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Promoting a dream

Entrepreneur: Local business woman finds her niche, creates helpful resource

Posted: October 26, 2010 10:20 p.m.
Updated: October 27, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Patricia Gracia, center, Gloria Mercado-Fortine and Bruce Fortine enjoy a business mixer hosted by the Power Women Business Center in September. Patricia Gracia, center, Gloria Mercado-Fortine and Bruce Fortine enjoy a business mixer hosted by the Power Women Business Center in September.
Patricia Gracia, center, Gloria Mercado-Fortine and Bruce Fortine enjoy a business mixer hosted by the Power Women Business Center in September.

The business sits back from Sierra Highway in an old, white-and-red trim Spanish-style building.

Looks are deceiving, though. Inside, a visitor is greeted by an explosion of color on every wall of the 11,000-square-foot Canyon Country workplace.

A palpable energy permeates the air at the Power Media Group advertising and public relations agency — owed, perhaps, to the personality of its founder, Patricia Gracia.

A native of Peru, Gracia came to the U.S. through Mexico at age 18. She said she yearned to become successful and help others ever since she saw the bright lights of San Diego.

“I’m the kind of a person that I have to dream and continue dreaming,” said Gracia, who started the business in her San Fernando Valley home in 2001.

“I will die dreaming about something.”

Building momentum
Specializing in targeting the Hispanic market, her agency creates mixed-media campaigns for clients, including Universal Music, Hamer Toyota and Vivendi Visual Entertainment.

Marketing experts estimate purchases by Hispanics in the United States will exceed $1 trillion this year. California leads the nation as the top market in buying power.

Universal Music was one of Gracia’s first clients. After three years of promoting Spanish movie and music titles, Universal asked PMG to handle the outdoor promotions campaign to reach the general populace in six major U.S. cities for the 2007 movie “In the Name of the King.” It was the agency’s first ever crossover campaign, moving from targeting only Hispanic audiences to the population in general.

Gracia said Universal believed that PMG had an expertise in negotiating and buying media, in addition to the Hispanic market.

When it comes to producing commercials for clients, PMG manages the production as well. They work with a select group of industry people from cameramen to lighting people, scout the locations or lease the studio space, and create and shoot the television commercials.

“For one television commercial, we rented a mansion in Malibu,” said Gracia. “We had a crew of 30 people on-site.”
She advises clients who can ship products nationwide to buy advertising airtime on a national network, which is often more cost-effective than buying airtime in several individual local markets.

The biggest mistake companies often make is using different companies for each segment of a campaign, Gracia said. They believe they have more control and that it is less expensive if they use separate companies for print, radio or TV promotions.

The problem, she points out, is that for a campaign to be successful, it must be in synch so that you can coordinate and build the momentum. The message needs to be the same message across the board, at the same time, to the same target market, with all messages going in the same direction.

“You want everything on the same bus,” said Gracia. “There must be a rhythm.”

Business incubator
In 2008, PMG purchased a building on Sierra Highway with an Small Business Administration loan, sharing the space with a church. Within a year, the church could no longer afford to rent space in the building.

Returning from a small-business conference, Gracia envisioned a new use for the vacant space. After making a presentation at the conference, she was surrounded by people urgently seeking information on how to start their own business who lacked an office or know-how to launch.

In January 2010, PMG created an “affordable pool” of resources for people starting their own business and opened the Power Women Business Center in her building.

For a fee, an entrepreneur just starting a business can take advantage of services that include a reception area for visitors, mail and fax handling, meeting rooms, workspace with high-speed Internet services and phone and a fully equipped kitchen.

Because the office is located in the Santa Clarita Enterprise Zone, setting up one’s business in the PWBC provides entrepreneurs with several tax benefits while they build their businesses.

“This is a not a place to stay forever,” Gracia said. “People will stay for three to six months to get started.”

She told of the teacher who came to the center, who was teaching computer classes. The single mom dreamed of opening her own computer school but was afraid to start her own business.

Gracia encouraged her to give it a try. She said after five months, the woman had gained quite a few clients. She felt she was ready to go out and run her own business.

Gracia will help the small business start-ups by providing the owners with marketing advice and encouraging them to join the Chamber of Commerce and other associations that will help them meet mentors and find new business leads. Business owners are also directed to The Signal to file their legal ads for fictitious name, or DBA (Doing Business As) announcements.

“I don’t look for the reward,” Gracia said. “When you do something you really want to do, wonderful things will happen to you.”

Award-winning presence
Four years ago, Gracia moved to Santa Clarita from the San Fernando Valley, relocating her business locally as well.
Based on the 2000 U.S. Census, nearly 21 percent of Santa Clarita’s population was Hispanic.

Gracia said that prior to moving here, she had heard comments that SCV was not a friendly place for Latinos starting a business. She disagreed,  explaining that there is a lot of support for businesses out here.

“The best thing that happened was locating my business here in Santa Clarita,” she said. “I think Santa Clarita likes people who work hard and can be a positive element for the city. They open their arms to help you.”

Gracia and PMG have won multiple honors and awards, including being named Business of the Year in 2008 by Latin Business Association, winning the Sol Award. In 2009, the agency won an Addy Award in Creativity for a TV ad in the general market. 

Four years ago, Gracia’s husband, Tony, left an entertainment broadcasting company in the Spanish speaking market to join his wife’s company as CEO and CFO. Tony was nominated by the San Fernando Business Journal as one of the Top Valley’s CFOs of 2009.

“There might be a reason why,” Patricia Gracia said. “Either we’re working really hard or we’re doing something good. I think it’s both.”


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