Now in its 47th year of service, Southwest Airlines continues to differentiate itself from other air carriers with exemplary Customer Service and Transfarency®, with a passion of treating Customers honestly and fairly, and with low fares that stay low. With a bold new look first unveiled in 2014, Southwest is progressing through a multi-year refresh that is innovative and competitive as our company continues to grow. As we look forward, we want to introduce you to Luisa McCarthy, an exceptional business woman who has built a career and business around her passion to help others and treating her customers honestly and fairly. She has faced and overcome challenges through believing in herself and turned her business into something she is proud of. We invite you to learn more about Luisa and her passionate personal journey.
It was 5 a.m. It was dark and cold and I had to find something to wear. That was easy because I always wore a uniform. In about an hour, I would be hearing the clanking of prison doors opening and closing and my day would begin. And each one of those days was a challenge. I was the youngest prison guard, definitely the smallest; one of the few Hispanic women. I was tough. I loved the challenge, at least, in the beginning. But there was always my burning desire to be an entrepreneur and create something that was mine. So, I left a job with a good salary and benefits to start off on my own.
Failure was not an option as I had two young children to support.
I used my meager savings to open up a little hole-in-the wall shipping center. My special niche was to ship random items to South America and Mexico. I specialized in the most remote villages and for a fraction of the price compared to the big-name shipping companies. I was inexperienced and was relying on my customer service skills learned from working in sales at the National City Swap Meet.
Running my own business meant shouldering all the responsibility and handling all the day-to-day operations: I had very little money and I had to do everything myself. There was no advertising budget, so I would introduce myself to anyone who would listen and participated in every community event from the crack of dawn to late at night. I was motivated by the idea of making a difference on my own terms. My days started early dropping off my daughter at school and often bringing my son to work with me.
Two years into my business, I met Micaela Polanco who had recently purchased the La Vista Memorial Park Cemetery. Despite my lack of experience in the Death Care industry, she invited me to partner with her in this new venture. She was the new owner of a cemetery with a bad reputation due to the unkempt facilities and rampant vandalism. I was being offered the freedom to help the very needy and make a difference in people’s lives. I didn’t hesitate and just dove in.
Because La Vista Memorial Park is the second oldest cemetery in San Diego County, we had 30 civil war veterans buried on its grounds. At a small Memorial Day tribute, I got the idea to organize a Memorial Day Ceremony and invited the entire community. It became an instant success.
I also initiated Día de Los Muertos, inspired by the untimely death of my father, Julius Edward McCarthy. His death shook my world. I lost the person who was always there for me. In honoring him in my grief, I vowed to create the most authentic experience of this beloved holiday. I wanted to change people’s perceptions from dark, even morbid to something beautiful. Many people like myself immigrated to the United States. Some were unable to go back to their country. Growing up in Mexico, we celebrated life by creating altars, listening to music, and honoring the lives of our dearly departed. I saw these events as a way to preserve the history and cultural traditions of Hispanic culture.
My advice to other women is don’t be afraid of failure. You will never know what success really feels like unless you have also failed. Connect with others. Ask for help. If you ask, you will probably get it. Stay open minded. Keep learning. Be patient and persistent.
I am passionate about encouraging young men and women to pursue their education. Be proud of your heritage. Keep studying, stay in school. It’s never too late to learn. I finally went back to school and got my Master’s in business. My PHD is next. You definitely get out of life what you give.
Photo Credit: Daniela Lopez Amézquita