Attaining success as a result of having integrity and a positive attitude may be a concept many people have heard before. However, Paula Mendoza, President and CEO of Possible Missions, Inc., exemplifies these traits in every area of her life. When Possible Missions began in 2001, Paula started out with only $100 in the bank. This year, her company is on track to exceed $10 million in both services and product sales. Through Paula’s personal and professional journey, she has shown that it’s possible to accomplish the impossible by focusing on customer service and being passionate about making possibilities a reality for others. Always appreciative of the tutelage and mentoring she received on her pathway to success, in turn, Paula has become an inspiration and mentor to others, especially Hispanic women.
Possible Missions, Inc. is an experienced project management company specializing in Project Management Solutions throughout all industries. With a proven track record of providing its clients managerial, technical, and administrative services, the Possible Missions team uses their strength in organization and structure methodology to strategically plan, execute, and complete projects within budget and on schedule. As a result, much of their work has come through their credibility, the reputation of their company, and word of mouth.
A native Houstonian, Paula came from humble beginnings growing up in the Aldine area of Houston with her older brother and two younger sisters. Her parents were originally from Mexico and brought her up in a traditional Hispanic culture. She wasn’t allowed to date until her senior year in high school and even then it was very limited. She went to homecoming and then, later, the prom. Both of her parents were entrepreneurs and taught her the values of having a strong work ethic. Her father, Jesse Ruiz, Sr. was skilled in the upholstery craft and worked over 30 years on cars and trucks with his two brothers. They would travel to dealerships in a mobile unit and specialized in upholstering new and used cars. Paula’s mother, Janie Ruiz, was a licensed beautician. She owned and operated her own salon for 20 plus years.
Early on, Paula would help her father with his record keeping. She learned to use spreadsheets to keep track of the bills and revenues. “I always wanted to work,” reflected Paula. Not surprising, Paula’s favorite subject in high school was accounting! Always self-motivated and hard working, Paula fondly remembers her very first job. At barely 15 years old, she worked at Scooby’s Fun Factory in the Greenspoint area. It was there she learned the foundation for crucial business skills including management, scheduling, and finances. She worked many, long hours morning, noon, and night and also double shifts on Saturdays and Sundays.
After graduating high school, Paula didn’t think she needed to attend college. She just decided that she was going to get out there and find a job. She explained, “I didn’t think about owning a business; that wasn’t my intent. I just knew I didn’t need to go to college, it wasn’t for me.” Her parents were very supportive of college but at that time, they didn’t know a lot about how to apply for college and look for scholarships. Paula was the first to even think about going. It wasn’t until she went to work in a law firm and saw a lot of the ladies working there who had been there for many, many years doing the same job over and over. That was when Paula had an epiphany and realized that she needed a higher education so she decided to attend North Harris Community College which is now called Lone Star College. Knowing nothing about financial aid (which she probably would have qualified for), Paula was fortunate that her parents assisted by paying her tuition and books the first couple of years
During this time, a few years after graduating high school, Paula had a best friend who was a guy. He would always come over to the house and her mom allowed her to go out dancing with him as long as she was home by twelve. She never drank but she loved to dance. She would dance with anybody who would ask her from the moment she got there until she had to leave. Meanwhile, her friend would do his own thing. One night when she went out to a club, she was waiting to meet a friend there and walked by a guy who she had never met before. He said something to her and that was it. They danced all evening and when Paula went home she told her mom that she had found the guy she was going to marry! After dating for nearly three years, Paula and that guy, Robert “Bobby” Mendoza, were married and this year they will be celebrating 27 years of marriage!!!
When Paula and Bobby married, she had an instant family because Bobby had been married before and had a sixteen year old son, Robert, Jr. In addition, Paula was like a second mother to her youngest sister who was born when Paula was 20. She was very much of a pleasant surprise to Paula’s parents because they were in their 40s when she was born. Paula was delighted to be caring for her lovable baby sister who was three when Paula married Bobby. Her parents thought they were well past having babies so they were very pleased whenever Paula wanted to take care of her sister.
Even though Paula wasn’t blessed to personally have children, she is quick to point out that all along she has had children and honestly feels that she couldn’t have had better ones. Paula refers to Robert, Jr. as her son and helped raise him until he left to attend college. “My son is great! We’re helping to raise our goddaughter, Natalie, right now who’s twelve and she has my husband’s and my heart,” said Paula proudly.
Choosing to take the slow route, Paula wanted to work and make her own money. She started taking classes to get a legal secretary certification that was supposed to take one year; it took Paula two years. Then she decided to get an Associate’s Degree that was supposed to be completed in two years; it took her three years. All the while, she continued working because her mother had brought her up to be a very independent, strong woman. Her mother would tell her, “I want you to have a good, healthy, strong marriage but I want you to be able to take care of yourself as well.”
Paula and Bobby also supported his son through college. They were so proud when he graduated twelfth in his class at Reagan High School in the Heights. On top of that, he was able to get scholarships on his own. The funny thing is that as Paula continued her higher education after deciding that getting an Associate’s Degree was not enough, she began taking classes at the University of Houston Downtown where Bobby’s son was also taking classes!
Fascinated with the criminal justice system, Paula worked hard to earn a degree in Criminal Justice. Accomplishing this was quite a feat because she did not feel confidant in the areas of mathematics and science. During this time, she participated with the anti-gang task force, volunteering and counseling in the juvenile justice system because she had wanted to become a Probation Officer. She also had thought about attending law school but talked herself out of the idea with thoughts many women struggle with, “I’m already married and working. Law school is expensive and I’m too old and not smart enough.” With remorse, Paula remarked, “I talked myself out of law school and now I could kick myself for it. It’s still on my bucket list.”
