There is one image that has driven Los Angeles native Rebecca Núñez throughout her career—and her life, really: her parents standing outside the city’s convention center, US citizenship certificate in hand.
“I love that photo so much. My dad is wearing bell-bottom pants, and my mom has a scarf around her neck because that’s what they thought American looked like,” she describes, laughing. “They’re so hopeful and proud standing on those steps. I’ve always carried it with me as a reminder to honor the sacrifice they made for me.”
But like many other first-generation children, Núñez long believed that the only way to honor them was through success. She spent the first decade of her career dedicated to doing just that: getting that important job title, the assistant, the big corner office, and the even-bigger salary. Only when she got it, she realized something.
“Even though I was invited to the table, my voice was never really heard,” Núñez says. “I realized that the way to really honor my parents was to go back to that feeling of what they looked like holding that certificate.”
So, when Núñez’s big vice president role at a talent agency was impacted by the 2020 pandemic, she made a decision. “I decided what better time to bet on myself than when the world has come to a complete halt?”
She was right—the timing was perfect. “This huge shift was happening from a brand marketing perspective. Brands needed to reach out to their consumers, but they no longer had the budgets for these big agencies,” she explains.
Núñez parlayed the relationships with her past clients and started the MRN Agency right from her living room table. Within a few months, that table turned into her garage, and her garage into an LA office. Then, by the next year, she had another one in Mexico City.
What was the perfect time for her company turned out to be a devastating one for her family. At the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, both of Núñez’s parents ended up in the hospital, where they tested positive for the virus. However, just seventy-two hours after her parents came home, it was her healthy, forty-year-old sister who ended up losing her life to the virus.
“It was incredibly turbulent for our family, to say the least,” Núñez says. But, at the same time, she had just started MRN. Unlike when she was working for a big agency where she could take time off to grieve, Núñez had to continue working.
“Her passing has been the foundation to continue with this agency because so much of it is in honor of her. She’s one of the first people who started in my living room with me,” Núñez says. In 2024, she plans to start a nonprofit foundation in her sister’s honor.
Even with all the growth that’s happened at MRN in the past few years, it’s not always easy—not for any female founder and especially not one of color. But, as Núñez points out, women in business aren’t monoliths. She’s a testament to that herself.
“We are so multilayered, and our diversity deserves to be celebrated,” she says. “So many times, we hear these negative stats, and it stops us from trying. I’ve always been lucky enough to have mentors to tell me to take those leaps of faith.”
So much of that is at the core of the MRN Agency’s DNA, for women as well as for every culture and subculture its clients’ consumers represent. “I don’t believe that any one culture is a monolith. While, at face value, MRN is a 360 marketing and communications agency, our true value proposition is that we do our work through cultural intelligence,” Núñez explains.
That’s what makes MRN so special. Everyone not only gets a seat at the table but also receives a microphone before they sit down.
“We’ve differentiated ourselves by making sure that we eliminate echo chambers,” Núñez says. “Not only does that work to protect the client as a brand but also because all ideas are welcomed. Whether you’re the assistant or the CEO, everyone feels safe enough to raise their hand, and great ideas are born.”
In many ways, MRN bridges all the gaps that Núñez experienced while working in agencies. And she’s also one of those bridges herself. “We’re still small enough that I get the privilege to watch the professional growth and to handhold, mentor, champion, and celebrate my employees. I feel like it’s my personal and professional responsibility to set them up for success,” she says.
With twenty-six employees and counting, Núñez has built a MRN family—and her parents couldn’t be prouder.