Monica Hernandez, owner of VIVA Marketing and Consulting, is a businesswoman who followed her dreams and created a remarkable career.
Not only does she own her own business, but she is a RISE Coalition VIP (Very Involved Person), the vice chairwoman for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, vice president of Centro de La Familia and is a voting member of the Colorado Springs Human Relations Commission.
Hernandez started her business, a digital marketing and advertising company, just one month ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sea change in the way business owners view digital marketing she said.
“Two years ago, when I started to work in the digital field, a lot of people weren’t so receptive to it, but now people want to know,” she said. “A majority of my clients are Spanish speakers, so they are not familiar with it.
“After COVID, I think it’s been something that is more wanted with business owners because they have seen the need of the digital world and how effective it is.”
Hernandez said owning her own business has been a life-long dream, but it was one she worked hard to achieve.
“I grew up in a single-family home,” she said. “I grew up in what people would call ‘the hood.’ I grew up as a teenage mom. I was told that I was just going to be another statistic. When they told me that, when they said, ‘No one in your family has ever graduated high school; no one’s ever gone to college; you’re just another statistic.’ To me, that was my mojo to say, ‘You know what? I am not a statistic. I am not going to be just another number.’ I decided to be different than everyone else in my family. I was a teenage mom. I took my daughter to high school. I graduated high school. I went on to college to major in business, but then I got pregnant with my second child, so I didn’t finish that major.”
Hernandez got her start in the marketing world through her work in Spanish-language broadcast radio, which she said was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“I did the first Latin hip-hop station in the country in Salinas, California,” she said.
“From there, I went on and I did radio in Reno; I worked for Citadel Communications, at a Top 40 station. I was offered a job to work for the Cesar Chavez Foundation. I had an opportunity to work for one of their radio stations, they also had a Latin hip-hop station. Univision heard me, they offered me a sweet contract I couldn’t say no to, so I ended up moving to Fresno to do radio for Univision, doing some live news broadcasts for them, all in Spanish.
“From there I moved to Los Angeles, and I became the assistant to the vice president of Clear Channel Communications, which is now iHeartMedia. I was one of the pioneers of iHeart. That’s where my love for the digital world was born, back in 2008. I left iHeart and I went to Entravision, there in L.A., and I did a Spanish rock station. I was on the air there. I also worked with a production company called UNO Productions, which ... targets the Hispanic audience.”
When her mother decided to move to Colorado Springs in 2011, Hernandez came with her. She started work for Tigre FM, where she began learning about digital marketing. When the pandemic started, she reconsidered her career plans.
“When COVID hit, everything got crazy, and I didn’t work for a while,” she said. “I wanted to find a job that I had a passion for, a job that would fit my family.”
Hernandez’s community work during the pandemic with the RISE Coalition has shown her the struggles and needs of small business owners in the community.
“When I did that [community needs assessment] survey through RISE, I went out and I put boxes in different businesses where people would fill out the COVID survey. You’re trying to figure out, ‘Why is COVID hitting the Hispanics more than other communities?’ Going out to businesses I was also giving them this list of resources. They were like, ‘You have this list of resources for the people, what about us? We’re business owners we’re struggling too.’ That’s where I got to see firsthand the needs of the Hispanic small businesses. They were like, ‘We don’t even know where to start. How do we even apply for a PPP loan? We don’t speak English how do we get that type of help?’ Others were like, ‘Well, I applied for it, but I don’t know what’s going on.’”
Now, Hernandez uses her marketing expertise to help clients increase their revenue.
“When you do start your business — and I tell this to business owners all the time, because they’re busy and looking at their profit and losses on how they can make money — a very important thing for businesses to know and to have a marketing budget,” she said. “It’s so important to have a marketing budget. There’s so many businesses out there that have never marketed. ‘Oh we just go by word of mouth and that works good for us.’ At the end of the day, when you market your business, you’re getting out there, you’re getting in front of them, you’re reminding people who you are.”
Hernandez encourages potential small-business owners to get started following their dreams. “This has been a dream of mine for many years, to have my own business,” she said. “It was a dream that I just kept saying, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it.’ My advice for anybody that is reading this would be: Stop thinking about it and take that first step. Reach out to someone that’s going to help you begin your journey in your business, whether it be the SBDC or the Colorado Enterprise Fund, which funds businesses. Take that first step.”