Keyword
in
Collection
Date
to
Download Folder

0 items

Women Entrepeneurs: Women and Money II
Citation
MLA
APA
Chicago/Turabian
Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Sixel, L. M. [moderator]; Howze, Jane [panelist]; Melchior, Mariette [panelist]; Guerrero, Delores [panelist]. Women Entrepeneurs: Women and Money II. 2000. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries . University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 17, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/42.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Sixel, L. M. [moderator]; Howze, Jane [panelist]; Melchior, Mariette [panelist]; Guerrero, Delores [panelist]. (2000). Women Entrepeneurs: Women and Money II. University of Houston Women’s Studies Living Archives Recordings. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries . Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/42

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Sixel, L. M. [moderator]; Howze, Jane [panelist]; Melchior, Mariette [panelist]; Guerrero, Delores [panelist], Women Entrepeneurs: Women and Money II, 2000, University of Houston Women’s Studies Living Archives Recordings, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries , accessed April 17, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/42.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

URL
Embed Image
Item Description
Title Women Entrepeneurs: Women and Money II
Creator (LCNAF)
  • Gregory, Elizabeth [host]
  • Sixel, L. M. [moderator]
  • Howze, Jane [panelist]
  • Melchior, Mariette [panelist]
  • Guerrero, Delores [panelist]
Date 2000
Description This is a panel discussion with female entrepreneurs. The participants begin by discussing their backgrounds and why they started their businesses. Then they talk about sexism from employees and clients. They end by giving tips to those who wish to start their own businesses.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas
  • Business
  • Entrepreneurship
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Gregory, Elizabeth [host]
  • Sixel, L. M. [moderator]
  • Howze, Jane [panelist]
  • Melchior, Mariette [panelist]
  • Guerrero, Delores [panelist]
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • panel
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b4555844~S11
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name 2011_17_021.m4v
Access File Run Time 1:19:56
Transcript University of Houston Friends of Women’s Studies Presents The Living Archives 2000 Women and Money II: Women Entrepreneurs Panel Discussion Moderator L. M. Sixel The Houston Chronicle Panelists Jane Howze Executive Recruiter Mariette Melchior Software Executive Delores Guerrero Restraunteur Women and Money II Women Entrepreneurs Elizabeth Gregory: Things are changing fast. Women are opening their own businesses and running them in unprecedented numbers these days. Our panelists have found ways to be very successful in that realm. And they are going to tell us how to do it. Let me just briefly introduce them. They have little bios in the program so you can get more information. Delores Guerrero opened Maria’s Mexican Restaurant in 1987. She was formerly owner/manager of Las Dos Hermanas Restaurant and was also a door-to-door tamale saleswoman. She now owns and manages 6 Taco Bell franchises as well as Lolita’s at the airport. Delores Guerrero There are two corporations. Two Taco Bells under Lolita’s Airport Café, Inc. and four under Daisy Food Services, Inc. which are outside the airport. Elizabeth McGregor: She has a small empire. Jane Howze is a lawyer and has worked as a loan officer, but her major work is in recruiting for narrowly focused… How do you phrase it? Jane Howze We are a retained executive search firm, the Alexander Group which I started in 1983. We have offices in Boston, San Francisco, San Diego and Houston and 45 people. Elizabeth McGregor: So, another empire. Mariette Melchior came to the US from Luxembourg in 1973 and got her BA at U of H and worked her way up at what is now Continental Airlines. She went on to Metro Traffic Control where she is (inaudible) CEO. In 1985 she helped start Probes which is the world’s largest provider of RM software. (Mariette Melchior: “Revenue Management.”) And she is currently the Chairman of the Board. Our moderator is L.M. Sixel. She’s been a reporter and columnist for the Chronicle for nine years. (L.M. Sixel: “I do not have an empire.”) Yet! (Laughter.) This panel will explore the way these women rose to such positions and the obstacles they met and the ways that they dealt with them. They’ll be time for questions at the end. I’ve distributed cards so that you can write them down and our moderator can read them rather than have people stand up. It’s easier for purposes of the video. After the panel, there will be a reception so we can talk further. So please join me in welcoming our panel. (Applause.) Moderator L.M. Sixel I’d like to start off by asking each of you why you started your own business. What was it that made you decide to go into business for yourself? Want to start Lolita? Delores Guerrero I moved to Houston in 1972. My parents owned a restaurant in Beaumont. I moved to Houston to get away from home, even though it’s only 1 ½ hours away. When I did get to Houston, I went to work for Pan American National Bank. My sister, who was already here in Houston working, called me one day and said, “We need to open a restaurant.” And I said, “We do?” And she said, “Well, you know everything. You’ve worked with Mother and Daddy.” So low and behold I said, “Okay.” She continued her job with Vinson & Elkins, where’s she’s now been for 27 years, and I opened up the restaurant. And that’s how we started. It was called Las Dos Hermanas, The Two Sisters. That was in 1979. I quit my job. At that time I’d left the bank and was working for the Teamsters. So, I did what baby sister wanted me to do! That’s how I got started. And I could go on and on. Moderator L.M. Sixel How about you Mariette? Mariette Melchior I left the big corporate environment, Continental Airlines, saying that I would never ever work for a large corporation again. It was entirely too stressful for the rewards. At the time I also had a retail business with my sister in Luxembourg and attended to that as well as another business that I had and joined my, now, husband in a small office. And he was kind of helping me and I was kind of helping him and we hit upon this idea of developing a revenue management system for airlines. Basically what these revenue management systems do, they are software applications that control airline reservation systems and that allow the airline to figure out how