in 20 categories, from art to food to weddings, based on the size of their following and the impact they’ve had in the community. The nomination process will end August 15 midnight EST and five nominees from each category will be announced August 16 via Facebook, Twitter and DIÁLOGO’s blog during the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Statewide Convention in San Diego.
“Everybody wants to be heard,” she says. “Blogging is the way a lot of people communicate now. It’s moving a large-scale of people now. You move thousands of them. Hispan0 Bloggers is one of my most recent babies.”
The next step in her projection plan, however, will be starting a family.
“My husband and I want to try to get pregnant,” says Tovar-Matthews who doesn’t see herself staying home for long after her two to three kids are born. “I still see another 30 years for DIÁLOGO – it’s not going away.”