When Jennifer Tenorio was growing up in Dexter, she wanted to enlist in the military. Her father told her no, women don’t go into the military. About a year later, she told him that she wanted to be a police officer. Her father wouldn’t let her, telling her that it wasn’t an appropriate career for a woman.
Now decades later, Tenorio is one of the few women in New Mexico running a construction firm, Jennifer Homes LLC Roofing, which operates in Roswell and the Pecos Valley region. And she recently achieved a personal goal by earning a New Mexico contractor license.
“Guess who was the happiest that I passed the New Mexico contractor’s test? My father,” she told the attendees of the Third Annual Go Latinas! Conference. “That just proves how times can change and that proves how tough we can be as women if we are determined that we want something.”
The conference is hosted each year by the Roswell office of the small-business consulting group WESST. Formerly known as the Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team, the statewide network of offices focuses on women entrepreneurs, but also serves men now. WESST provides consulting, technical training and referrals to funding sources. Part of its funding is from the U.S. Small Business Administration, but it also receives grants and matching funds from other sources as well.
This year’s conference held Saturday at the Fraternal Order of the Eagles lodge on South Sunset Avenue featured four women speakers who shared stories of perseverance and sought to inspire other women to achieve their dreams, whatever those might be.
Besides Tenorio, the speakers included Sarah Bradley, southeast regional manager for the New Mexico chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and the survivor of a heart transplant; Joann Palomino, a health educator with the New Mexico Department of Health and the owner of new kids’ fitness business; and Democratic Congressional candidate and lawyer Xochiti Torres Small of Las Cruces.
“The enthusiasm, the perseverance that I have heard in their speeches is so motivational,” said Rhonda Johnson, the regional manager for WESST. “I am just so thrilled that WESST has had a small part in their success.”
Tenorio owns 51 percent of the roofing business with husband, Emiliano Tenorio, the chief operating officer and company founder. The enterprise was recently commended as Small Business of the Year for Chaves County by Lt. Gov. John Sanchez.
Tenorio told the conference audience that instead of becoming a police officer or military member as she had dreamed as a child, she pursued more traditional roles. She married and became a mother early in life, with that marriage ending in divorce.
She was attending college at the time, working, raising a child, and was tempted to quit school, but kept at it due to the urging of her mother.
She eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in education and served as a teacher in Dexter for 15 years. But about three years ago, she decided that she wanted a change and that she would join her husband’s roofing business started in 2007.
She said the organizational skills and determination she learned as an educator has helped her and her husband grow the business into one that has made $1 million a year during the past two years.
Tenorio, who talks of the vital role of God in her life, also shared what she thinks are three essential “tools” needed for success: setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) that also answers the question of “why” the goals matter; having a vision and using visual references such as vision board with photos and images as a constant reminder of the dream; and finding needed resources, whether that is education, professional networks or financing.
She also encouraged women to be supportive and helpful to one another, saying a woman’s success often has a special meaning to other women.
“That brings some type of pride, and it is not a prideful thing like, I am the best,” she said, “but a pride that is like, you know what, if they see that I can do it, then they will know they can do it, too.”
She told women to be bold and “claim your abundance and your children’s and grandchildren’s abundance.” She told them they can do that by challenging themselves and their children, being action-oriented and never giving up.
“Don’t leave the same way you came,” she said. “Take one thing that you heard today and implement that in your life.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.