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OCBJ INSIDER

In 1999, the “Los Kitos” comic strip appeared in 225 newspapers, making it the No. 1 syndicated Hispanic comic strip in the U.S., and the first Hispanic comic strip to be featured in the OC Register.

The local creator of the comic—which translates to “Little Dolls”—was Martha Montoya, a Colombian immigrant. Then in her 30s, she was a Business Journal Women in Business Award winner in 1999, the fifth edition of what’s now our longest-running award event.

Montoya clearly had a mind for business while making the comic; in addition to staking out broadcast opportunities, at the time she also had won contracts from banks, the U.S. Postal Service and others to license the “Los Kitos” characters—with heads like jelly beans and animals—to, as a Wall Street Journal profile said, “inform their Spanish-speaking customers about everything from how to use automated teller machines to how to address an envelope when mailing a letter.”

“I have made a serious effort to make life easier for immigrants,” she said at the time.

She would take the name and artwork to a new food-focused venture she ran, Los Kitos Produce, part of a multi-decade career in the agriculture industry, with a particular focus on helping better inform minority growers and other farmers about how to best run their operations.

That work’s been borne out in her latest venture, Agtools, a fast-growing data analytics platform for farmers and buyers.

Montoya’s work with Agtools earned her a Business Journal Innovator of the Year award on Sept. 24; profiles on the five IOTY winners are featured in this week’s edition, as are nominees for the upcoming 26th edition of the Women in Business Awards, being held virtually on Oct. 28.

The 21-year bridge between OCBJ awards is the largest on record, for now.

Montoya’s tip for longevity in the business world? As she said in her 1999 profile: “Someone once said, ‘there are two kinds of people—the quick and the dead.’ It doesn’t matter who said that because he was quick, and now he’s dead.”

Prior to testing positive for COVID-19, a Trump Make America Great Again Committee social media post late last week hinted at a campaign stop for the president early this week in the L.A. area—noting it was not a meeting with “Hollywood ELITES who HATE US,” but rather “REAL Patriots.”

The Insider hears at least one planned stop for Trump during the quick West Coast swing was Lido Island, at the home of Palmer Luckey, one of the area’s top financial backers of his campaign this go-around.

Newport Beach sports agent Leigh Steinberg and partner Chris Cabott appear to be making the rounds of the area’s sports-related product makers on behalf of their top client.

QB Patrick Mahomes last Thursday announced he’d joined Irvine performance recovery technology company Hyperice as an investor and brand ambassador. Terms of the equity stake weren’t disclosed.

Hyperice, founded in 2010 and one of OC’s faster-growing private companies, is best known for its Hypervolt massage device. It’s approaching $200M in annual sales.

The Kansas City Chiefs star’s first big national endorsement was in 2019, when he partnered with Foothill Ranch sunglass maker Oakley.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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