We asked you to tell us about inspiring women in your life. We went through hundreds of nominations in our Remarkable Women contest. Now, we’re sharing our finalists’ stories.
ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — To understand how Rebecca Contreras climbed the ladder to millionaire entrepreneur, you must acknowledge her missteps and meet the people who caught her when she fell.
“I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for those who invested in me. I would be in jail or dead. I had put myself in such bad environments I didn’t know which way was up,” she told KXAN’s Britt Moreno from her Round Rock office.
Contreras is an entrepreneur who owns and operates a consulting firm. Working for herself was one of her dreams. There are some who might say it’s tough to dream big when life makes you feel so small, but Contreras believes otherwise.
Trauma plagued the first part of her life, and she said she “owned her mistakes” and learned to lean on family, friends and mentors. She says she’s proof one can achieve those early dreams and so much more.
“There is nothing you can face that you can’t overcome. Everything can start over. Even your stupid mistakes” she said.
Rock bottom became a place Contreras knew well. Her mother was an addict who struggled to maintain housing for Rebecca and her siblings. The only constant in Rebecca’s life was instability, she said. She recounted how men would come in and out of her mother’s life abusing her and the kids. When she was five, she remembers her mother leaving and not coming back.
“I had a very tragic childhood which traumatized me, which is why I was a little crazy as a teen and a young adult,” she said.
At 13, Rebecca started doing drugs. She said it allowed her to “escape reality.” She spiraled downward and became involved with an older man whom she said was a drug dealer in Austin at the time. Rebecca became a teenage mom and now admits she was not caring for her daughter back then. Instead, she became entrenched in a life of drugs and partying. That is when she realized history was repeating itself and she decided to make a change.
She turned to her grandmother for support. Her grandmother encouraged her to join a church that had a community outreach program and welfare-to-work program.
Rebecca became a secretary for former Texas governor Ann Richards.
“When I worked for Ann and saw a woman in power, for the first time in my life I realized I don’t have to be strung out. I can actually do something with my life,” Contreras said.
She earned her GED and started talking to inner-city high school students. She shared her story and advised them to stay clear of gangs and drugs. That’s how she met the love of her life, her husband David.
David grew up with very little and wanted to give back to others. Together, the couple started a nonprofit called Launch Pad that helps troubled youth in Austin.
“They need to see role models. They need to see people who grew up in the inner city but who look different… who stay in school and have a career,” Contreras said.
Now, the two are working to mentor and gift 10 students from a local high school with scholarships to college or trade school.
Contreras went on to work for other powerful politicians including former Texas representative Kay Bailey Hutchinson and former president George W. Bush. She says mentors saw her potential. They encouraged her and guided her throughout her career. Soon this girl with very little started to see her own self-worth and realized she had a lot to offer.
Now, Contreras has added author to her resume. She just released her first book, an autobiography called “Lost Girl” which she hopes will help others.
“There are so many people that are broken and have these pasts and if they can tell my story in full context, (and say) ‘Wow, she went through that? And now she’s here.’ It will give you hope” she said.
Lost? Contreras was for a time, but now it’s clear she is on the right path and bringing others along the journey with her.