Chamber of commerce mixers are usually chatty social events with maybe an announcement or two.
That was not Jairo Gutierrez‘s idea when he asked to host the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours in July.
State Farm agent Gutierrez got on the horn and invited business owners (El Paisano Super Market and next-door neighbor Fusion Tacos among them) and new City Councilor Lee Garcia. Hispanic Chamber President David Fresquez invited Mayor Alan Webber. Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce CEO Bridget Dixson also went.
They all showed up at Gutierrez’s office — some 30 people, and we’re talking his office with his desk — and, per goading, everybody told their stories and challenges in an organized setting.
“I invited them to tell their stories and show that the south side has bright and hungry business owners,” Gutierrez said. “The real substance is sharing your personal experience, things that can help other businesses. It accomplished telling our stories to people that can make a difference.”
The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce in June awarded the Jairo Gutierrez State Farm agency the Century Bank Business Excellence Award for employers with one to five employees during its 2022 Santa Fe Business Achievement Awards.
“That guy is such a rock star,’” Dixson said. “I’m just so incredibly impressed about how much passion he feels for his community. He is so genuine. [The Business After Hours] was absolutely incredible. It pulled at my heart strings. This is an area I feel strongly about working with.”
Gutierrez is a sponsor of the Santa Fe Chamber’s Feria Southside business/family fair Aug. 18 at the Fraternal Order of Police parking lot, 3300 Calle Maria Luisa.
“I want the rest of the community to learn about the different businesses on the south side,” Gutierrez said. “We are bringing awareness to the greatness the south side can offer, and it’s not currently being highlighted. That’s what these events are doing.”
With these two chamber events, Gutierrez is stepping up his game to be a south-side leader. In December, his State Farm agency sponsored the Capital vs. Santa Fe High School basketball game at Capital High School (Gutierrez is a former Demons basketball player), and in May, he sponsored the Santa Fe Conservation Trust’s Safe Routes to School student walk from his office to Sweeney Elementary School.
“We are in the awareness stage,” Gutierrez said. “What I want to do is build the infrastructure to help each other out. That’s what we’re doing right now. … We need to find a way to connect SCORE [business counseling by retired executives] to young entrepreneurs. They want to help, but no one is connecting them. We are building something that wasn’t there a year ago.”
He sees himself as that connection.
Gutierrez became an agent and owner of his own State Farm agency on May 1, 2021, succeeding Robert Maldonado, who had been the State Farm agent at the same 4986 Airport Road address since 1995 and prior to that at other locations since 1980.
“Our doors are wide open to anyone who wants to be an agent,” said Ben Caton, State Farm’s area manager. “We are looking for people who are entrepreneurial and have a spirit and energy and passion and cares about people. That describes Jairo. Jairo also has a belief in giving back to his community. It’s only been a year, but all signs are indicating that he is a great fit.”
Gutierrez landed an agency at age 26 and now is 28. He has been consciously preparing for success since a childhood that saw him pass through Chaparral Elementary School and De Vargas (now Milagro) Middle School. He kicked up his game when he graduated from Santa Fe High School.
He enrolled at New Mexico State University and emerged in four years with two bachelor’s degrees in marketing and Spanish. Different studies and surveys show only 33 percent to 45 percent of college students graduate in four years and only about 60 percent get their bachelor’s degree in six years.
“I went with a goal that I was there with a purpose to get my degree,” Gutierrez said. “There is always a goal. I’m going to work and do what I need to do to get there.”
But his youth was not all New Mexico all the time. Summer road trips were part of family life, among them trips to Miami, Vancouver and to drop off a brother at Indiana University. While at NMSU, he studied abroad for a bit in Costa Rica.
“You see different things; you see bigger things,” he said.
Between school years at NMSU, Gutierrez returned to Santa Fe for summer jobs at Dion’s and Baskin-Robbins. Between his junior and seniors, he had a young co-worker named Allissa. They hit it off.
Gutierrez firmly believes just two bachelor’s degrees from NMSU would never have gotten him consideration as a State Farm agent in his twenties. He ruled out nearby universities for post-graduate studies.
But he did want to get a master’s degree right away rather than wait a year or two or more.
He looked to Boston, the university epicenter of America. Gutierrez enrolled at Hult International Business School. Allissa joined him and got a nursing degree at Bunker Hill Community College and later a bachelor’s degree at the University of New Mexico and now is a registered nurse. They married two years ago.
“I wanted to experience diversity in a completely different environment,” Gutierrez said. “The highest percentage for any nation is America, but only 10 percent of students were American. I have friends from Norway, Italy, Colombia, Brazil. I learned how other people operate. There’s not a room I can’t fit in.”
He was awarded master’s degrees in international business and international marketing.
“If I didn’t go to Hult, I wouldn’t be a State Farm agent,” Gutierrez said. “At NMSU, I learned about marketing and business creation. I learned concepts at NMSU. At Hult, I got actual application of business principle. For three months, I did door-to-door sales in Boston. That builds character. You are getting noes all day. They taught you how to build and run a business. They prepare you for that. You practice that.”
Gutierrez credits his parents for his seeking success.
“My parents never once said you can’t do something,” he said. “They just believed in me.”
After Hult, Gutierrez got a job at Automated Data Processing in Boston and the company transferred him to Denver, where in April 2020, after they were married, they found out Allissa was unexpectedly pregnant.
They decided to return to Santa Fe and lived with his parents for 16 months. Gutierrez didn’t have a job, but he did have an updated LinkedIn account.
“State Farm recruited me on LinkedIn,” he said. “I had put down ‘looking for opportunities in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.’ I’m thinking ‘What? This sounds perfect to me.’ ”
Gutierrez passed four months of State Farm assessment tests to win his own agency. He embraced the insurance business.
“I love helping people,” he said. “I’m able to do that every single day with actual real-life situations. The more I grow I … expand my knowledge and my connections within the community to help more people.”
But he also sees his State Farm office as a resource for the community.
“We specialize in insurance,” he said. “If we can be a connection, a resource point, ‘Do you happen to know a CPA?’ No. 1 is insurance, but why can’t we help our community?”
He has four office representatives. Karina Beltran joined Maldonado’s agency seven years ago and stayed on, as did Bertha Salazar with five years at the office. Gutierrez hired Yvette Perez a year ago, and Debra Tarango rejoined the team Monday after previously working for Maldonado.
“Jairo took this office from great to awesome,” Beltran said. “He came in with the mentality of letting us all work together. He allows us to express ourselves. [The office] was great because our productivity was successful. Everyone was happy. We had flexibility and time off. The reason it is awesome is we get to go out to the community. We get to meet a lot more people. We get to learn more about them and build a better relationship with them.”