Author Archives: Ez Lara

THE 2017 McALLEN INNOVATION GRANT AWARD WINNERS

Each year the McAllen Chamber’s Innovation Grant program attracts participants who put their creativity and dreams in the hands of the judges. “The program was created by the Chamber to develop a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem and to stimulate innovation in the McAllen area,” Director of Business Development Jorge Sanchez, said. Here are the six 2017 Innovation Grant winners. Ranvu Grocery Delivery App makes life easier for the busy families of the Valley. By downloading this app to a smart phone, people can select their grocery store of choice and create and order their list of food and supplies. The items will be delivered to them within two hours. Gloria Ordaz and her husband Dorance Cuba were in France working on a master’s program in International Business Management. For six months they researched the idea and future of e-commerce. When she read about the grocery delivery business, Gloria felt the time…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – OMAR QUINTANILLA

Omar Quintanilla Vice-President, Frost Bank, City of McAllen Commissioner District 3 With his degree in Finance, Omar Quintanilla began his almost 20-year banking career with the only bank on his business path, Frost Bank. After a year in the downtown San Antonio home office, he made a career move back down to his home turf, The Valley. “I’ve always liked analyzing financial statements and dealing with the business community,” he declared. “I especially like working with entrepreneurs and their companies.” Quintanilla, is Vice-President of Frost Bank and also serves as District 3 City of McAllen Commissioner. He began his service with the City of McAllen after he completed the Class 20 Leadership Course, when organizers suggested graduates join a city advisory board. Taking the knowledge of the over 30 city departments and their functions that he had gleaned from the class, Quintanilla became a member of the Community Development Block…

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13 QUESTIONS WITH MCALLEN CHAMBER BOARD MEMBER – STEPHAN WINGERT

Stephan Wingert Regional Vice-president, Publisher The Monitor 1) What is your favorite book? My favorite book is by David Allen and it’s called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I have a lot of tasks that pile up for me to do. I’m always looking for that philosophy or tool that’s going to help me keep up. His philosophy is that if you can get these things into a system which relieves them from being piled up in your head, then you’re more relaxed, you get to sleep at night. 2) What is your favorite movie? I’m a fan of the Star Wars movies. I love every one of them. I don’t even have a favorite. My favorite thing was when my son was old enough to share that with him. I remember sitting in the theatre with my mom when the first one came out and being…

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MEET YOUR AMBASSADOR – JANIE RAMOS-VELA

Janie Ramos-Vela General Manager, Studio 6 Extended Stay Hotel Inspired by the hotel’s re-grand opening and the feeling of welcome received from Augie Lozano, 2016 chair of the Ambassadors, Janie Ramos-Vela, general manager, Studio 6 Extended Stay hotel, decided then and there to become one of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassadors. Janie joined the team in October of 2016, and since then has found her shyness taking a back seat, and her enthusiasm for meeting the people who are working for the same thing she is – success – coming to the forefront. Working for Studio 6 for over 13 years, she remembers her first days of part-time, night time auditor, then working her way up to General Manager as the years passed. “I love meeting the various people who come here,” she said. “I’ll always remember the woman who started her stay pretty grumpy. I stopped to talk…

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17 ODD QUESTIONS WITH CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD – EDWARD LOPEZ, GENERAL MANAGER DOUBLETREE SUITES BY HILTON

1) What item would you not travel without? My toothpaste and brush. I also wouldn’t travel without my cell. 2) What is your greatest passion? My greatest passion is my family life. Preparing my three children for when we’re not there for them anymore. In today’s world, a lot of people still need help. It’s a different world. I just want to make sure they’re going to be ok. That’s always going to be my goal, regardless if they’re 20 or 40. 3) Where do you go for your favorite meal? Longhorn Steakhouse. There are a lot of restaurants out there but that’s a good ole reliable one. They’re very consistent, no matter which one I go to. 4) Who or what have been the main influences in your life/career? My wife, for putting up with me in this crazy hospitality business. I couldn’t have done it without her understanding,…

