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Thanks A Million

Cristina Martinez emerges as top winner of business competition

Cristina Martinez (l) with Nell Merlino of Make Mine a Million $.

 Already 2009 is shaping up to be a busy year for local publisher Cristina Martinez. She was recently elected to lead The Chamber, Houston’s gay business networking group. Her successful business directory, Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages, just turned five years old and prints books in seven other markets beyond Houston.

 But perhaps most outstanding, Martinez was recently named the grand-prize winner of the Make Mine a Million $ Business Event.

 Described as a cross between The Apprentice and American Idol, the competition provided 25 finalists the opportunity to present their business in a three-minute “elevator pitch” to a panel of business experts and a live audience. The event featured female entrepreneurs from throughout the country who competed for business development packages that include money, marketing, mentoring, and technology assistance to help their businesses grow into million-dollar enterprises.

 On December 11 at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, 15 winners were chosen by the audience and judges who collaborated on the selection process. As the grand prize winner, Martinez received $50,000 from American Express, formal business coaching to help grow her business from Count Me In, the organizer of the competition, and is set to be featured in the company’s marketing and advertising campaigns.

 “I consider all of us to be winners, though,” Martinez says. “Each of us is going to get a dream team of coaches who will help us grow our companies into the millions of dollars.”

 The road to victory, Martinez admits, was not an easy one. For one, she was required to open the books on her business, though Martinez did not consider that obstacle to be as daunting as another task she would be challenged to complete.

 “They had make-overs, of course,” she laughs, “but I did not partake. You know, I pull a Hillary Clinton—I had all pants suits with me. And of course I definitely turned down the makeup part. They wanted me to wear a little bit of red lipstick to soften me up. Of course, I said no.”

 It’s not how you dress up the package, Martinez believes, that is the key to her success, it’s what she’s got inside that makes the difference.

 Her secret?

 “My passion and my perseverance for the desire to provide something to the gay and lesbian community that is much, much, much needed,” she says.

Martinez says she entered the competition not only for the marketing opportunities, but also “to move an openly gay-owned business national.”

 With her business partner, Lonnie Davis, Martinez owns Mad Clik, Inc., a Texas corporation that also owns MD Marketing & Advertising, in addition to Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages .

 Martinez hopes 2009 brings continued expansion and the continued growth of her company, including Rainbow Graphic Design, Mad Clik’s new graphic arts company. Additionally, she and Davis recently launched the Rainbow Pages Foundation.

 “We called it the Rainbow Pages Foundation because we wanted it to be part of our corporation and our business,” Martinez says. “Our foundation is going to be there to support LGBT youth, and provide programs to get LGBT people back in the workforce.”

 Martinez hopes the foundation eventually morphs into the Rainbow Center with dormitories for gay youth who are abandoned by their disapproving families. The Rainbow Foundation formally launches on July 16, Martinez says, with a kick-off party at The Ensemble Theatre featuring a special performance of The Wiz .

 When Martinez isn’t competing in a big-dollar business competition, launching a philanthropic foundation, or simply conducting day-to-day business with her 22 employees at Mad Clik, she busies herself with local organizations. The Imperial Court of Houston, GALLO (the gay Latino club which she helped create), the Executive Professional Association of Houston, and various GLBT chambers of commerce are just a few of the groups that count Martinez as a member.

 “I’ve been given so much, I feel like I have to give back a lot more,” she reasons.

Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages publisher, Cristina Martinez (l), is named winner of Make Mine a Million $ Business Event by competition founder, Nell Merlino. Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages is available online and in print in eight U.S. cities, including, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Tulsa Metroplex, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, and Phoenix. – by Nancy Ford



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