Against the Odds: Overcoming Challenges to Build a Successful Business

Patricia Pliego Stout never could have imagined the life she wound up leading. Born in 1944 in Mexico City, her female role models primarily did one thing: Their aim was to be the best housewife and mother.

“All of the women stayed at home and took care of the children and family. I was born into that type of culture and educated accordingly,” Stout said.

She knew she wanted do to something else. Stout went through school in Mexico City, discovering a love for numbers and focusing on other subjects like English, French and eventually accounting, business and drama—which she felt helped diminish her shyness. “People said, ‘She’s a little girl; she doesn’t need to worry about math,’ but I liked those subjects.”

Stout eventually entered the business world as an office manager in Mexico City. “There were not many female business roles at the time; but I loved the business world, and this was what I wanted to be involved in. I found such a pleasure in seeing business developing. I wanted to be able to say, ‘I own a business and am a leader,’ but at that time it was like saying I wanted to go to the moon. I felt it was never going to happen.”

Yet it did happen, thanks to her ingenuity and perseverance. She got married, moved to Texas and went into business with her husband. After several years, the two divorced.

Stout was able to keep one of the travel agencies that the couple owned; however, she had no prior experience running a travel agency. Stout, now a single mother of two daughters, struggled to make ends meet.

But she drove forward. She made restructuring decisions for the business, and she began to get involved in the community. Stout joined the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, became a Rotarian and participated in other community organizations.

Through the Hispanic Chamber and the City of San Antonio Department of Economic Development she learned about government contracts. This experience changed her life. Despite being told that getting a government contract would be very difficult, she set out to bid for them anyway; and in 1994 she was awarded her first one.

For the past several years Alamo Travel has been one of the largest San Antonio-based travel agencies. The company provides travel services for agencies including the Department of Defense, the federal government and Fortune 500 corporate accounts, and it made Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America several times.

Stout has remained very active in the community, eventually becoming president of the local chapters of the Association of Mexican Entrepreneurs, the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Rotary Club, as well as chair of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She has mentored several individuals and business owners and is proud to share their development and growth.

While she is enjoying her success, Stout is humble as she nears retirement. She is planning to work for a few more years and is preparing for both her personal and business future.

It’s hard to believe how far she has come from the days when choices for women were few and her childhood interest in math was frowned upon. She credits the United States with giving her opportunity, and she looks back on her life with pride.

“In this country when you work hard, you can see results. A lot of good things can happen. In life and in business it’s a roller coaster. I’m very proud that I never borrowed money from anybody. I’m very proud that I was able to make it and survive on my own and was able to take care of everybody in my family and everybody who worked for me–because that is the most difficult thing for a woman. I not only survived, but I survived quite, quite well.

“I am a proud mother, grandmother, and entrepreneur who was able to see my dream come true–this was the life I always wanted to pursue.”

Roberto Espinosa

(Photo: Snowpro Photography)

Patricia is a client of Northwestern Mutual. Her financial advisor is Roberto Espinosa. As Roberto’s clients achieve success, he typically recommends the following:

Know where you are and where you want to go. Understand the state of your finances, and envision your personal goals and preferences. A financial advisor can help you connect the two and implement a financial plan that helps you see your entire financial picture. If your business or estate planning requires a complex solution, your advisor can help you understand how everything fits together.

Build a flexible plan. Life never stands still. It’s always changing direction and presenting us with new opportunities. That’s why your financial plan has to be flexible. As life changes, so do your circumstances, needs and goals.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM), Milwaukee, WI and its subsidiaries. Roberto Espinosa is an Insurance Agent of NM.