Victoria Puente-Peters grew up listening to the story of when her grandfather, Victor Puente Sr., came to Fort Worth. When he arrived in the city from Breckenridge, her grandfather didn’t have a place to stay.
The downtown YMCA took him in, and he stayed in the facility’s boys dorms, which prevented him from being homeless. She remembers him talking about the opportunities that the city presented to him. That’s one reason why her family tries to give back.
“Fort Worth embraced the Puentes and so we want to give back to Fort Worth,” Puente-Peters said.
Puente-Peters’ family owns Southwest Office Systems, which has been operating for about 60 years.
Puente-Peters, 38, now runs her own consulting business, Long Game Consulting. Started in 2018, the firm focuses on the sustainability of businesses and nonprofits. Through her work as a consultant and volunteer efforts across the city, Puente-Peters wants to make a Fort Worth that is more inclusive and where everyone feels as if they belong. She also wants the firms she advises to have a real impact and be responsible stewards of funds.
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“I want to protect (leaders) in any way I can as well and help them to thrive so … all of this is part of the long game,” Puente-Peters said. “If we can help these businesses to succeed and be sustainable for the long game, we will all be lifted up as a community.”
Raised by entrepreneurs, Puente-Peters understands how complicated it can be to have a business partner, which is one reason why she helps small businesses. It’s hard to separate familial relationships from the business partnership, she said, and noticed this when people go into partnerships with a friend or someone they’re very close to.
“Even when I tried to do business with my mom, it’s just you have to have very distinct roles defined for each person so that and then you have to find a way to have a level of professionalism,” Puente-Peters said. “Or else it’s not necessarily sustainable in a healthy way that’s healthy for everyone, not only the company, but also for the people involved.”
She stays in touch with the community by showing up to networking events and volunteering, Puente-Peters said. She was one of the founding members of Steer Fort Worth, and is on the board of a variety of organizations. While working at Tarrant County College’s opportunity center, she often worked with many people who were formerly incarcerated. At Steer Fort Worth, she and other members of the organization studied recidivism, the cycle of entering and returning to prison.
“That really was a good lesson in equity,” she said. “And how we have to make things equitable and everything that people are facing in communities of color.”
Among the businesses and nonprofits Puente-Peters is working with is the Renaissance Heights Foundation, a resource center for the southeast Fort Worth neighborhood her father and grandfather grew up in.
Kenny Mosley, the executive director of the Renaissance Heights Foundation, met Puente-Peters when he was working as an operating executive for the YMCA in 2018. He said she was really key at helping Mosley get his bearings when he relocated from Indianapolis to Fort Worth. Puente-Peters is a strong social networker, he said.
“She was one of the first people, young professionals that brought me along and helped me to build really good relationships with folks that were from Fort Worth,” Mosley said.
She is helping with the organization’s three-year plan, which will involve arranging conversations to help meet Renaissance Heights’ goals. Mosley said Puente-Peters’ leadership will help Fort Worth as it grows. Her viewpoints on giving back to the city are very valuable and couldn’t come at a better time, Mosley said.
“It’s a really good time for the city to have someone like Victoria,” Mosley said. “That can be in those spaces and helping shifts, and in helping the city be more agile, and in an open and welcoming and embracing all of the growth that’s happening in the city of Fort Worth.”
Netty Matthews, vice president of existing business at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, has known Puente-Peters for years. Matthews describes her as purposeful about how she presents herself to the community. She’s a good listener, Matthews said, and has a large amount of empathy and compassion when speaking with people. They are mutual mentors to each other, she said.
“I learned very specifically from Victoria, how important it is to just not invite a person into spaces where they may not have been invited before,” Matthews said. “But to then also be very aware of the person’s experience, and be with that person in the experience, so that it continues to be a positive one, and that the person, whether it’s personal or business wise, will feel comfortable returning to that space.”
Creating and fitting into space that is welcoming is something Puente-Peters thinks a lot about. Puente-Peters said she’s never felt fully accepted by a particular ethnic group, and has floated around in different spaces throughout her life: In white spaces and spaces with people of color. Her mother is white and her father is Hispanic.
She said she also likes to do activities that are typically not women-centered activities, such as poker and golf. That background helps her think about how to make the city a more welcoming place.
“I’ve become more and more aware that the ‘Fort Worth Way’ is not a positive term to some people, specifically communities of color,” Puente-Peters said. “It doesn’t feel inclusive to all, so we have talented people who end up moving away to Dallas or other bigger markets where they feel that they’re more welcome.”
Fort Worth needs to change its old-school thinking to ensure sustainable growth. If the city can work on its culture, the community can attract talent and retain more talented people.
“We seem to be doubling down on our Cowtown persona,” Puente-Peters said. “And that’s not going to be necessarily attractive to the symbolism there is not … going to be seen as welcoming for everyone, like communities of color and (the) LGBTQIA (community).”
Victoria Puente-Peters Bio:
Birthplace: Arlington. But her family has been in Fort Worth for four generations.
Family: Mother, Alice Puente, Father, Victor “Buddy” Puente Jr. Three siblings: Two sisters and one brother. Married to Brock Peters.
Education: Bachelor’s in broadcast journalism at Texas Christian University; master’s in executive master of business administration at University of Texas-Arlington.
Work experience: On-air personality – LKCM Radio: 95.9 The Ranch; Production assistant in community outreach department, NBC 5 KXAS-TV; instructor / project manager, Tarrant County College Corporate Services; writer, NBC 5 KXAS-TV community affairs department; community relations coordinator, Blue Zones Project Fort Worth; community outreach manager, Fort Worth Transportation Authority; strategy consultant / founder Long Game Consulting
Volunteer experience: Governing board director member, Rocketship Public Schools Texas; board of managers, McDonald Southeast YMCA; member board of directors, Presbyterian Night Shelter; Cigar Smoker Fundraiser committee member, Fort Worth Public Library Foundation; co-chair, Day of the Girl 2017, Girls Inc. of Tarrant County; after hours committee co-chair, Rotary Club of Fort Worth; junior activities committee member, Fort Worth Club; boost committee member, Girls Inc. of Tarrant County; charity selection committee chair, Foodie Philanthropy Fort Worth; board member, Steer FW; commissioner, Fort Worth Commission for Women; fundraising event co-chair, Red Cross BASH event; young patrons gala committee member, Arts Council of Fort Worth; public figures private artist gala host committee member, The Art Station; gala host committee member, Texas Center for the Arts + Academics
First job: A smoothie shop at the airport.
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: Just be involved in the beginning, showing up to networking events and getting to know community leaders. At first you’ll probably be doing a lot of different volunteer opportunities. But as you get to know the landscape, I would recommend being a little bit more selective about where you spend your time because a lot of people end up spreading themselves too thin between their community work and their day job. And then you end up not necessarily being able to do anything well so eventually you need to learn how to say no, because your “no” is somebody else’s “yes.”
Best advice ever received: If you want to go fast, go alone and if you want to go far, go together. And that has really been something that I have tested and I find it very true. So basically, just if you’re trying to make change in the community it’s better to do it with a group of people and not just try to be the sole leader who’s getting all the credit for it. It’s better to go together and it’d be a coordinated effort to make change.
This post has been updated to reflect context of a quote by Puente-Peters and to correct a spelling of a name.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.