many “no shows” there will be on their airline. How many seats they should sell at the various air classes so that they wind up with optimal revenue on each departing flight. Ron was basically the creative driver of the idea and I was kind of the administrative person in charge of making the business happen. We did that in 1985. And here we are, it’s now a corporation of about 200 employees, many of them highly educated. Actually our Senior VP of Research is in the back of the room. And, I guess we have over 20 Ph.Ds. We supply most of the world’s largest airlines. We also do business with some very large energy companies, broadcast companies, cargo companies, etc. We’re worldwide. Moderator L.M. Sixel So it was part of wanting to get out of the corporate life that made you want to branch out? Mariette Melchior That and, of course, the ambition of achieving something in life. Moderator L.M. Sixel What was it about the corporate life that you wanted out of? Mariette Melchior It was a lot of hard work. Which, obviously, you have also in a small corporation, but it was just a struggle to get what you wanted and I didn’t have the ambition to become the president of the airline for example. It was not interesting enough. It was somewhat dull. There was the politics and it was a struggle. I left right after the first bankruptcy, which was a horrifying experience. And you kind of blame some of your cohorts for that happening. Why do things have to be the way they are? And you get a great urge to control your own destiny and to maybe try and do things better than they did at the corporation. Moderator L.M. Sixel Now Jane, I know you were an unhappy lawyer. I’ve known Jane for many years and know a little bit about her story. Jane Howze My story is in two parts and the first part was getting out of practicing law. Which was probably as hard as starting a business because I had gone to law school without really knowing what lawyers do. Which is pretty awful, but there is no training, really, when you’re working and going to law school for being a lawyer. So, I show up at a large law firm the first day and I was like, gosh this is awful, this is not suited to my personality. So, I practiced for several years and the big decision for me was to get out of law into executive search. For a lot of entrepreneurs a lot of things sort of happen serendipitously, I suppose, a sister, a bad time in business. I happened to see a Fortune magazine that had an article on executive search firms that recruit CEOs and top talent for companies. It was kind of like a light bulb virtually went off and I joined Cornfairy International which is the largest executive search firm in Houston and worked there for a couple of years. So going into business for myself was an easier thing than leaving the investment that I put into law. But it was 1983 and the economy was doing very, very poorly and most executive search firms were not doing well. So, another woman from Cornfairy and I thought we could start our own executive search firm by pricing ourselves a little more competitively and we could start a business. So, we started in our back bedroom and we called it The Alexander Group. I wish we had some great reason, but it sounded like it had been around a long time and it sounded kind of old and masculine. Back in the ‘80s there were no women doing executive recruiting. There were women finding secretaries and nurses, but no women doing executive search. So, we said – The Alexander Group – it’s been around awhile. We knew we’d made the right call when we called our first candidate and said, “Well I’m with The Alexander Group” and they said, “Oh, yes, yes I know of you.” We had been in business five minutes and we thought yes, we are on to something. The harder decision for me was getting out of practicing law. I had never thought of starting my own business, but it was just a result of the tough times in Houston. And then it just sort of exploded without a whole lot of anything but passion for my work, which, I think caused the business to grow rather than consciously trying to build a business. Moderator L.M. Sixel Did you have any troubles getting funding? Delores Guerrero As I said, my sister wanted to open up the restaurant, but she didn’t want to do the work and she knew I had the experience. (Moderator: “Is she here tonight?”) No, but we’ve gone over this thousands of times because it’s the truth. But anyway, what happened is I being involved in the community knew a lot of people and I thought well that’s no problem I’ll get an SBA Loan. I went to a gentleman that I knew who worked for the SBA and my sister and I applied for a $25,000 loan in 1978 going into 1979 and we were turned down. We were turned down for the reason that we just didn’t have the experience that they needed in order to give us the money. And I thought that SBA would look at us as two women who were active in the community who had a dream and one of them had the experience and surely what was $25,000?. He said we were overqualified and I didn’t know what overqualified meant. How could we be overqualified? I had a business plan, it was our own business plan, but we knew exactly what we were going to do. But they turned us down. So, whom do you go to? We went to Daddy. We asked Daddy to lend us $25,000 and he said, “Are you out of your minds? Your mother and I don’t have that kind of money.” We asked him to cosign a note for us which we would pay him back and he agreed. That’s how we started Las Dos Hermanas. In 1982 the economy got pretty bad and we sold the restaurant. My sister still had her job, but I didn’t have a job and my secretarial skills were rusty and I didn’t want to go back into banking. So, I started cooking out of my home garage. I was able to put a stove in my garage and I started making tamales and peddling them from door-to-door and eventually I started catering. My neighbors would smell all this food and I would ask them to come over and taste the guacamole because I didn’t like guacamole and I couldn’t tell whether it tasted good. I would call my friends and ask them if they knew of any functions going on and asked that they give me the opportunity to cater. And I did start catering. Once you’re in business, you have that drive because you know that you can do it and you know you can stay in business even though you don’t have any money. So, you say to yourself “what else can I do?” Well, a friend of mine, Rudy Luhan, owned a nightclub and I talked him into letting me serve menudo at his club every Friday and Saturday night from 2 to 5 o’clock in the morning. It sobered up everyone that was drunk. I did that for one solid year. Eventually I would also sell them