NextGen Collective recently spotlighted Santiago Villegas of 1903 PR as a Latinx to Watch. Keep reading to find out more about his journey into the public relations industry, the most rewarding parts of his job, and more.
Where are you from?
I currently live in Fresno, California. I was born in Tabasco, Zacatecas, Mexico.
What do you do today?
I operate and run a successful public relations agency with my business partner, Katherine Verducci, that operates out of Fresno, California. Katherine and I are co-CEOs and cofounders of the business, which we started in early 2019. I’m focused on scaling and growing my business throughout the United States, and one day internationally.
Who inspired you the most in your life growing up?
One of my biggest inspirations was my father. He came to the United States, left his family in Mexico, worked to acquire legal status in the US for us, and worked hard to support our family. It’s his work ethic that stuck with me throughout my life.
Growing up in the rural town of Dinuba, California, one person who impacted my life the most was an elementary school teacher who pushed me to believe that I could be more than what was in front of me. As a young child, I thought I could only grow up to be a field worker. She inspired me to want more out of myself and my life.
Whose career really inspires you?
Growing up, I really didn’t have someone who I aspired to be, but when I look to who inspired my desire to become more I have to look at the activists who led nations. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Cesar Chavez, I look at these individuals who stood in the face of adversity and fought for what was right even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?
It doesn’t get easier, you just become better. The work doesn’t suddenly become easier. The challenges you face and overcome are lessons, and you will utilize them in the future.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see for Latinx professionals early in their careers?
I can only speak from my experience and some of the obstacles I faced, which I believe are still prevalent today. One of the biggest obstacles I faced was even being able to enter my profession. It took me a couple of years after finishing my degree to get the opportunity to enter the public relations industry because I would never receive a call back for an interview. I grew frustrated and realized that my Latinx name might be having an impact on this. To that end, I eventually submitted a resume to a company I had previously applied with the same information but with an English-sounding name, and was surprised to receive an invitation to interview.
How can Latinx professionals better advocate for themselves?
Advocating for yourself at every turn is a must. It’s important to create coalitions within your organization where you are able to connect with other individuals of similar backgrounds on issues faced.
What behavior or personality traits do you attribute to your success?
My unwavering belief in myself, my relentlessness, my tenacity, and my sheer stubbornness. There were many inflection points in my life where I could have given up, and many of my peers did, but something inside me kept me going. In those hardest moments where you feel like you have nothing left and all odds seem stacked against you, I bet on myself every time.
What are you most excited for in 2022?
In 2022, I’m most excited to continue the momentum we have experienced over the past couple of months and scale my business. The past two years taught me a lot about running a business during extremely challenging conditions, so I hope 2022 can teach some non-pandemic related lessons.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is being able to unearth the amazing work done by incredible people of color who would otherwise be overlooked by the media. The other aspect as an owner of a company is providing opportunities for individuals who come from similar backgrounds as myself. I get to open the door for others. I get to operate my business in a way that is ethically and morally right for my employees.