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Entrepreneur, Voice for Gulf Coast Latinos: Grace McCaffery

Grace Resendez McCaffery

Title: President of Latino Media Gulf Coast, Inc.

Hometown: El Paso, TX

Her Campus: You earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with a specialization in Public Relations, at UWF in 2002. What role would you say UWF played in your success, if any?

Grace Resendez McCaffery: It changed my life, I was a widow at age 23 with two children under the age of two. I decided to go back to school when my oldest started kindergarten. The faculty and counselors helped me build a network and open doors to start my career. Their encouragement gave me the confidence to trust my instincts and realize my ideas.

HC: Tell me about La Costa Latina and your new magazine coming in March. What inspired you to start them and what are your goals for these publications?

McCaffery: I actually have two magazines coming up. One is Pensacola International magazine. Both publications are English-language magazines aimed at featuring cultural diversity in our community. I think this is an especially important time for folks in our community to appreciate the contributions of people from around the world that contribute to our economy, social circles and relevance to the world.

HC: You have a stellar resume – what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

McCaffery: The newspaper [La Costa Latina] has been a trusted source of information for the Latino community that grew seemingly overnight in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan. Spanish-speaking labor workers moved to the area to help rebuild and eventually needed services (doctors, lawyers, groceries, etc.). People in my professional network began calling me to ask for help in communicating with this new market. I started recruiting volunteers to help facilitate communications, but a media outlet was necessary. I felt that a bilingual mass communication piece was what our community needed to bridge the gap. It turned out to be a unique model that is admired and now replicated in other areas.

HC: As the founder of multiple organizations and a former Business Counselor, what advice do you have for young female entrepreneurs?

McCaffery: The same as I told my clients in New York: Owning your business is the toughest job you’ll ever have. People think that business owners live on Easy Street because they can set their own schedules and make their own rules, but what many people don’t realize is that your success is mostly dependent on those parameters that you set. You may need to keep your day job while you work feverishly to grow your business. It may take a long time before you can be dependent on the revenue of your business. Your business may have lulls that force you back into employment for a while. Ultimately, commitment, perseverance, and patience along with passion and good ethical practices will take you a long way.

HC: You’ve stayed nearby for most of your professional life, what are the advantages and disadvantages of working within a specific region?

McCaffery: I lived in New York City for a year in 2014, but I came back to Pensacola where I knew that I had a strong network of personal and professional friends that could help me keep my self-confidence intact. When I came back, I had friends that were genuinely happy to see me. Some were relieved that I was back to do what I always did. Many were more than happy to support me in picking up where I left off in my business. I decided to apply for a position at UWF in 2015. After I was hired, I was told that several people called the university to recommend hiring me. I still don’t know all of the people who called, but I know that I could never have such strong support in another community in my lifetime. Such strong relationships come with being engaged in a community long enough to know you and believe in your abilities to advocate for you.

HC: What does it take to create an organization like the Language Bank of Northwest Florida?

McCaffery: I couldn’t have done it without the help of the Pensacola News Journal. I have always had a great relationship with the staff there. They have always showed interest in letting the public know what I am doing. I sent a small press release calling for multilingual volunteers to register with the Language Bank. Within a week I had developed a database. Most needs were taken care of on a three-way call. Now, companies employ people who speak different languages. We still help staff them through the newspaper whenever necessary.

HC: How do you feel about being a role model for women in journalism? Do you have any advice for hopeful journalists?

McCaffery: Gosh, it is always so flattering to hear that someone even knows who I am let alone thinks of me as a role model. I think that it is a responsibility that we have to be a good example of anything that we do professionally or personally. Journalism is always changing, so my advice is to be open-minded about how your writing skills may be marketable and find your passion. I work with a very talented team of experienced journalists at the Center for Research and Economic Opportunity (CREO). They write about the myriad of research and economic development activities at UWF that affect our community and potentially the world. Their passion is story telling.

HC: When will we see another Cinco de Mayo Festival?

McCaffery: In short, maybe next year. We are not likely to have one this year as the national Immigration March on Washington is scheduled for Saturday, May 6. I was planning on organizing a trip to the march, but the requests to organize a march here in Pensacola that day keeps growing. This is an especially important time to bring awareness to the contributions that undocumented immigrants make in the Gulf Coast and the U.S., Central American refugees that are held in detention camps in the U.S. and the deaths of that occur at the border each year. Many of these deaths are children. The Latino Festival and Cinco de Mayo Festival materialized after the Latino community began to settle here. The Latino Festival evolved from the “Latino Expo” that I started the year that I started the newspaper to bring Spanish-speakers and businesses/services together. This year is a year to work to protect our families. I hope that we will be able to celebrate again soon.

HC: Finally, is there anything else we should know about you?

McCaffery: I am not the same person that I was when I was 23-year-old widow and mother of two babies that I didn’t know how to take care of. I was a church secretary at Grace Lutheran Church making $7 per hour. I was raised in a very traditional Mexican-American home where I was expected to only learn how to do domestic things. I never imagined that I would have a college degree. I never imagined that I would have a professional career. I never imagined that I would own a business that people relied on to pull a community together. I never imagined that I’d have the opportunity to live in New York City, own a home, what it would be like to see my boys as grown men, to be seen as a leader in my community. I never imagined that I could have such great people around me that genuinely care about me and appreciate what I do. I never imagined that I would have so much and so grateful.

Thumbnail courtesy of UWF.edu

You'll find me in my hammock between classes, drooling over volcano sushi rolls, or cross stitching in silence. I'm a maritime studies student with a dream of working on oceanic documentaries or founding Atlantis, whichever comes first.
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