tacitos. I would start cooking at 6pm and be done and headed out to the nightclub by 12am. And by 2am I was set up to start serving and I wouldn’t get home until 6 in the morning. In 1985 I found a small restaurant not too far from where I lived. And that was a challenge because the twelve table little place that I found was a wreck. Chairs were falling apart, the tables were a mess, there was a half-done kitchen and the man wanted a thousand dollars a month for the place. Since I didn’t have the money I talked him into letting me open the place for two weeks so I could make the $1000 to pay him for the first month’s rent. When I went into that 12-table restaurant I had to think of a name. And I was thinking of something that was short and simple and that could be pronounced by everyone because they had a terrible time pronouncing Las Dos Hermanas. And since it was no longer my sister and I, I thought of Lolita’s which is a nickname of mine. In 1987 we found a restaurant on Washington and Westscott that we wanted to open, but that was big money. Big money! In order to get into that restaurant I needed a $40,000 loan. Because I didn’t have the proper paperwork to walk into a bank and say I needed a loan to expand my Mom & Pop restaurant, it was difficult. Even though I could say I had done everything from cooking to waitressing to cleaning toilets, it was difficult. Finally we met this angel from heaven who said, “Look, I’m going to lend you the $40,000.” And I signed every paper I could think of and that’s how we got started there. And then later on we went into the airport and that’s another story in itself. Moderator L.M. Sixel Mariette? Mariette Melchior We had a very intangible business, obviously, which is software. We also started in 1985 when the economy was very dreadful and everybody was going out of business. Having been in the finance business, I knew better than to even try and obtain financing. So we mortgaged everything we had. Doubled mortgage the house and actually went into a reverse interest debt and somehow we made it. Perseverance always pays off. (Moderator: “Did you use credit cards?”) No, that’s one thing that we don’t do. We don’t do credit cards. We use them for convenience. But we believed in the business idea. And since then we have obtained many millions in financing but it was from the private sector. From VCs or Vulture Capitalists as we call them. (Laughter from audience.) I can’t say that we had any bad experiences there and I guess I was used to dealing with bankers. Moderator L.M. Sixel At what point were you able to stop using your mortgage and start using a regular line of credit? Mariette Melchior Actually it didn’t take very long. We started toying off positive cash about the second or third year that we were in business. And soon thereafter we were able to make enough money to actually get some of the money back out and payoff the interest on the house and ultimately payoff the house. We worked very long hard hours with a very small staff at the time and we started expanding only as we could afford to. But it was a good business with sufficient amounts of cash to allow us to do it. Moderator L.M. Sixel Have you always been flushed Jane? Jane Howze The service business doesn’t require an investment of capital, but a big investment of time. So, when we started there were two women followed by a third woman and we worked out of our house for the first six months. And we had an answering service at Greenway Plaza and an address at Greenway Plaza, but if people called the phones got routed and we each had about 3 or 4 lines out of our homes. At each of our houses we had signs on the front door that read – DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES RING THE DOORBELL! Because we didn’t want clients hearing the doorbell ring and dogs barking and babies crying and that was how we worked for the first several months. And I can remember saying, “Do you think we can take some money out of the checking account?” That was the way we paid ourselves back then. We grew very slowly and fortunately we still have the first client that we started with 17 years ago. Our clients all paid their bills and paid promptly, so we really had a good cash flow from the beginning. And when it was time to start adding people we never had to borrow money. Finally, several years ago, someone said you have to start borrowing money because you have no credit rating anymore. The service business is a good business because the only reason you have to borrow money is if you need to expand from the inside. Moderator L.M. Sixel Did any of you go into business because you wanted to have a better balance with your family? Or did you go into business because you were hitting the glass ceiling at work? Delores Guerrero In high school I went to a Catholic school which had a lot of wealthy kids. And to be very truthful with you, I was one of the very few Hispanics who was able to graduate from that particular high school because not only did my parents teach us English, but they also wanted to make sure we did have a good Catholic education. And they would have killed us if we dropped out. My mother worked as an egg grader. When I was a senior in high school, I remember one day one of the nuns saying she wanted us all to look outside because Roseanne Tutoris’ father has just driven up with her graduation gift. And we all looked down out of the third story building and there was this beautiful red Cadillac with white interior. I was stunned because my mother and father were trying to figure out how they were going to buy me a nice dress that was going to go under my cap and gown. And then one of the guys turned to me and he says, “You know what? You’re mother works for us.” And I said, “Yeah, I know that.” And he told me he hadn’t realized that my mother graded eggs for them. And I said, “Yeah, and you eat them to right? Because if she didn’t grade the A, B, C, and D eggs, you wouldn’t eat them.” And I thought to myself, one day I’m going to be a business owner and I’m going to go back to Beaumont and I’m going to be successful. And I carried that for many, many years with me because I felt like maybe because I was Hispanic and wasn’t from a wealthy family that it was not in my cards. Because even when I was in school those that had more were surrounded by people who gravitated to them and helped them plan their college. And I was never told I should go to college. I was told that when I graduated I should go to work because I needed to go to work. So when my sister wanted to start a business I took it as a challenge and I decided that it was time for me to do that. I decided I could do that and it’s been a terrific