Paso del Norte Entrepreneurship Oral History Project
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Patti Holland Branch was born on March 29, 1944 in Chihuahua, México. Patty grew up in El Paso, Texas and is the daughter of Israel Ayrton Zangwill and Sarah Olivarez. Patti’s father was from England and a metallurgical engineer for ASARCO. Patti’s mother became a successful artist painting and sculpting. Patti attended Crockett Elementary, Austin High School and Texas Western College (UTEP), El Paso Community College and The University of Texas at El Paso. She is the owner and founder of Facilities Connection, Inc. She is married with children and currently resides in El Paso, Texas.
Summary of Interview
Patti Holland Branch began developing her skills as an entrepreneur when she was around the age of 8. Patti purchased a weave machine to make pot holders and sold them around the neighborhood to earn money for her family. Patti would also host a summer school for the kids in her neighborhood and would receive gifts of cash for her efforts. When Patti was a teenager, she worked for the Mayor’s office creating a scrapbook. She eventually earned the Dorrance D. Roderick scholarship to attend Texas Western College. Patti married her husband and they moved to Germany for his work as a civil engineer in the United States Army. When they returned to the United States, Patti and her husband wanted to buy a home, but could not afford the types of homes they were finding, so they decided to build their home with their skills. Patti became the subcontractor and the general contractor. After their first home was completed, people purchasing homes in that area turned to Patti for assistance and that is how she got started in the developing business. She moved to Alaska with her family and after they returned, Patti and her husband decided to get back into development here in El Paso. Through different projects and situations, Patti learned how to maneuver residential development and concluded that she’d rather work in commercial design. Patti attended El Paso Community College and gained a formal education in commercial design. She worked in an internship with BPSI for almost three years and during her time there Patti learned a lot about the industry. Patti experienced gender discrimination, not earning the same amount of money for a project as a male counterpart would earn. Patti also experienced gender discrimination because she was a woman in a male dominated business in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She also faced challenges getting a line of credit to help expand her business, but Patti always worked through each obstacle, learning as much as she could, regardless of the outcome. Patti has done work for The University of Texas at El Paso, Southwestern Bell, as well as work in other cities in the U.S., maquiladoras in México, and corporations in Japan. Patti is 8(a) certified Patti’s business is certified under the National Minority Supplier Development Council, she received assistance from the United States Small Business Administration, she has been Chairman of the Board of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, and is a part of the Armed Forces Committee, as well as the board of the Federal Reserve Bank, on the board for the El Paso Community College Design Department, she served on the and she is a part of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Patti helps to fundraise for the Eugene Pate Scholarship for El Paso Community College, she chairs the Christmas Symphony which is also a scholarship fundraising event, and she helps with the Gary Del Palacio Golf Tournament. In addition, Patti makes time to mentor students. The advice Patti offers to entrepreneurs is to always surround yourself with people a lot smarter than you, remember flexibility is key to success, be willing to change, work hard, be honest and don’t lose your integrity.
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Interview with Patti Holland Branch by Kristine Navarro, 2010, "Interview no. 1492," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.