Atlanta 5×5 Profile: Judith Martinez
Women@TheFrontier and Invest Atlanta have joined forces with The City of Atlanta to create a unique blog series called the Atlanta 5X5. Together, we’re compiling our list of the top 5 women Role Models, influencers, and visionaries in the Atlanta area. Today’s post celebrates Judith Martinez, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and entrepreneur, proving the power of heritage, networking, and community.
By Amy Hyatt Fonseca
In 2014, Judith Martinez became the first journalist of Mexican origin to win an Emmy Award in Georgia for Best Female News Anchor.
“It was a milestone in my career,” she says. “At the time, I wasn’t aware it was the highest award for the broadcast industry. Here I am in the industry for less than four years, blessed to take this award with me.”
What many didn’t realize was that Martinez was no longer News Director and Anchor of Telemundo Atlanta when she received the award—a move she calls the most difficult decision of her life. While Martinez enjoyed working on television, she missed out on her most cherished venture: her children. That’s when this three-time Emmy Award winner decided to step away from the limelight and disappear from television screens for a while.
Both colleagues and viewers questioned Martinez’s temporary exit, but she viewed it from an optimistic perspective. “A friend asked why I would leave everything behind,” she says. “I told her the awards and experience gave me the platform to continue with other dreams. You should have as many options as fingers on your hands.”
As it turns out, this influencer had more than a few options to pursue. Martinez is Cofounder of YoSoyM (short for YoSoyMujer, I Am a Woman), a social venture dedicated to serving Latinas and focused on connecting businesses and service providers to the Hispanic community. As a Role Model and entrepreneur, she is armed with a mission to empower Latinas in the Atlanta community and help them make informed decisions for themselves and their families.
So, how did Martinez make the leap from fierce entrepreneur to award-winning journalist to community connector? She learned from watching the original entrepreneur in her life: her grandmother. She was a constant Role Model, who taught Martinez to pursue her dreams, trust her instincts and ignore the sideline critics. What was her grandma’s recipe for success? Declare. Prepare. Succeed.
Here’s what Martinez had to say to Women@TheFrontier about how to declare your goals, prepare for the future, and succeed in what matters:
Declare Your Goals
“Tu no eres del montón,” Martinez says in Spanish. “My father would always say you’re a leader. You have a purpose in life. I remember him telling me those words since I was five years old.”
The oldest of four children, Martinez grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, the daughter of an entrepreneur. At the time, she didn’t realize it, but the profession was part of her birthright. It flowed through both her father and grandmother’s veins.
“She was the first entrepreneur I knew. She used to tell me when you have a dream, forget what other people say.
You say it and do it.”
“My grandmother was from a small town and had seven children. She decided to take her kids to the city so they could have a better education. The tradition in Mexico was that [adult] children should stay with their parents. My grandfather didn’t want to leave his parents, so my grandmother moved to the city with her children alone.”
Unfortunately, 1950’s Mexican society shunned a single mother living alone. Always the survivor, Martinez’s grandmother started a neighborhood bodega to support her family.
“She was the first entrepreneur I knew,” Martinez says, a hint of pride in her voice. “She used to tell me when you have a dream, forget what other people say. You say it and do it. You cannot stop your future based on what others think…those words of leadership, entrepreneurship, and pursuing your dream stuck with me.”
As a college student, Martinez embraced her grandmother’s advice and declared her own goals. She studied mass communication and advertising at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León. After graduating, she received an invitation from her aunt to visit Georgia to learn English. Martinez hesitated. She hadn’t planned to move to the US. Plus, her father would never allow her to go.
That’s when Martinez’s Role Model stepped in to convince him.
“My grandmother told my father that he needed to let me go. She said, ‘this city is too small for her.’ I remember hearing those words and thinking what is she talking about? I’m not a big deal.”
Martinez’s father allowed her to visit the US for six months to study at The Language Institute at Georgia Tech. After her short time in Georgia ended, Martinez realized she needed more time to learn. Once again, her father said she could stay, but only if she paid her own expenses. “It was a shock,” Martinez says. “But I did it.”
Family support and experience gave Martinez the confidence to step into uncharted territory and declare her goals. But how would she use those values to prepare for the future? With a little luck and a lot of hard work.
Prepare for the Future
While at Georgia Tech, Martinez met her husband-to-be, Farid. After she finished the program, he proposed. Martinez admits she was homesick at the time. She missed her family.
There was another reason she wanted to return to Monterrey.
“My husband is from the Middle East,” she says. “I thought there’s no way our parents will say yes to marriage. I went back to Mexico and got hired by a company based out of Memphis.”
The job allowed Martinez to travel to the US and make stops in Atlanta to visit her fiancé’. After two years, she felt certain she wanted to marry Farid and return to the US. The day she told her father, she promised him she wouldn’t waste her education. She would continue to pursue her career, even if she didn’t know how, yet.
In 1999, Martinez moved back to the US and stumbled across a life-changing idea while searching for a Spanish calendar of events online. Unsuccessful in her quest, Martinez asked her husband, a web developer, to help her build a website for the Spanish-speaking community. Along with a friend who had a similar vision, the three of them launched AtlantaLatino.com, the first bilingual portal in Georgia.