road for me, one that has been very gratifying. And when I go back to Beaumont, I’m very proud to let you all know that I have a Taco Bell in Beaumont. I made the papers there. Moderator L.M. Sixel Do you drive a Cadillac? Delores Guerrero No, I don’t. You know, it’s so funny, the first time I had the opportunity to go out and buy exactly what I wanted, I ended up buying a Toyota. I had the opportunity to buy the convertible but it was useless to me. I needed something that I could get around Houston easily in and an Avalon was something I can get around in. And a Cadillac is something I don’t need, but you never forget youthful impressions. Stopping the class to have us look and see the Cadillac somebody else was getting and I’m sitting there knowing that my parents are having a hard time finding the money to buy me a graduation dress. At that time every girl wore a long white dress under her cap and gown at her graduation. For me it was an awakening for me to be able to say today that we have been successful, but money doesn’t mean everything. It’s what you have in here that really counts. Moderator L.M. Sixel Did it play a role for you at all Mariette? Mariette Melchior Definitely. When I was at the airline, which wasn’t that terribly long ago, there were very few women. There are many of them today by the way and many of them are very high ranking. I remember when I was promoted to director at the airline, I took over the position from my prior boss who was fired and who was making well over twice the amount of money that I was making. I was promoted into his position and told that initially I was going to retain my old title and I was also not going to have a pay raise until I really proved myself. And I’m going – Excuse me! So I said fine I can deal with it. So I waited six months and finally said, - Okay, it’s time. I want the title and I want the money. I was begrudgingly given the title and asked if I realized that I was the first woman in the treasury department to achieve that title and that those things aren’t given away easily. And I’m like, I’m doing the job and I’m doing it better, so, what’s the problem? The salary was also an issue. Even though I was given a pay raise it was still only about half of what my predecessor was making, but I was told that this was good, all things considered, since he had a lot more experience than I had. And I’m thinking - Obviously he had a lot more experience! You had to fire him! I wrote a very vicious letter to my boss because I was so furious about it. I just couldn’t tolerate it. And I asked if I had red spots, would that make a difference? It didn’t and I continued to do the job. And the more I did the more responsibility I got. Ultimately you don’t have any control over your destiny. You’re working your little fingers to the bone under incredible stress. I always had low blood pressure and I actually experienced for the only time in my life high blood pressure. I was beginning to have real health problems and I realized it wasn’t worth it. I can do better. The other thing is that, like most other entrepreneurs I kind of marched to a different drummer, it’s very difficult for me to submit to authority. I don’t like bosses, I don’t like people telling me what to do and so all things considered I figured I could solve my own problems much better on my own. At the time I left the job, Probes was actually not yet a prospect, but I did have a couple of other things going. But I wasn’t sure that I could survive. But I figured it certainly was worth a try. And I’m ever so glad I did. Moderator L.M. Sixel Did it play a role at all for you, Jane? The wanting to balance family life issues and the glass ceiling? Jane Howze No, practicing law… (Moderator: “That was enough?”) That was enough. And I knew when one of the partners told me if I wanted to make partner I needed to be reading the Uniform Commercial Code over the weekends. And I was going, ��Oh, no. Please, anything but that.” I didn’t get into the business because I wanted to work less hard. I never knew the joy of working until I had my own business. And I never thought of myself as a workaholic. In fact, I thought of myself as average to slightly deadbeat. When I had my own business and had so much joy of building the business and doing something that was just my passion, I worked so hard that only now that I’m entering the final third of my career am I trying to balance out a little bit. My motivation was not so much balance as following my bliss, so to speak. Moderator L.M. Sixel Have you ever had any troubles with men who work for you? Delores Guerrero Whenever you go into the realm of the big corporate meeting or restaurant associations, or you meet people that are going to buy products from you, they are always looking for the male owner. They never really think about a woman owning the business. My operation managers have been men and consequently when they have attended meetings with our executive vice-president and business manager, who is a woman by the way, and I, the men would turn to them first. I always made sure that I put my hand out there and say, “I’m Lolita Guerrero and I’m the president and owner.” because if you don’t, when you have a man with you, they immediately turn to the man. I guess it’s just so common that, unless we make a statement, it continues to be that way. So I’ve learned through the tough times that you’ve got to put your hand out there and say I am who I am. And yes, I own all of this. It’s not flaunting. It’s an accomplishment. You’ve worked hard for it. And you’re just as good as that man that has reached the top. Well, you may not have reached the top, but you’re climbing it. And before you know it, you’re right there even with him. And so you want that respect that they have achieved. When you work hard, why not be given that respect? Moderator L.M. Sixel Have any of you had difficulties with men who work for you as well? Delores Guerrero Oh, yes! Because when they work for you they feel that they are the ones who have made the company. In my particular company it’s the president, the vice-president and the operations manager who answers to the top. I’ll tell you right now, that I’ve had five men who were operations manager and now I have a woman. Because it just got to the point where with the men, after awhile, it just goes to their head. When you’re in the office and the phone rings and they want to speak to “John Sosa” and you tell them he’s not in and they say, “Well, he is the owner isn’t he? He told me he was.” And I have to tell them no, he’s my operations manager. Stuff like that. I’m not saying that there are no good men. I know that there are, I’ve run into several. But