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BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION WINNER – MARK LEWIS CO-OWNER, ROLLING WITH CREAM

Who doesn’t want to dig into a cooling, delicious ice cream on a hot summer day down here in the Valley? That’s what Mark Lewis and Andrew Gomez, co-owners of Rolling With Cream, are counting on with their unique Thai Ice Cream Rolls. Mark is an adventurous kind of guy. Instead of waiting for a job at JFK Airport in his home of New York, he opted for a job in the Valley. Arriving here, he was quick to see business opportunities available all around. About a year and a half ago he saw something on Facebook which intrigued him. Researching it further, the idea of Thai Ice Cream Rolls took root after he actually had a sample on a trip back to New York. “I found a machine and got my buddy, Andrew, to chip in half,” Mark related. “I told him, ‘I’m going to make ice cream.’ He…

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BUSINESS YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEBORAH CASE DANCE ACADEMY PRESENTS THE 45TH ANNUAL NUTCRACKER

Deborah Case, owner of the Deborah Case Dance Academy and artistic director of the Rio Grande Valley Ballet, has dancing in her blood. “I was born to do this,” she admitted. “I started at age 4, and when I was ready to quit after 10 years, my wise mother told me, ‘You can quit now, but I want you to know, after 10 years is when you really know how to dance.’ I became a student teacher and have been teaching ever since.” Deborah found she loved listening to music and while listening, the choreography for the piece would take shape in her mind. “I realized I had something special so I made a promise to God,” she said. “I will serve You well in the field of dance if You let me always be in the industry,” was her plea. Not caring whether it be on stage, behind the…

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13 QUESTIONS WITH MCALLEN CHAMBER BOARD MEMBER – DR. J. A. GONZALEZ

1) What is your favorite book? The Greatest Salesman in the World. It talks about greeting each day with love, and I think that’s important because in this world there is so much that goes on. I think as humankind we need to make sure that we respect and love one another. 2) What is your favorite movie? “Good Will Hunting.” I love the fact that it points out not judging a book by its cover. Will, in the movie, was really a genius who nobody saw the genius in. It takes the perspective of somebody who was broken yet had so much to offer society. As an educator, I make it a point not to judge kids by where they come from, their circumstances, their influences or their gender. 3) What was your favorite vacation spot? When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was…

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JIM DARLING – McALLEN’S MAYOR

Jim Darling has a passion for being Mayor of McAllen. Going through a peso devaluation and violence in Tamaulipas, as well as other issues, have kept the mayor on his toes. With an extensive background, from his psychology and law degrees, having passed the bar on his first try, to his 28 years as City Attorney and six years as City Commissioner, Mayor Jim Darling is well equipped to handle the goings on of McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley. Darling was forthright about his time in office, the challenges, and the successes. “I think the last four years have been pretty interesting simply because I’m a border mayor,” he began. “Some of the rhetoric out of Washington has changed, creating diverse issues for us to deal with alongside our southern neighbors.” One issue, he said, was the federal government stating there was a border crisis when there was none.…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – BRENT BALDREE

“Brent Baldree, regional president of the Rio Grande Valley, Texas Regional Bank, grew up in the Texas Coastal Bend city of Portland. As the oldest child of a single dad, he learned early on about responsibility from helping at home and working at a young age. “Because my dad was a traveling salesman, I had a lot of responsibility early on,” Brent said. “I grew up quickly.” Still, through the steady teachings of his father, he developed a passion for hunting, fishing and sports. As a result of playing offensive guard at Gregory-Portland High School under the renowned coach Ray Akins, he believes he learned the meaning of teamwork and true grit. While striving towards earning his degree in business management at Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State, Brent worked in restaurants and on a farm. He firmly believes it was his early life with his dad, along with…