“My idea was to create trustworthy media that would elevate the presence of Latinos. I learned through the process what it really means to be an immigrant. I rooted myself in the community.”
Around the same time, Delta Airlines was looking to support a Spanish initiative to use as a future hub for online ticket sales. The company approached Atlanta Latino and offered a significant investment in the form of sponsorship. While the startup gained initial funding, finding additional investors proved a difficult task for the online publication.
“As we were looking for funding, we were told there was no way Latinos had computers, and we didn’t have enough numbers to show the Latino community was a viable market online. So, one of our advisors mentioned starting a newspaper.”
Martinez, her husband, and their partner initially dismissed the idea. They anticipated a short-lived future for printed newspapers. However, after researching the idea, they realized a paper could generate more funding and give their investors a tangible return on investment. They said yes to the idea. To prepare, Martinez and her partners researched the market for a year prior to launch and gained insight into the type of newspaper the Atlanta community needed.
In 2002, Atlanta Latino printed the first bilingual newspaper in Atlanta with relevant Hispanic-focused content and bold multi-color design. Martinez served first as the paper’s Director of Public Relations and became the Editor in Chief in 2004 while her husband acted as President and CEO. By year three, Atlanta Latino boasted a circulation of 30,000 and was available at over 1,600 distribution points throughout the Metro Atlanta area.
“It was groundbreaking when we launched, and we maintained it for almost ten years. My idea was to create trustworthy media that would elevate the presence of Latinos. I learned through the process what it really means to be an immigrant. I rooted myself in the community.”
The newspaper continued to boom until 2008 when the great recession started to affect the business significantly. During the last year of the paper’s life, Martinez and Farid searched for innovative sources of revenue to support it. Then one day, they received an opportunity to create a television version of Atlanta Latino for Telemundo Atlanta.
“This was my husband’s idea. I loved the idea but we needed the talent to be in front of the show, and I knew that would be costly. So, a couple of weeks later my husband said, ‘I found the talent—it’s you!’”
Martinez agreed to test a pilot version of the community-based program. Telemundo Atlanta approved it and aired it on Saturday mornings. After a year, Martinez and her husband closed all media versions of Atlanta Latino, including the show as the economy continued its massive downturn. “It was hard,” Martinez says. “It was like a funeral to me. But I learned a lot from that experience.”
By this time, the couple had two children and Martinez chose to spend more time with her family. She decided to work from home on other projects. Then, another television opportunity appeared.
She received a call from Telemundo’s General Manager. He mentioned the station was looking for a news director and anchor for a show, and they were interested in Martinez’s brand. At first, Martinez thought the position might not be for her, but agreed (once again!) to start with a pilot of the program.
“One of the things I’ve learned in my career is sometimes, we have talents we’re born with, and we don’t believe in those talents until someone else discovers them. In my mind, I could never imagine delivering the news. I never thought like that.”
In true Martinez style, she prepped for her role by returning to Mexico where she trained for three weeks with a mentor in the industry. Martinez declared her goal to succeed and worked to develop her talents.
Now, it was time to achieve her dreams.
Succeed in What Matters
Martinez began working for Telemundo in 2011. By 2013, her team received its first Emmy for Team Coverage on Deferred Action, a special program they produced, and Martinez wrote and co-anchored. A year later, Martinez got the crazy idea to try for Best Female Anchor.
Fast-forward a couple of years and this three-time Emmy Award winner, news anchor, news director, and Gabby Award recipient is also one of Atlanta’s top Latina social entrepreneurs. However, Martinez learned some unforgettable lessons from her time on television.
“As Latinas and as women, we are always rejecting the good that comes to us, it is a cultural mistake. In this process, I learned I need to believe in myself first, and then others will believe in me.”
Today, Martinez is the Cofounder and Managing Partner at YoSoyM. With her partner Gigi Pedraza, they created a social venture to serve Latinas in the community. Through her connections, (and the wise advice of her grandma) Martinez helps other Latinas come together to succeed.
“What I’ve learned for the last 15 years is that women empowerment is needed in every community. It might sound cliché, but there are no limits. My vision of what we’re doing at YoSoyM is creating communities at a local base and empowering them to help each other.”
The venture’s mission of empowering Latinas started with an online community that didn’t previously exist. YoSoyM created the online campaign with the vision to portray Latinas as agents of change and provide them with opportunities for meeting at local events.
The most recent event was ExpoMujer, a dynamic experience with over 2,000 attendees, 120 exhibitors, and 26 panelists. It included panels on finance, entrepreneurship, relationships, health, and education. Martinez says the success of ExpoMujer and the stories of those who attended the event motivated the community, but also inspired her.
“There’s a need for role models but if they’re hidden—if they’re not together in an organization or online platform—nobody will know them. Latinas want to be a part of a big community. That’s what YoSoyM does. It brings a sense of community and connection. Where is this movement going to go? I think it has the potential to become global. Women empowerment is needed everywhere .”
What are Martinez’s plans for the future? She intends to continue serving the Latina community—to inspire and connect them to the tools and resources they need to achieve success.
“People might think you’re crazy because you have an idea, but let them think whatever as long as you say it, believe and, work for it. My life has been proof it works.”