I am saying to you, that there are times when there are difficulties and you have to really deal with it. And you deal with it in a professional manner. You just want the respect that you’re due, just as others have had. Moderator L.M. Sixel What about you Mariette? Mariette Melchior Yes, I’ve certainly have had my trials and tribulations with men working for me. Much more so, actually, than with men that I interact with in business. The people that I interact with or was interacting with are, I guess, 90% males from all walks of life and all nationalities and 10% women, and they tend to be more respectful than some of the people that actually work for you. And I’ve found a big correlation between who their wives and mothers were and the level of respect that they show you. Some of them are very respectful and appreciate you as a human being, regardless of sex. And then there are those that are quite contrary and feel that just the mere fact that they are males makes them, certainly, more powerful and perhaps more intelligent and who knows what else, than you as a woman. If you have a person like that in a high level position, it can make it very difficult especially when it comes to achieving your goal as a corporation. When you do have to have a team that all pulls in the same direction and some of them just go off in a different direction because they just want to be contrary and they’re not going to comply with your needs and desires. This can happen to a male within a male organization. For me this was just very difficult to deal with because although I tend to get vocal and can express anger, I don’t like to have confrontations with people. And the only way you can ultimately deal with this is by saying one of us is going to have to win and one of us is going to have to lose. And you’re the loser. (Laughter.) Moderator L.M. Sixel When you’re interviewing a man for a job, do you ever try to get at how they like working for a woman? I know that there are civil rights laws, but how do you go about trying to get at that? Mariette Melchior You always go at it through the backdoor and try to find out about the females in their lives. Who they are and what they are. And also how they feel. And that I ask them about straight forward. How do feel about working for a woman? Some of them have worked for women and really enjoyed it and some of them are kind of like, hmmm… But, obviously, whomever I hired I felt like that was not going to be a problem. But, as you probably know, it is so easy to make hiring mistakes. And quite frankly some of them I did make because I didn’t use a firm like you (indicating to Jane Howze). And I had to correct those mistakes and thought I wished I had used a firm like that earlier. But it has been extremely interesting. I was actually barred from going to Saudi Arabia because I was female. So when we were contracting with Saudi Arabian airlines they always had to come to Houston which I think they kind of enjoyed. I think it was a good excuse to get out of Dodge. Those men were actually extremely, extremely respectful and you would not expect that. I found out that one of the top guys had three daughters and was educating all three of them in the States. He spoke very highly of his wife. And it was very interesting because most people would think that since they are Arabs they probably wouldn’t be very respectful. But, you never know. Moderator L.M. Sixel Jane, you’ve had experiences going in with clients haven’t you? Jane Howze Yes, I have. I think internally I’ve been lucky in that I have a partner now who I’ve had for eight years, a man, who is very supportive, very liberated and I feel very blessed. I think everybody brings their internal child to the office on some level and it’s not just men. I know when I practiced law, the partner I worked for could make me cry just like my father did. And I felt the same sense of trying to please. So, I think we all bring the internal child part of us to the office and project disrespect to the female and things like that. I’ve been blessed in that I haven’t had that issue. But when we first started the business and started hiring males and started calling on corporations we had issues. I remember one instance when I took a Rice graduate we had just hired (he was two weeks out of college, and here I am 42 years old) to make a proposal to this corporation. And they look to this 22 year old and say, “Well, how much do you think this is going to cost us to do this project?” He had never worked a day in his life. And I’m sitting there thinking - This is pretty awful. To make matters worse, as a sideline, we go afterward to have lunch and the waitress asks if my son would like to have ice cream. And I felt like I’ve been insulted all the way around today. This is not good. But I think things are changing quite a bit now. It’s different. I swore I was not going to come here tonight and say, “In my day!” But, “in my day” when I was a banker, when I first got out of college there were men who would walk in and say, “I am not going to ask a woman to borrow money. I don’t ask my wife anything, I’m not going to ask this woman.” Well that was easy, loan denied and they’d have to go somewhere else. (Audience laughs.) Things have changed so much, but there is so much that is just so subconscious that I don’t think men even realize that they’re looking to the man. And I think women sometimes look to a man, too. I think everybody is having to reeducate themselves now as to how they think about people. And not just automatically assume the man is going to know the answer or the man is the president. We still have people who call our firm and say, “Mr. Alexander, please.” I think it changing but you still see it both with employees and externally. Moderator L.M. Sixel Did you try to consciously change your gender by calling it The Alexander Group? Jane Howze Yeah. Moderator L.M. Sixel I was talking to a woman who’s name is Chris and she is really glad her name is Chris and she doesn’t ever call herself ���Christine” because she wants her name to be nebulous. Mariette Melchior I used to just have only my initial on my business cards. As do you, I might add. Moderator L.M. Sixel I’m a bit of an Anglophile, too. I went to school in England and so that’s where it comes from officially. I wanted to ask about how to find clients and how you go about networking and trying to make deals. You don’t look like the hunting and fishing crowd. How do you go about connecting with other business owners who can throw business your way? Delores Guerrero I’ve been involved in organizational work since I was 15 years old in Beaumont. I belonged to LULAC as a young girl and got involved