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Amanda Villarreal: Reimagining a World Full of Possibilities

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Charting a new course, while pushing past cultural beliefs, has guided Amanda Villarreal, managing member of PLEX Capital, throughout her entire life. Throwing off the familial expectations of leaving high school to get married, she worked her way through poverty and into college. Eventually, she forged a prosperous multi-decade business career. But with that success, she grew restless; she knew there was something more for her to do. After her corporate leadership position ended, Amanda decided to help others realize their business dreams when she co-founded PLEX Capital in 2019.

“In the Mexican culture, my parents expected me to leave school and get married, but I wanted to break that cycle and graduate from high school and go to college. The day of my high school graduation, I asked my father to co-sign for a student loan so I could go to college; he told me to get married and forget about that, and I’ll never forget how that made me feel,” recalled Amanda, a native of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, who later immigrated to Southern California with her family. “We lacked basic necessities, but I had this drive to be different. I don’t know if it was God, and I can’t explain it. I remember knowing that the environment I was in had to be better, although I’d never been exposed to anything better. But I knew I was born to be more than simply what my family expected of me.”

Coming to Kansas
Amanda was the first of six children to graduate from high school and the only daughter. Twenty years ago, her parents left Southern California for Olathe, Kansas. Now, she calls Overland Park home, and her siblings and parents remain nearby.

“I started my junior year at Olathe North, but we had never heard of Olathe. I grew up in Coachella, California, and I was taught American history in Spanish so moving here was a shock. But this was the best move my parents could have made for my family,” she stated. “We came from such humble beginnings in Southern California, and we didn’t have opportunities. But coming from that very poor environment and then being exposed to everything in Olathe, I experienced a very good life. The opportunities were immense.”

She parlayed those prospects into higher education, beginning with a paralegal degree, which she hoped to use in an immigration law career. She went on to earn a BS from Friends University in Wichita. Then she received an MBA from Baker University in 2011. Along the way, she added 17-year-old Alexander Jacob (A.J.), and 7-year-old Abraham James to her life.

“I’ve been paving my way my whole life, and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made. Now, I want to help others break the cycle they are in. I want to be that person who changes the lives of many people out there,” she remarked. “If you’re black or brown, you can become what you want to become. I love being the only Latina in a crowd of others; I embrace it. I want to leave a mark on this earth to grow and make progress while honoring those who came before me and helping those who come after me.”

Beginning a New Journey
In 2007, Amanda moved into a commercial finance career, spending nearly two decades in that profession, culminating in an executive leadership position at a Kansas City corporation for 12 years. But she grew restless in her success, convinced there was something more she could do with her life and with her experience. In June 2019, she was terminated by her employer, which allowed Amanda to start the next chapter of her career. 

“When my employment ended, I had to refocus because my whole identity was tied to that company. At that point, I sat down and thought through what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t want to jump into another role and then spend the next ten-plus years building a company for someone else to end up empty-handed,” she noted. “I decided to build connections in the community and to get comfortable doing uncomfortable things while increasing my commitment to listen, learn and change. It was a big thing to reinvent myself. I was no longer Amanda Villarreal, the VP of this company. But I knew I could build my own firm. Josh Goode, who was my general manager at my former employer, had also left the business, but we stayed in touch. In late July 2019, we decided to build our own company. We had done it for others, so why not for ourselves? But as a single mother, it was scary as hell. I knew back then this was the best thing that could have happened to me. Now 18 months later and having founded two different businesses, I know it was the best thing that could have happened to me.” 

This was when PLEX Capital, which assists companies selling products and services in a business-to-business environment, was born. The partners raised the initial capital and began financing businesses throughout the U.S. with a big emphasis in Kansas City. Amanda provides working-capital solutions to small and medium-sized businesses by converting their accounts receivables into cash, which covers immediate overhead expenses. With her deep corporate experience, she grasps the nuances of running a business and the importance of having available cash resources to increase efficiency, expand production and grow.

“We created something out of thin air, and it helps you when you don’t know any better,” she laughed. “Sure, we had challenges and roadblocks to overcome, but we did it. Every month we’ve broken records, and for 2020 we hit all of our year-end goals in July, even in the middle of the pandemic.”

Financing Success for Others
Amanda serves many industries, including professional services and manufacturing. She’s focused on extending a hand to start-up ventures; companies that have expanded rapidly and have outgrown their working capital; businesses experiencing terminated and/or reduced lines of credit; seasonal businesses; companies undergoing a strained cash flow because of a slow turnover in receivables; and other roadblocks. Her own life experiences have motivated her to offer a lifeline to others when traditional fundraising is out of reach.

“It’s simple to get started with us; typically, it’s 48 hours or less to become a client. It’s not necessarily a loan but it’s based on a company’s receivables. We call it accounts receivable financing,” she explained. “It can be a high-risk business, but we’re not sharks; we don’t eat the profits of our clients. We’re a bit higher than traditional financing because we don’t require traditional collateral. Everything we’re doing is based on the client and the creditworthiness of their customers.”

Amanda notes that her company receives no governmental assistance in supplying these loans to individuals who are looking for an opportunity to succeed but can’t find the financing they need to realize their dreams. Her client base reflects those attempting to chart a new course for personal success; 90 percent are minority and female business owners.

“How do we make it even for minorities in the business world, regardless of their background? Minority entrepreneurs don’t have equal access to capital. That’s why people come to us,” she shared. “Everything is based on their receivables, and we pay our clients when the work is completed. This stabilizes their business to have funding, so they don’t have to wait 30, 60 to 90 days to get paid by their customer.”

Moving Around Societal Roadblocks
With decades of experience and knowledge, Amanda shared her thoughts on being a successful entrepreneur. It’s no surprise she encourages all of us to think outside the box.

“Society has conditioned every human being to be a certain way, but it’s an illusion. The systems put in place have been put in place by people no smarter than us, but we have to challenge the status quo. If you believe in your dream and you’re willing to put in the work, go do it,” Amanda pointed out. “Being born into poverty doesn’t mean that’s where you’re going to stay. This is a beautiful country that has given me the opportunity to grow, make progress and change the repeated cycles of my family. I removed the labels associated with being female and Latina, but you should realize that you can, too. It takes a lot, but I thrive in challenging the status quo and I’m competitive. Sure, I’ve had moments of fear, but I don’t let them control me.”

This entrepreneur who challenged herself to dream big prides herself in helping others achieve their goals. When things are bleak, Amanda urges them to search for opportunities to move around the roadblocks that society has erected. Her company may be the big break for those who have had their chances minimized due to their gender, race and more.

“I say utilize all of the labels that society has created and then go break them. Don’t allow the conditioning of society to define your life. We’re too focused on having these categories for people–black, brown, white–but I don’t allow them to control and define me,” she advised. “People relate to me and my story, and I have had an amazing opportunity to work with amazing entrepreneurs. I’m in a unique position to do that because of my life experiences, business skills and even being a mom. I want to bring a light of hope, an example for others, who might be in the dark. It’s a role I’m proud of as a Latina and an immigrant.”