MOWA hosts business leaders for Women’s Forum event


June 22, 2017

Nancy Hernandez, president and founder of ABRAZO Multicultural Marketing and Communications, smiles as she talks about her childhood Wednesday afternoon during the Women's Forum of Wisconsin at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. The forum provides a platform for women to share how they have incorporated innovative and strategic thinking into their businesses.
John Ehlke/Daily News

One of the most famous lines in Hollywood history goes like this: “If you build it, they will come.”

On Wednesday, Nancy Hernandez, president and founder of ABRAZO in Milwaukee, said something similar to it while talking to more than 40 women business leaders in Washington County for the Women’s Forum of Wisconsin event at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

She told the attendees if you measure it, it will get done.

“I’m thinking of all the boards I serve on, all of the companies and so forth, there is an element of truth there,” said Prudence Pick-Hway, Women’s Forum of Wisconsin. “If you develop metrics and measure it, it’s going to be on your dashboard. It’ll get done.”

Hernandez is the president and founder of ABRAZO, an independent Hispanic-owned and operated communications and marketing company in downtown Milwaukee, 229 E. Wisconsin Ave.

ABRAZO, which in Spanish means to hug or to embrace, was started in 2001 by Hernandez.

According to its website, ABRAZO’s mission is to “create positive, meaningful relationships between corporate America and emerging markets. We help companies like yours understand, connect and seize opportunities presented by today’s cultural and economic trends.

“We are aware that success for our clients comes from addressing all the touch points with the consumer and developing a fully integrated communication program, not just campaigns. This is why we are a marketing and communications company rather than just an advertising agency.”

Hernandez’s presentation Wednesday was called “Latinos: Changing the Face of the Midwest.”

“I feel really strongly about networks for women, helping each other and sharing stories,” Hernandez said. “When (MOWA Executive Director) Laurie (Winters) reached out to me, it was a no-brainer for me.”

Her nearly hour-long presentation started with a synopsis of how she’s gotten to this point in her career and life.

Both of her parents didn’t have deep education roots, especially her mother, a Mexican immigrant. Her father was the oldest of 13 children. It was commonplace for Hispanics to not go on much further in education than eighth grade.

“I’m someone that’s motivated by achievement,” Hernandez said. “I always want to put my best foot forward and do the absolute best I can.”

She admitted her future was fuzzy when she reached the eighth grade. However, her parents understood the value of education. So, when someone recognized Hernandez’s intelligence, her parents were recommended to send her to Rufus King High School — a college preparatory school in Milwaukee.

“I got to see different backgrounds,” Hernandez said. “It made a difference for me as a kid.”

She added that opportunity allowed her to think broader than she ever had. She learned about the concept of setting a high bar.

“I knew I wanted to make an impact, achieve my potential,” Hernandez said.

In the years that followed, she remained steadfast in building a successful career, serving as a voice for not only women, but the Hispanic community as well.

“What do those steps look like?” Hernandez said. “How do we do this? What’s an internship? How do we put these pieces together?

“I knew I wanted to get there. I didn’t know the formalized plan.”

Following her presentation, four women took the stage and each asked a question to Hernandez. Marylou Mercado, associate dean of nursing at Moraine Park Technical College, asked about mentoring aspiring students.

Hernandez said, “You can’t learn about a career if they don’t know it exists. That’s where we’ll see progress.”

Hernandez said that is changing and it’s time more companies take notice of that.

Hernandez, an avid golfer, joked about how it’s still difficult to get potential male business partners to go out and golf with her.

“What I’ve learned, I have a saying that I say which is ‘You can’t take the politics out of politics,’” Hernandez said. “To me that is a dynamic of how some things happen. Today, more than ever, in corporations all around us, there is a strong belief in the value of diversity and what that does for the performance of a corporation.

“I think all people that firmly believe that are all corporations are working through their ways to find out what that means for their organization.”

Hernandez also touched on the missions of universities as they address a growing Hispanic population. Several universities are beginning to set goals to have “X” percent of enrollment be Hispanics.

“If you measure it, it will get done,” Pick-Hway said. “It’s like saying at Marquette they’re striving for 25 percent of student body to be Hispanic. If you measure it, it will get done.”

Hernandez said 1 in 4 students in the Milwaukee Public School system is Hispanic.

“Thinking about that from a business hat on, from a market importance, do we have the right programs in place to ensure that is the best workforce that we can ready ... I think there are a lot of activities being done. Whether they’re effective for the Hispanics is the milliondollar question. That’s where, as a community, we can sharpen our tools to look at that.”

Hernandez acknowledged this way of thinking is universal and can be applied to other minority groups.

“There’s a process to broaden your horizon, looking at how do you best serve the market?” Hernandez said. “Under a diverse umbrella, one size doesn’t fit all. ... When we do that, then we’ll be putting the best-ready workforce than we can.”