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HEALTHCARE PROFILE – DR. GUILLERMO SALINAS, MD, FACC, FSCAI

Dr. Jeremy Enslein started off the interview with a short and succinct statement. “Dr. Salinas is an amazing physician. I’m very lucky to have had him as my partner for the last 10 years.” Dr. Guillermo Salinas is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Diseases and Interventional Cardiology by American Board of Internal Medicine. Salinas was born in Mexico City and raised in Baja. At an early age he knew he wanted to be a physician. “I used to play little doctor games and do surgery on my erasers,” Salinas said. Though he’s not positive it was his grandfather’s passing with a heart problem that led him to specialize in the heart, he does know he always had an interest in the heart. Going to medical school in Monterrey, Mexico, then the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and completing his rotation in the cardiology field confirmed his feelings.…

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HEALTHCARE PROFILE – DR. CARLOS HERRERA, M.D., F.A.C.O.G GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGIST

America, the beautiful, the land of opportunity! That’s exactly what young Carlos Herrera believed growing up in Mexico City. All around him everything he heard and saw was about the United States and what a great country it was. “We were constantly exposed to American goods, cartoons and TV shows,” Herrera said. “I noticed how the United States was way ahead when it came to science. Both scientific and medical programs always showed how good life was becoming in the U.S. and as medicine progressed, the Americans’ quality of life got better. By the age of 16, I knew I had to be a doctor and I knew I wanted to go to the United States and attend medical school.” The oldest of three, Herrera followed his conviction that America was the place where dreams could come true and began searching options for colleges. At 18, Herrera had the grades,…

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MEET YOUR AMBASSADOR – FLOWER GUERRERO

Flower Guerrero has taken the power of her name, Guerrero/Warrior, and turned it into a tool for her marketing consultant position with Entravision, along with her 15 years of marketing and media experience. “I call myself Biz Warrior,” she said, identifying closely with her clients as a past business owner herself. “I have a group of Biz Warriors on Facebook – my clients, my business owners.” “I enjoy working with small businesses to find marketing solutions,” she said. “I’m able to bring all that experience into one place, one position for my clients and help the community.” Becoming an Ambassador fits in with her belief that one should be involved in the community. But it’s more than that. “My purpose is to give back, and giving back means being involved in the business community through the Chamber. One of my favorite initiatives of the Chamber is Latina Hope. It’s wonderful…

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BUSINESS YOU SHOULD KNOW – A BLOCK AWAY QUILT SHOP

Passion gives small business entrepreneurs the impetus to succeed. Be it food, marketing or quilting, if the passion is there, it is more likely the business will succeed. Ron and Barb Bergquist easily fit into this realm. Retired from careers in IT, they moved to the Valley on December 31, 2010, thinking they were going to enjoy the good life. They did, for a while. Then, on a trip to a picturesque town in Virginia a few years ago, Barb made an off-handed remark to Ron that would change their lives. “Wouldn’t this be a nice little place for a quilt shop?” Barb’s long-time passion for quilting was well-known by her husband. After intense research, they test marketed their concept for the shop online. “We used Facebook and increased our Search Engine Optimization by signing up for everything on Yahoo, Bing, and more so people would know we’re out there.…

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IMAGINE THAT! – IMAGINE IT STUDIOS

John’s television background started him accidentally into the advertising agency he opened in 1998. “One of my first clients liked my ideas so much they said, ‘Why don’t you do all of our advertising?’ My business wasn’t an advertising agency yet, but I quickly replied, ‘Absolutely! That would be easy.’ It turned out it wasn’t,” John said. He was a hard worker and wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity. By 2004, the internet was already popular and John felt a need for quality web design in the Rio Grande Valley. He and former partner Abel Riojas joined forces to create Imagine It Studios, and began developing websites. While the market was crashing in 2008, Imagine It Studios was taking off as digital media was coming into its own. Evolving, they became a full service digital marketing agency including such services as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), web-design and development, content…

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