Paula’s desire to work full time led her in a different direction as she headed towards the administrative side of public relations and marketing. Once again returning to the business world, Paula worked her way up through several small companies, learning about billable hours and what it took to run a business. In addition, she started attending a lot of networking events. As a result, she encountered other minority women through the different Chambers of Commerce and also began volunteering for them. She soon discovered that her social skills were also a great asset. “Actually”, remarked Paula, “I don’t think you get anywhere without mentors and without helping others.”
Soon after, Paula met Diva Garza who became one of her mentors. With great admiration and appreciation, Paula stated, “Diva leads by example”. Struggling through many trials, Diva became a strong business woman who eventually grew to be a self-made millionaire when she retired after selling her staffing company to Staffmark Staffing Company.” Diva was asked to become a consultant to Staffmark and one of the conditions Diva gave when she was asked to stay on was that Paula be hired for the position of National Director for Supplier Diversity. This positioned Paula to be in line for great success! Staffmark was, and still is, a well-established national company throughout the United States.
It was during this time that Paula became involved with MWBE (Minority Women Business Enterprise). Most of the business involving Staffmark entailed vendors who were a part of this organization that included minorities, women, veterans, and federally certified companies, etc. “I would go all over the United States working with their regional offices,” said Paula. “I was visiting with small businesses throughout the U.S. and working to establish partnerships between them and Staffmark. Unfortunately, it wasn’t happening and my reputation was on the line.”
Even though it seemed like a beautiful opportunity and she was making pretty good money, Paula thought to herself, “I’m not doing anything; I’m not accomplishing anything. When I look at these small businesses, I’m not giving them anything that they need and I’m wasting their time.” So Paula said to her husband, Bobby, “I think I can do this on my own.” She gave herself six months and told her parents she was quitting her secure job at Staffmark to start her own business which was going to be an expensive and risky endeavor. In spite of their apprehensions, her entire family gave their blessings and support.
Even when Paula decided she would leave the company, her integrity and positive attitude followed her when she gave her employer notice. To her surprise, he offered her 30 days with salary to continue working while starting up her own business! This gave Paula the time and confidence to get contracts lined up before going out on her own. Once again, Paula was blessed to have help from her mentors and supporters.
After the first six months on her own passed, Paula and her family were delighted that Possible Missions was doing so well. Paula’s strong passion along with her belief in being honest and always doing quality work has helped her in building an outstanding reputation. Much of her business has come from colleagues and by word of mouth. “Quality and customer service is the key,” explained Paula. “That’s our motto. If you don’t have quality work, you’re not going to get those word of mouth recommendations and you’re not going to get asked back.”
Another motto Paula lives by is from a saying she heard along the lines of, “Not all work is good work.” In other words, taking on every job for the sake of having more money and business does not equate to quality business. Paula firmly stated, “Sometimes, as entrepreneurs, we think we need to take everything that comes our way no matter how much it pays! I don’t fault anybody for that because I am guilty of doing it, too. However, you start establishing a pattern with good clients who pay well and good quality work that you can then sell again tomorrow.”
Paula explained what certifications she has taken to assure the quality of her company, “We’re in the service industry; we’re a project solutions firm. We will bid on any project that has a start and an end date. We’re ISO certified so that means our processes and our procedures are the same for every project.”
In addition to Diva, there are two other important mentors in Paula’s life that she gives credit for her ongoing success. One is Massey Villarreal, a successful businessman who helps steer her in the right direction regarding what she refers to as the political front dealing with small business, minority business, and immigration issues. The other mentor who Paula has such a regard for is Richard Huebner, President of the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HMSDC). “I call him Mr. H.,” noted Paula. “I got to know Mr. H. and had done a lot of volunteer work with him. He was one of the first people I approached and he said he wanted to be one of my first clients.”
At that time, HMSDC, an organization whose mission is to increase and expand business opportunities and growth for Minority Business Enterprise, had a small contract that was getting federally subsidized. Mr. Huebner felt Paula would be a perfect fit and provided her an office space to run her business. “I absolutely love that man to this day,” said Paula adoringly. “He has served as a corporate role model for me and taught me that just because we are a minority business that doesn’t mean we get a smaller piece of the pie. We always strive to do quality work but HMSDC steers us in the right direction.”
Paula is continually giving back to the community so much that it would take days to list everything! Many of them involve education including the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA) and the Sanchez Charter School that has had great success in their students graduating from high school. As part of AAMA, the organization’s goal is to inspire and empower at-risk Latinos to pursue their potential and achieve success. Now serving on the Board of Directors of the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council, Paula has come full circle with them! She also has served on the Board of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Paula feels very honored, blessed, and humbled to have been appointed by Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst to serve on the CPA Board at a state level on the Texas Ethics Commission for six years and again appointed by Governor Perry to serve on the UH Board of Regents.
As the first in her family to graduate college and become an outstanding entrepreneur, Paula’s mission is to help more Latinas in business. She explained, “I think a lot of us have learned the hard way but I have been fortunate to have so many role models along the way including my mom, Lolita Guerrero, Yolanda Navarro Black, and Gracie Saenz. I’m also so blessed to have the ongoing support and encouragement from my parents and husband, Bobby who has been by my side through all my endeavors.”
Paula continues to succeed in business while keeping her desire to help others a priority. Her integrity and actions demonstrate how it’s possible to accomplish the impossible by focusing on customer service and being passionate about making possibilities a reality for others. Most of all, Paula is truly making a difference as a role model and mentor to so many.