A single mom of three by age 21, Christina Mendez didn’t expect to one day launch her own marketing firm.
But today, she balances her time each day between two loves — Irene-Marie Co., where she specializes in building marketing campaigns for lifestyle brands and small businesses, and her three kids.
She spends her mornings reviewing web analytics, creating social posts and writing web code. She stops at 2p to pick up kids from school, then spends her nights on zoom calls, at networking events, or teaching marketing classes. Weekends are often filled with photo shoots — and her kids are along for the ride every step of the way.
It’s a stark contrast from her own childhood and journey, she recalls.
“I was trying to do what my parents told me to do, get a good job, follow the mold they set for me. But my dad is an entrepreneur, he’s been a photojournalist for 30 years,” she said. “I’ve gotten fired from almost every job I’ve ever had, and it’s funny, every time I’d get fired, I’d be like, I don’t need this, my dad works his own schedule, my dad runs his own thing.”
But it wasn’t until she’d worked her way up to marketing director that she truly considered striking out on her own.
“When I finally got to the top tier of where I could go and I still wasn’t happy, I thought, I must be supposed to start my own business,” she said. “I got tired of working on campaigns and doing marketing for stuff I really wasn’t passionate about and didn’t believe in.”
So Christina walked into her boss’s office and asked for a raise. When they said no, she quit.
“I decided to go into business for myself, be able to choose the campaigns, the people I work with, and do marketing that really meant something to me,” she said. “I’ve been doing this ever since. I’m self-taught. I didn’t go to school for this, nobody taught me anything, I had to really figure this out, kids and all.”
“It’s hard, you’re constantly having an internal struggle between spending time and being present and getting work done. I’m very involved in my kids’ lives, we’re very close, and they each need a different person from me, and my clients require a different person from me, so it’s a challenge, to be aligned with myself, as a mom, and be present for my clients,” Christina shares.
One way she tackles that challenge is by bringing her kids into the work.
“I ask my kids if a post looks cool, and if they like a website I’m building, and I take their advice into consideration. My daughter Madison is 12, she’ll tell me that ain’t it,” Christina said. “They’ve been on this journey with me the entire time, they go everywhere with me. If it wasn’t like this now, they’d be like, is business slow, what’s the matter, no photoshoots to go to today? So it’s normal now, but it was hard when I first started.”
Christina is inspired by Nipsey Hussle.
“I listened to him in my darkest hours — as a single mom riding the bus, through heartbreak, I just listened to him,” she recalls.
When he died, it prompted her to do a self-audit.
“I started out like every girl boss starts it out, with the pink and the suits,” she said. “Nipsey was really here to be aligned and be authentic, and I was like, damn, am I going to keep being fake or be who I really am?”
Christina took her love of color psychology and applied it to her own life, threading her business and wardrobe with Nipsey’s blue.
“I care about being honorable, I’m really big on being a real one, I’m big on respect. You’re not going to play me or play my clients. Blue was the perfect way to embody that,” she said. “Blue also helps with divinity and being aligned with self. I always have blue on me somewhere, it reminds me to tap into my own intuition, tap into my own wisdom and be honorable. I want to make sure every clients who comes to me, we’ll do a campaign that honors the brand and honors the world. We need to do something that will leave the world a better place or change something within your industry.”
Though she’s originally a Cinci native, Christina’s heart is all for Dayton these days.
“Dayton made me,” she said. “There’s so many amazing, beautiful people in Dayton, Ohio. We are so dope, we just need the tools and resources and strategies to market and do what we need to do.”
“I’m Christina Mendez, and I’m an entrepreneur.”
There’s no one way to be an entrepreneur.
You don’t have to look a certain way, operate in a particular industry, pursue specific education, grow up in a particular household, or spend your free time nurturing any particular hobbies — entrepreneurs grow from all walks of life.
In a new video series we are excited to launch today, entrepreneurs, founders, and small business owners from across the Dayton Region share their individual stories in order to break down those pervading stereotypes about who can or can’t be an entrepreneur.
They proudly declare, “I Am an Entrepreneur” — and you can be, too.