Undeterred! 8

Millionaire businesswoman Tina Aldatz overcame tremendous odds on her road to success.

How can a high school dropout become a millionaire entrepreneur? The story of Tina Aldatz’s rise to fame and fortune is quite remarkable.

Tina Aldatz’s father was a gang member addicted to heroin, and her mother was a hair stylist who loved to party, drink and smoke pot.

“My parents fought all the time,” Tina says. “It eventually turned violent, and my dad almost murdered my mother. After that, my sister Angela and my brother Rocky and I were put in the Good Shepard Shelter for battered women in Los Angeles with our mother.

Within a short time, Tina’s mother, Phylis, moved everyone to Buena Park to live with her brother George “Butch” Tuthill and his wife Patty, where they survived on government assistance. Soon, however, they were back to moving from apartment to apartment because her mother couldn’t pay the rent. It was during this time that the children found their mother trading food stamps for beer and cigarettes, and they had nothing to eat.

“I was nine years old, and mother simply didn’t want to be a mother anymore, so we were on our own,” Tina says. “We would go to a store where one of us would spill a drink while the others stole candy. We sold the candy at school to buy food. Angela cooked for us­–her specialty was huge pots of beans–I cleaned and Rocky handled the money.”

By the time Tina was 11, her mother was abusing her, and she went to live with her father in Arizona. She led an unsettled life, with her father taking her on a three-state fraudulent check-cashing spree. By this time, Tina’s father had a new girlfriend and a baby girl. Tina and the new girlfriend didn’t get along. When Tina’s grandfather, Jesus Aldatz, who she was close to, died in Los Angeles, she went to the funeral and never returned. Her father couldn’t attend the funeral because he was wanted by the FBI.

Now 13, Tina moved back with her cocaine-addicted mother, and when she became abusive again, Tina moved in with a family friend and attended Fullerton High School. By age 16, she obtained her high school equivalency, rented her room for $150 a month and worked bagging groceries at Albertson’s until age 17, when she began working as a receptionist for Parnelli Jones in Dominguez Hills.

Soon, Tina was heading to a new retail adventure. She attempted to work the makeup counter at Nordstrom South Coast Plaza before she landed an assistant manager position at South Coast Plaza’s Victoria’s Secret, where she spearheaded its new fragrance business. A few years later, she was manager at Victoria’s Secret in Manhattan, its flagship store, and, a few years after that, she moved to BCBG Max Azria, becoming the top merchandizer in the company.

Her broken family beckoned, however, and three years later, Tina was back in Los Angeles working for BCBG. She had been sending money to her brothers and sisters for years, but now there were other children to consider. Her father had three more children through another girlfriend and this girlfriend, who moved on, had three more children with another man. The father of the second set of children was also abusive and wanted nothing to do with them, so they ended up in a shelter, ironically the same shelter Tina and her siblings were in 20 years earlier.

“I took them out of the shelter and, through child protective services, I took Eric and Richard to live with me, and Angela took Kady because she had a daughter,” Tina says.

The year was 2001, and Tina’s life experiences were to put her on a course to success beyond her wildest dreams. Because of a childhood third-degree burn injury when she walked on buried hot coals at the beach, she was prone to foot blisters, which were exacerbated by wearing high heels working in Manhattan.

“I was cushioning my feet in orthopedic inserts. They looked terrible and didn’t alleviate the pain,” Tina says.

The idea for Foot Petals was born. Tina diligently set out to find a material that would work for her designer shoe pads and discovered Poron. She then asked her best friend and sales guru Margie Floris, who she had worked with at BCBG Max Azria, what she thought of the product, and Floris loved it, eventually becoming the company’s vice president.

To fund the business, Tina maxed her credit cards and cashed out her 401(k), but she still needed an investor. She found him in the relative of a friend, who put up $250,000 for 50% of the company.

The orders took off, but suddenly cancelled after 9/11. That’s when Tina and Margie decided to switch gears and instead of selling to high-end retailers, sell to mom and pop stores. Over 10 years, sales increased an average of 300% a year, and by 2010, the company reached more than $10 million in sales. Tina sold Foot Petals in 2011 to R.G Barry Corp. for $14 million.

Along the way, Tina was featured as an “Entrepreneur to Watch” in Forbes Magazine, Comerica Bank Women in Business Awards’ “Woman of Entrepreneurship,” “Business Woman of the Year” by the National Latina Business Women Association, and Inc. Magazine listed Foot Petals in its “Top 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies in the U.S.”

This whip-smart, hard-working lady has not slowed down. She decided that giving back was in order and has been sharing her story at shelters, universities and women’s business groups across the country. A resident of Nellie Gail Ranch in Laguna Hills, Tina is a member of Hispanic 100’s board of directors, where she chairs its Mentor Program to help young, goal-oriented Latinos between the ages of 18 and 24 become successful in business and civic responsibility through relationships with successful Hispanic professionals. She also supports Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, Girls, Inc. and an endowment she created through Foot Petals for the Two Ten Foundation, which provides scholarships to women in the footwear industry.

In 2014, Tina debuted her autobiography, From Stilettos to the Stock Exchange, which details her life story and uplifting road to success. She shares her six essentials for business success–the three M’s or best practices: money, marketing and management, and the three R’s or core values: reputation, resourcefulness and resilience.

As of September, 2015, Tina and Margie launched Savvy Travelers for on-the-go consumers and travelers. It is a lifestyle, health and wellness company, whose daily-use products replace the small liquid items that fliers with carry-on luggage must keep in a one-quart bag, making travel simple, smart and safe.

Tina credits her success to a day in the fourth grade at Beatty Elementary School in Buena Park when she saw one of her classmates picked up in a limousine.

“I remember thinking that I wanted to be there someday,” she says.

Her dream was borne out through drawing pictures of herself in business suits and carrying a briefcase–a portent of her life to come.

Little did she know then that that was exactly where she was headed.