Anna Alvarado is no stranger to hard work. In fact, it’s her internal drive and determination for a better life that have motivated her to carve out a successful career path. Today, as general counsel at FirstCash, an international operator of pawn stores, Alvarado is renowned for her work ethic—and her penchant for getting things done.
Alvarado’s story begins as a child in the Woodville Farm Labor Camp, just outside Porterville, California, in the San Joaquin Valley.
During the various harvest seasons and breaks in between, her family would migrate from the Woodville Labor Camp where they lived and worked to Jalisco, Mexico. Alvarado had a lot of responsibilities at the camp, including taking care of her younger siblings, translating English for her family, and delivering the monthly cash rent payments.
In addition to ingraining responsibility in her, living and working at the labor camp taught Alvarado the importance of education. It even influenced her decision to become an attorney.
“While [I was] living at the camp, the United Farm Workers were boycotting grapes,” Alvarado explains. “We had a meeting in the town hall, and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and his team came to educate the farmers on what their rights were and why it was important to boycott. One of his team members was a lawyer, and I could just sense a connection to what he was saying. He was smart, well educated, and there to help us. This moment resonated with me—the idea that when you’re educated, you have the opportunity to really help people.”
After high school, Alvarado went on to obtain both a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a master’s in business administration with a finance concentration from Bentley University. She worked in accounting and finance for some years before moving to Fort Worth and “jumping headfirst into working at a law firm and [attending] law school” at Southern Methodist University.
While in school, Alvarado worked full-time as a trial and litigation law clerk. She also had two children during that time. “It was extremely challenging, but I was determined to power through it,” she says. “At the same time, it was very rewarding.”
Alvarado was a private practice attorney for five years, and as she sees it, it was a transformative experience. “I loved being in private practice,” she says. “From being the first Hispanic attorney at Hill Gilstrap PC to being first chair and going against seasoned trial lawyers in court and arbitrations and representing labor unions at Tanner & Associates PC, I was really able to hone my legal and technical skills, build my confidence, and prove that I could punch above my weight class.”
In 2011, Alvarado was recruited by FirstCash, thus marking the beginning of her journey as in-house counsel.
Now, Alvarado wears a lot of hats. “Outside of being in charge of all legal matters, I’m also in charge of customer service, lobbying efforts, compliance, government relations—and, up until most recently, leases and lease negotiations,” she explains. Her team consists of approximately fifty-five people: a majority of them are located in Mexico, while six are located in the US. Together, she says, they’re always busy working on big initiatives and helping facilitate processes for their business partners.
“Growing up, I hated not having available resources. I knew that if I worked hard, I would be able to have a better life—so that’s what I did.”
While collectively, Alvarado’s team is now pretty robust, it wasn’t always that way. Over the years, she’s built the legal department from the ground up. “When I joined the company, I knew that it would be my job to build an effective, resolute, entrepreneurial, and resourceful team that can efficiently solve problems,” she says. “So I slowly started to build that. I approached everything from a numbers perspective, finding ways to save the company money and creative ways to bring in new revenue.
“Once I proved myself and the value I was bringing,” she continues, “not only did I earn a seat at the executive table helping to cook the company strategy but forming and scaling the department was able to happen.”
On top of building—and maintaining—the legal department, Alvarado has added value to FirstCash in a variety of ways. For example, she formulated the strategy, executed, and led approximately forty-five separate acquisitions and transactions of differing sizes and helped grow Mexico’s store count by six hundred locations in approximately twenty months.
What’s more, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and a significant number of businesses were forced to close, Alvarado and her team worked diligently to get FirstCash—and its US and Mexico store locations—classified as essential businesses. Before that, Alvarado was and integral player in the transformative merger with the company’s largest publicly traded competitor in September 2016.
“I enjoy challenges, and over the years, I’ve been able to prove to my C-suite colleagues that I can not only handle whatever challenges are thrown my way but also be a trusted touch point for getting things done effectively,” Alvarado remarks.
In truth, Alvarado attributes much of her professional success to her upbringing. “Growing up, I hated not having available resources,” she says. “I knew that if I worked hard, I would be able to have a better life—so that’s what I did. I have this internal drive and integrity to improve things not only for myself but for those around me too.”
A Cause Close to Heart
In addition to her responsibilities as a named executive officer at FirstCash, Anna Alvarado mentors high school students and serves on the board at ACH Child and Family Services, where she’s involved in both the finance committee and the strategic planning committee.
“ACH is a fantastic organization that helps children in the foster system and women who are in precarious situations—it works to protect children and preserves families by offering foster care and adoption, crisis Intervention, and other family and residential services,” Alvarado explains. “The organization is very important to me because there was a brief stint when I was at the labor camp where I was in foster care. That really stuck with me, and I want to do what I can to help others.”