Creating unity in diversity

Feb 17, 2022 | Business, Front Page

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

When Cecilia Ponce de Leon and her husband, Michael, bought CAPRE Real Estate and moved to the mountain three years ago, they were no strangers to the community.

For many years, Ponce de Leon had had a vacation home on the mountain and would come up on weekends with her two sons, who are now adults.

Ponce de Leon was born in Los Angeles and raised in the City of Industry. She moved to Diamond Bar with her sons for the excellent schools there. Once her sons went off to college, she moved to Upland, where she still maintains a home.

“I go there on my weekend – Tuesday and Wednesday – for a rest,” Ponce de Leon said.

While attending college – she has an associate of arts degree in sociology from Mt. San Antonio and a bachelor of business degree from the University of Phoenix – Ponce de Leon worked at the superior court in Fullerton. She was the first in her family to graduate from college.

“I realized other women in my position needed help,” Ponce de Leon said. She started the Inland Empire branch of the National Latina Businesswomen Association in 2017. Her goal was to help other Latina women get an education, learn how to run a business.

One woman who joined the association owned a flower shop she was in danger of losing. “I hired a professor from UCLA to teach a course on how to get a DBA, how to file taxes. Now that woman has three shops.”

Another woman, who was working as a janitor, now owns her own million-dollar company.
“They didn’t know what they didn’t know,” Ponce de Leon said.

“I believe in creating leaders. I saw which ones I knew would be great leaders – they really cared about the community.”

Ponce de Leon, who served as president of the National Latina Businesswomen Association Inland Empire, is still involved and runs a business camp for the members. “It’s a beautiful thing when you see the results,” she said. “To go from almost losing your business to having a sustainable career.”

That has not been Ponce de Leon’s only involvement in the Latina community. She served on the Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and sits on the VIP Latina Business Council advisory board. In addition, she is still president of ELLA, a program for young women.

“I would go to universities and teach business etiquette,” Ponce de Leon said, “as well as classes on how to invest money, how to interview, even how to shake someone’s hand.”

As a member of the board of the Lake Arrowhead Communities Chamber of Commerce, she is hoping to foster relationships with local universities, perhaps offering a job fair up here. “That would be good for mountain youth attending universities down the hill,” she said.

Following her time at the court in Fullerton, Ponce de Leon joined New York Life, becoming their corporate Latino market manager. Through that position, she was able to foster entrepreneurs and work toward her goal: creating unity in diversity and prosperity for all.

And while she held these other career positions, Ponce de Leon always had her real estate license. When her boys were young, they looked for properties for her. “They were in business as young boys!” she said.

When a person purchases a house, Ponce de Leon noted, “they are not just buying a building. We are creating a relationship forever and ever. That’s how you grow your business.

“You’ll be their go-to professional. When we close escrow, we give our clients a gift and put them in our database. We send out a newsletter every month. And, if they ever need anything – a plumber, an electrician, a handyman – they know to call us. If they have bought a vacation home, they call us to check on their house.”

In addition to the chamber board, Ponce de Leon serves on the Mountains Community Hospital Foundation board and the Rim of the World Educational Foundation board.

Years ago, Ponce de Leon visited an orphanage for babies in Mexico with a friend who had invited her to go along. The woman in charge told her about another orphanage, Casa Hogar de Ninos in Tijuana, where 32 children live. She started visiting that orphanage and continues to visit every quarter, bringing school supplies, clothing, blankets and food. Now, she noted, there is a Costco nearby so she can place an order for the orphanage personnel to pick up.

Since purchasing CAPRE, Cecilia and Michael Ponce de Leon have also purchased Marks Management and the gas station in Cedar Glen, now called Sarellano Garage Auto Care & Gas, which is being run by Roberto Sarellano, the mechanic who had worked there for years, with the help of his sons, Luis and Pedro.

“I love the mountain,” Ponce de Leon said. “It’s like a small community – everyone knows everybody. You go to the market and see friendly faces. You can go to the hospital and know people there. It doesn’t matter where you go, you see a smiling face.”

One thing she teaches her new agents, Ponce de Leon said, is to get involved with the community. “You have to earn your way. You don’t ask for it, you earn it.”

Looking ahead to the future, beyond the pandemic, Ponce de Leon would like to see mountain residents and businesses working together as a community. “We need to find a way to bring music and fun back into people’s lives again. The summer concerts will help. People come out and dance, release energy.

“I’d like to see us create forums where people can come together. I have so many dreams – we have to work on one thing at a time.”



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