SMCF plans progress with Guadalupe Álvarez
By Gregory Gunter
San Miguel Community Foundation (SMCF) president Donna Foudray has a vision for the nonprofit organization she helps oversee: reach out to the Mexican national audience as potential supporters. And Foudray has just taken yet another step toward that goal with the addition of new board member Guadalupe Álvarez.
“Guadalupe is an ideal addition to our board,” says Foudray. “As a third-generation San Miguel native and well-recognized international businesswoman, she supports the vision we seek to pursue.”
Álvarez has enjoyed a reputation as a strong, independent businesswoman since she began selling bracelets in San Miguel at the age of eight. She went on to own and operate housewares company El Milagro for 25 years, selling wholesale to clients like Neiman Marcus, Ballard Designs, and Harrods of London. Her other business ventures included an oilcloth bag company, Mary Jane, which sells in Europe, Japan and New Zealand, and La Yunta, a textiles and décor store featuring finds from her international travels.
“But what I really wanted was to be an installation artist,” said Alvarez, explaining the leap to her current eight-year career as owner of Penzi Bodas & Eventos, San Miguel’s most successful wedding planning firm. Her weekly wedding set-ups are much like stage design, as ephemeral as a Cristo installation, but equally as satisfying, she notes, adding, “I love the creative aspect of it!”
When Penzi coordinated the 2012 Chili Cook Off, she met Donna Foudray–whose organization received the 2012 fundraising proceeds–and who familiarized Álvarez with the foundation’s work. It was there she learned of the nonprofit Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora — they provide microloans to campo women seeking to start their own businesses — who invited Alvarez to speak to the campo women about what they could accomplish in life as a businesswoman.
Álvarez was enthralled by the experience. “I was raised with the support I needed for success,” Álvarez said, “both physically and emotionally. Most women in the campo, because of circumstance, lack that inspiration. I was thrilled to help inspire them to reach for their dreams, and wanted to continue helping them financially through the SMCF.” It was then she agreed to join their board.
Álvarez seeks to cast a wider net among the growing middle class in Mexico, drawing them into a giving structure more formalized than that to which most are accustomed. “We’ve always given to our family, or our neighbors,” Alvarez says, “but the SMCF allows a much broader outreach.” And while Alvarez is proud of her 20 years’ support of her sister’s nonprofit, Mano Rosa, she’s excited to leverage her experience to bigger audiences.
SMCF President Foudray shares that enthusiasm, adding, “We feel 2014 will be our best year yet!”