with Democrats for Action and got involved with everything you could think of. In fact, my mother used to say I should have been a boy instead of a girl because I got into everything. Coming from a Hispanic home you’re expected to come home from school and cook, clean, wash and iron and not get involved, but I did at an early age. In my businesses I also became involved in many organizations and therefore did a lot of networking. At Las Dos Hermanas and at Lolita’s on Washington and Westscott I would invite politicians to have parties there. I would invite organizations to have fundraisers there and I would participate by doing my part and therefore not only was I giving back to the community but they were also bringing people into my place to learn about the type of food that I served. We had a great atmosphere and we made it fun. One of the things I started doing when I opened up Lolita’s in 1987 was to hang up everybody’s picture up in the world on the wall and they loved it. This was my way of getting people to know us and bringing people in. In my life, the best thing that ever happened to me was getting involved in the community. Because I love people, I like being around people and it has been self satisfaction for me. My parents belong to LULAC and they used to have tamaladas to raise money for scholarships for young Hispanic students. So, I came from a family of involvement and it was very easy for me to be a restaurant owner and to get into that involvement that later on helped me tremendously when I applied for a Taco Bell license. I went to New York City to fight for that license. There was a restriction by Host Marriott that they had exclusive rights in airports to have Taco Bells and they had denied me the right to have a Taco Bell at Houston Intercontinental Airport. My community involvement with LULAC, the Hispanic Chamber, the Greater Houston Women’s Foundation, many of the organizations that I belonged to helped me. When I went to New York City, they were having the National Chamber Convention there and all the powers that be; Taco Bell, PepsiCo, Host Marriott, the Chamber, LULAC; all the heads of these organizations were going to be there. And businesses were going to be there to decide whether Host Marriott was going to allow me to have the exclusive right to have the Taco Bell at Houston Intercontinental Airport. I prepared a portfolio that outlined all the activities I’d been involved in since I was 15 or 16 years old and it had all the pictures I had taken with every president and every governor or whatever I’d ever met. I made 25 portfolios and popped up to New York City and handed them out to all these people sitting at this table. And I said I wanted to know why I couldn’t have the opportunity to have this Taco Bell. I’ve been active in this community… That involvement played an important part in my particular road to corporate America and my owning a Taco Bell. Moderator L.M. Sixel You rely then on those community ties for continued business? Delores Guerrero Of course. I think that in any type of business networking is the best thing that you can do. I thrive on friends and friendships and on networking in my community. I don’t know where I’d be without my friends and community. If you think you can do it alone, well you don’t. When you get to the top you take a lot of people with you who have assisted you in your climb. They not only helped make you, but also gave you the opportunity to give back. Moderator L.M. Sixel How about you Mariette? Mariette Melchior I’m not the marketing type. I, fortunately, have a partner who’s the best. But in any type of service business relationships are very, very important and doing a good job is very important. Many of our referrals came from our clients and the initial clients we got because he was very good at selling what was at the time really vaporware. In any event, later on you develop relationships with people and their different personalities. We would kind of divvy up who was talking to whom where you felt some sort of kinship with people. I would deal with, not necessarily exclusively, those accounts that had women in charge of them because there was a certain camaraderie and it was usually easier for me to deal with than some of the others. I have found that it really doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, if you do a good job your client will appreciate it and they will give you referrals. We’ve always been very accessible to our clients and have made sure that they felt free to call us at home or at the office if something wasn’t right. This is very important to how you build your reputation as a business and we took great pride in that. Moderator L.M. Sixel As you were talking I recalled when Ann Richards really wanted to look like “a good old boy”. Remember her hunting trips? When she actually shot the wrong animal. (Laughter from audience.) Now, Jane you’ve taken up golf? Jane Howze I’ve taken up golf. I will never hunt, I will never fish but I will golf. Like Mariette I was very fortunate with my founding partner in that she had no fear about making a cold call. I’d show her an article about the president of Well Fargo Bank and the next thing I knew she had a meeting set up with him. And I’m the type of person who will do anything to keep a client just don’t make me make a cold call. Fortunately the business now has enough of a name and relationships. Every satisfied client will always send you two more or three more if you ask them. And so I look to that a lot. But I do find that almost 80% of my male clients play golf. And I’ve played tennis for years and no one has ever asked me to go play tennis with them except for my friends. Playing golf has been my one, I guess, sacrifice for the business. Mariette Melchior It doesn’t sound like too much of a sacrifice. Jane Howze Well for them it is. I get one invitation per client and that’s it. Moderator L.M. Sixel I had an interesting invitation to network with women, it came from a law firm. I was invited to a “Pedicure Party”. It was a way for women to get together and chat and visit and get their toes done. I guess I was a little put off by it because it just seemed a little too flaky, a little too feminine. It felt like – Let’s all go shopping together! I felt really uncomfortable. I wanted to ask whether it was more difficult for women to stick their heads above the sand when there’s a problem. I know that Lolita you’ve been in the middle of a political controversy and you’ve been getting a lot of publicity on it. Is it harder for women to do than men? Delores Guerrero There’s a group of ten of us who have been having a particular problem with the city contract that we