Stay at home success
by Melanie Skaggs (M.A. ’02)
Five kids and one stay-at-home mom starting a home-based business sounds like a risky equation. However, when you factor in Brenda Stewart’s determination to put her family first, it all adds up to the perfect solution for her success.
Today, Stewart’s (B.B.A. ’87) five children are grown but the San Antonio-based direct mail marketing company, Reaching Neighbors, she started as a homemaker 20-plus years ago continues to grow.
Stewart graduated from St. Mary’s University with an International Business degree and, with Board of Trustees Chair Leticia “Leti” Contreras (B.A. ’89) and others, helped found the local Phi Tau Omega sorority, which later became Tri Sigma—one of the first national sororities established at St. Mary’s.
“Being part of Tri Sigma rounded out my college experience,” Contreras said. “I met women who shared the same values, successes and hardships that come with being a college student. Many of these women, like Brenda, remain an integral part of my faith, family and professional life today.”
Stewart landed a job out of college with ADVO, the nation’s largest direct mail marketing company.
After several years, she took time off to have a family. When her youngest son started kindergarten, Stewart wanted to go back to work, but knew it would be difficult to find the flexibility to be home when the school bus arrived.
Stewart’s inspiration came after a visit with her brother-in-law, a real estate agent in Colorado, who relied on direct mail marketing to reach clients.
“I picked his brain shamelessly and brought the idea of a direct mail company with me back to San Antonio,” Stewart recalled.
She attributes much of her achievement to her education at St. Mary’s.
“Everything I learned at St. Mary’s has helped me run my business,” Stewart said. “The marketing, statistics and even accounting classes taught me so much. I was able to set up the accounting side of my business because of what I learned.”Brenda Stewart
Stewart, who grew up in New Mexico, said St. Mary’s “felt like home” because of the small class sizes and friendly campus community with “people who cared and wanted you to succeed.”
She said, “The value of relationships is one of the most important things I learned at St. Mary’s and a major factor in my success as an entrepreneur,” a success she accomplished while attending all of her children’s events, never missing so much as a bike rodeo.