Call it serendipity, but Samantha Najera ’07 BA and Nina Duran ’04 BA ’05 MA ’99 IWHS prefer to see their initial chance meeting as unseen forces of the universe working to put two people in the right place at the right time.
Now, the two have joined forces of their own to forge a powerful partnership to benefit their respective companies, clients and even the community. Recently, Najera, founder of creative marketing firm HeartFire Media, and Duran, newly named publisher of the city’s well-read and well-respected, bilingual La Prensa de San Antonio, merged companies. The merger will breathe new life into the family-owned newspaper. It will also help further establish the HeartFire brand as it continues to do business with new and existing clientele.
HeartFire, established in 2012, has numerous clients including the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio Scorpions, and Morgan’s Wonderland, among others. The firm won Best Start-up award by the San Antonio Current in 2014.
The bright businesswomen also know a good thing when they see it; in this case, they found that in the guise of the resourceful Blanca Morales ’11 BA ’13 MA, who serves as HeartFire Media’s marketing coordinator.
Together, the trio has ignited a firestorm of activity to set the HeartFire Media-La Prensa business ablaze.
“La Prensa has always been 100 percent advertising driven,” Duran said from the La Prensa offices in the landmark Finesilver Building near downtown. “But our digital presence has never been like it should be. We plan to change that. When Sam and I were talking about the potential partnership, I said, ‘How great would it be if we could offer marketing, video services, Web design and public relations.’ What’s exciting is that we have become a true merger that can offer all of these services.”
Najera and Duran have wasted no time in setting out to accomplish their goals. In their first four months, La Prensa underwent a redesign replete with a new logo and tagline: “San Antonio lives bilingual.” A new website has also been launched.
Excitingly, they served as the official video and photography team for the 2016 Fiesta Flambeau Parade. Their participation included a float featuring HeartFire Media.
Najera knows they have a challenge set forth before them, namely attracting tech-savvy, social media driven Millennials. “The older generation likes to have a print edition in their hands, but how do we attract Millennials? We want to keep the tradition of speaking both languages, and we want to set the tone for Millennials.”
As to how the three women ended up working under one roof, Duran first met Najera when the HeartFire Media owner was working for a production company that produced a video for the La Prensa Foundation. Their paths crossed again several years later when Najera was on her own. The two kept in touch, and one day Duran told Najera that she was looking to make a leap into another career. Najera invited her to come aboard as vice president of marketing and sales. When Najera told Duran that she was looking for a marketing coordinator, Duran immediately mentioned Morales, whom she worked with before.
“Blanca was the first person who came to mind,” Duran said. “I knew she would fit the culture perfectly. I knew her work ethic. She can do everything.”
The UIW chums took a moment to reflect on how the university has helped them along in their careers.
“The communications faculty has been there for me from the beginning, and they still are,” Morales said. “I can email them, and they always respond promptly. Michael Mercer (senior instructor of communication arts) always sends me marketing news and resources. It’s great to have their support even though I graduated almost four years ago.”
For Najera, she benefited from the one-on-one attention from her UIW professors. She also helped launch the university’s Internet radio station, KUIW, learning all about broadcast media with which she deals daily now. “And I liked the fact that there was a chapel underneath my dorm. I went there a lot,” she said.
UIW’s requirement that students complete internships opened doors for Duran. “A lot of success is based on who you know, not what you know,” she explained. “I interned with the Spurs and at KENS5. The following year, I applied to be a producer for (the station’s morning show) Great Day SA. I got hired. They told me that there were people with more experience than me, but they saw me there every day, and I got to know a lot of people there.”
Duran, who succeeded her father, Tino Duran, is aware that with the passing of the reins comes a huge responsibility and obligation to see that the paper maintains its community presence, as it has ever since Tino and wife, Millie, re-established La Prensa in 1989. It previously had been owned by Ignacio Lozano, who founded it in 1913 and then shut down operations in 1963, according to the Texas State Historical Association website.
Tino, 81, stepped down as publisher after 27 years because of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. His daughter has been his biggest cheerleader and a local advocate for calling attention to the disease.
“(Being publisher) is just as exciting as it is daunting,” she said. “It’s a pivotal time for La Prensa. There are lots of changes I want to make, and we have a great team to do it.”
And with Najera and Morales at her side, Duran knows she has the support to fulfill her ultimate goal: “I want to keep the legacy alive that my parents created for this city.”
By Rudy Arispe ’97 BA