have. Out of all the ten purveyors, I’m the only one who has stepped out and has been willing to face City Council. I have felt alone and yet the other purveyors out at the airport have called me, individually, and said, “Go get them!” But we can’t be out there with you because we have other deals going or some other reason. But I have to do what I think is right. We have a very serious issue. Our rent has gone up 200% and for us to survive we have to have our rent decreased. We used to pay 10% and now we pay 20%. It has been a tremendous problem for us and yet it has been the women that have supported me. People like Olga Solis, Diva Garza, my attorney Gracie Saenz. I’ve gotten very positive feedback from women. If you feel that it’s right you’ve got to step up to the plate. As they say, you have to come to the table. And everyone who is back there supporting you is going to win with you. Right now we are waiting for a decision from the mayor on the rent problem, it should be forthcoming within the next couple of days. Keep your fingers crossed for us and we will do the best that we can. You need to fight the battles that are right in your business. If I lose it all tomorrow it will be okay because you have to stand for integrity and what is right. I’m fighting not only for Lolita’s but also for those others who do not want to step up to the plate. It’s tough. Moderator L.M. Sixel Have you found that women are more reluctant to step forward? (Indicating to Mariette.) Mariette Melchior First of all, I’m not. I’m a fighter and I always enjoy a good fight. I’ve also found that women in the corporate world don’t seem to be too shy about going for it when presenting and fighting for their interests. So, I guess not. But I haven’t been in a situation where I was up against the world. But I feel that if I were, I probably would fight for it. Jane Howze In my business where you have to be very forceful and direct is more with your clients. It’s more keeping your clients from making bad decisions. Being able to tell your clients you cannot treat your employees like this. Your problems are bigger than hiring somebody new, it’s doing the things internally that you need to do to keep your employees. In our business it’s not so much a fight as being very tenacious and very forthright and trying to be proactive and being willing to tell you client that there is a problem. Like, your salaries are half of what they need to be. Let’s solve these problems so that we can get the right person. That’s where a lot of people in my business are not very effective because they just take orders and try and fill jobs rather than trying to diagnose the whole issue. Fortunately I haven’t had to fight like you are (indicating to Delores Guerrero) but I have a lot of admiration for you because you are making a lot of maps for a lot of people. Delores Guerrero Well, I’ll tell you what. There’s just something about me because I always seem to have a big fight on my hands or something. What I have found is that in every case we have been right. And as I’ve said before, when you know you’re right you’ve just got to step up and do what’s best. Mariette Melchior I would like to add, as Jane said, tenacity is a very important thing in succeeding in business. Things aren’t handed to you on silver platter. I’m not sure if it’s worse for women or for men, but every good entrepreneur has to be tenacious. Delores Guerrero It’s being tenacious and down right guts. You’ve just got to be able to stand up and say – You’re wrong and I’m right! And this is the way it is! And it’s tough. QUESTOINS FROM THE AUDIENCE: Moderator L.M. Sixel “Some have said that girls growing up in America do not formulate a life or career dreams as often as boys do. Did each of you formulate a dream? What was it? And do you feel that it contributed to your success?” Jane Howze I think that’s different today than it was because you have a whole new group of career women today. Maybe 50% of women work outside the home and there are more opportunities. Where maybe we were raised with the idea that you could be a nurse, today that’s not a barrier for girls. I think that one of most important things to be an entrepreneur is the tenacity, which under that is a belief in yourself. And I think also there’s a little magical part of throwing out a dream and an image of yourself as a big person, of visualizing the success that you want and seeing it happen. And having a “dream”, a goal, an ideal, an image of you which has been, I think, as big a part in my success as anything. In my experience I haven’t seen much difference in that between boys and girls today. Mariette Melchior I kind of agree with Jane on that. In my particular case, I’m the product of a broken family. My mother was raising five children on her own with a deadbeat husband, basically. And I knew that I was just never going to be in that situation, ever. I don’t think there was ever a time that I didn’t know that. I didn’t have a specific career dream other than the goal that I was going to: a) have an education (which I think is the great equalizer and I think today’s women are educated and as a result are able to achieve their goals) and b) was going to be able to support myself and should I ever have children I was going to be able to support them in a manner that I thought would be suitable and would satisfy my ambitions. I grew up in a very traditional society in Luxembourg where girls didn’t have career dreams. The most ambitious might become teachers or a couple of them might want to become doctors. College wasn’t part of the picture. In fact, I think I’m the only one in my class who went off to college. Many of my extended family members, friends and neighbors wondered why my mother made any sacrifices to send a girl off to college. But things have changed. Even in my country now, girls do go off to college. Many of the girls in my family have gone to college and studied abroad and don’t take it for granted that some male will take care of them for the rest of their life. And I think that’s a very good thing. Delores Guerrero It was different for me. When my mother did go to work, in the summertime it was my job to clean the house and have supper started so that when she got home she could finish preparing supper. My dad was a construction worker and he would arrive home around 4:30pm and it was my job to take off his socks and his shoes, give him his slippers, give him the paper, start his bath, lay out his clothes, and then start supper. My mother would let me know everyday what I was to make for supper. One day as I knelt at my dad’s feet, I asked him why he worked so hard and he said, “Because I am who I am and one day