"Things are a lot more difficult now than they were in the past"
"I decided to become a U.S. citizen when I became a mother"
"I've always wanted to have my own business, be my own boss"
This is the second segment of a multi-part interview with Maria Teresa "Tera" Vazquez, co-founder and President of Guy Brown Products, a $200 million ink toner cartridge supplier in Brentwood. Vazquez is also the first elected woman president of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The first segment of the interview is here.
At what point did you decide that you would stay in the U.S. and not return to Peru?
After I came back to go to American University and I started working at Pelikan, Inc., here in Franklin, Tennessee, that's when I decided I really want to stay - I can make it on my own.
After your transfer to Franklin, or before your transfer to Franklin?
Before I transferred to Franklin. When I was going to graduate school, that's when I decided I wanted to stay.
How did you arrange the visa immigration transition from student to permanent resident?
The company that I used to work for was sponsoring my visa as a temporary worker, and then I got married, and became a citizen a couple of years after that. You have to remember that the time when I immigrated to the United States, you have a completely different time than today. Today things are a lot more difficult. The U.S. doesn't look at immigration as it used to in the past. In the past, they were a lot more open to it. Now there is somewhat of a discrimination if you speak Spanish. Things are a lot more difficult now than they were in the past.
And you made the transition from permanent resident to U.S. citizen in the context of your marriage?
Yes. I decided to become a U.S. citizen when I became a mother. I wanted to be from the same country as my daughter.
How long had you been in the U.S. when you became a U.S. citizen?
Eight or nine years.
Pelikan was your Dad's company, but it's also a German company?
My father was an owner of a company that licensed the Pelikan technology and the Pelikan name in South America. If you go to Argentina, Chile, there used to be, 20 or 30 years ago, there were Pelikans in every country. My father happened to be one of the owners of Pelikan in Peru. It was a licensed name in technology. Originally, Pelikan is an old German company.
Was Pelikan in Franklin before you got here, or did you bring it here?
No, no - it was in Franklin a long time before I came here. I don't know how they ended up here. The U.S. headquarters were in Franklin.
And then you left Pelikan for a job to be Director of Product Marketing at NuKote, and then later Director of Sales and Marketing for Latin America, is that right?
No, I did not leave Pelikan. Pelikan U.S. was acquired by a company named NuKote International, and NuKote International decided to keep me as a product manager, because I was a product manager under Pelikan, and they decided that I did a pretty decent job, so they decided to keep me. And then over time, I got promoted to the director of Latin American sales since I spoke Spanish, and I did that for six or seven years for them.
What led you to start Guy Brown?
I've always wanted to have my own business, be my own boss, and a mutual friend of one of my partners and mine put us in contact. He was the COO of NuKote International, and one of my partners and this gentleman were neighbors. So we got together. My partners have a mindset of investors, and they knew they wanted to get into something, and I happened to know the technology of remanufactured cartridges, so it was the perfect partnership.
Was that the same kind of technology that you were working with at Pelikan? How did you know about that?
I learned that at Pelikan and NuKote, by being the product manager. I learned that there.
By the way, where did the name Guy Brown come from?
My two partners are from India, and they call themselves "brown guys." So "Guy Brown," "Brown Guy."
You're president now, and you own one third of the company, is that right?
Yes. We started the company one third each, and we still have the same ownership.
Sometimes among business partners, the dynamic changes over time as the business develops, has that happened with Guy Brown?
It has, but for the positive side. We've all grown through these years. Everybody brings something to the table.
to be continued in a future post...