you’re going to have to work a little bit harder because of who you are.” His words have always stuck with me and because of them I always worked a little bit harder. I was the oldest in the family and I stayed with my parents until I was 27 years old, not because I wanted to, but because it was a duty that I had to perform. I had to approach my Aunt Lola, who raised my dad, to ask her to tell my parents that I was going to move to Houston and I left. My father did not speak to me for six months and he would not allow my mother to drive to Houston to come and see me. She had to catch the bus to Houston to come and see me because I had “flown the nest”. I had broken with the traditional family role. It was not supposed to be in the cards for me to go to college or become an entrepreneur. Years later I found out my paternal grandmother had owned and ran a boardinghouse where she cooked for everybody. And now here I am cooking for everybody too. Moderator L.M. Sixel Things go around. “What were the tradeoffs, if any, to beginning your own businesses? Did you have to make any sacrifices?” Mariette Melchior Tradeoffs were in the security of a steady paycheck… Moderator L.M. Sixel Your husband, was he working at a steady job? Mariette Melchior We weren’t married then. And, no, he was in the same boat. He had left the airline 2 or 3 years before I did. We left the security of a job. The rude awakening for me, having had my early career in a corporation was to not have the support system, the lawyers, and the personnel office, the benefits office where everything was kind of taken care of for you. So you suddenly had to become very resourceful in dealing with any and all of the above. Getting tax return statements filed and financial statements prepared. I was naïve enough to not think of those administrative aspects that previously I didn’t have to deal with. You go from having a position in a company to starting a small company where you are nothing and nobody until you prove yourself. Those were all compromises but at then end of the day they weren’t overwhelming at all. Delores Guerrero I was a computer operator for the teamsters and I was secure in my job. I liked it and all the people, but once I’d had experience owning my own business, I didn’t want to go back to the office environment. Not only were my skills rusty but I had gotten used to being around people and enjoying the fact that they liked eating my food. You’ve got to be able to go hungry and work hard so you can pay that bill and keep going the next day. But there are a lot of rewards to it. Jane Howze I didn’t ever feel that there was a tradeoff. I guess I was just so happy that I had found something that I was passionate about that I guess I wasn’t really cognizant of the downside. But it is hard and you are a no one when you first start. But I was having so much fun building up the business that I didn’t ever feel like I was giving up anything or that there was a huge downside. Moderator L.M. Sixel Did you husband have a steady job? Did that help? Jane Howze Yeah. Yeah. He’s sitting here, so I guess…. Mariette Melchior The thing that I was most conscious of was the fear of failure, because if you did fail, you’d feel worthless. And then what would you do? You would just have had your ego destroyed. In a corporation you can blame your boss, the environment and on and on. But in a business of your own the only one you have to blame is yourself. Who wants to be a loser? Moderator L.M. Sixel You’ve just hit on the next question. “With the staggering statistics of failed businesses, what did you do to build and sustain momentum?” Was it that fear of failure that kept you going? Mariette Melchior Yeah, tenacity, the fear of failure or the need to succeed stated in more positive terms. Being wise, having lots of arguments with your partner about what you should or shouldn’t be doing, thinking ahead and spending carefully. (Jane Howze: Being willing to undo everything you’ve already done.) Exactly. Exactly. Being very open-minded about the route to take. Moderator L.M. Sixel “Have your experiences made you more aware of the need for women to have political power?” Are you going to be running for the City Council Lolita? Delores Guerrero You know this is so funny. The other day it was storming, raining and I was going to go to City Council that afternoon, so naturally I had to go get my hair done. And I was going down Hempstead Highway and I came to stop at a red light and this police car honked at me. And I was thinking – Oh, no. What did I do? So, I lowered my window and the policeman yells out – Have they lowered your rent, yet? (Laughter.) Yes, yes because prior to this problem I’ve been to City Council many times. And it’s been the women on City Council that have been the ones that have really listened. Carol Galloway has just been wonderful. She is the only woman on City Council that we have. When I spoke at City Council I was looking straight at her because I felt that warmth and caring. I’d like to see more women get politically involved. It’s a hard career and I admire those women who have the tenacity to stay in it and want to do the good work for the community. So, I’d like to see more women getting involved in that particular way. I just hope I don’t have to go face them again. Mariette Melchior In my experience I’ve not had any involvement in politics in any direct way. But I do think that overall there should be a lot more women in politics. I think that women offer a lot that men don’t. Women don’t start wars, women tend to make extremely good negotiators, they are more family oriented and so I would like to see more women in politics. And I am very much looking forward to seeing the first woman president. And I think women will in the future, play a much larger role in politics than they do today. Moderator L.M. Sixel With that, I think we better shut it down tonight. I really want to thank all the panelists and everyone for coming. There’s a wild rumor that there’s cookies and punch and wine awaiting us… Delores Guerrero Before we close I have to tell you all something because I’ve been dying to tell you and I’ve got to let you all know this. I had this particular guy who was operations manager. And one day he stormed into my office and said, “I’ve got a wife I’ve got to put up with, I’ve got a five year old girl I’ve got to put up with, and I’ve got to put up with you and Millie and Joanne and I quit!” And I went – Okay! Was it my fault that he was married and had to put up with his wife and his little girl? It was so funny! (Applause.) 1 24
Co-creator
  • Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program
  • The Friends of Women's Studies