Working in the family business has brought this alumna true love, in more ways than one
By Donna Parker
Helping run one of the largest companies in San Antonio wasn’t at all a driving force during April Ancira Thompson’s early years, but Trinity University changed all that. Today, she is the vice president of Ancira Enterprises, the car company co-founded by her dad Ernesto Ancira in 1972.
“I started working for my dad when I was 16, but it was just for some summer money,” laughs April. “I wasn’t thinking ahead to getting any meaningful experience. I was just looking for typical teenage money to buy clothes.” Next, she waited tables at Chili’s for a while, gaining insight into customer service that cultivated a desire to go into marketing and advertising.
April’s uncle set up an interview for her for her senior year at Smith Barney in New York. The interview was not yet officially confirmed with a date when 9-11 hit. Armed with her degree in business administration, she totally repositioned her thinking, gearing it toward marketing and continuing her education at UTSA, where she received her MBA. That’s when she decided to sell cars and “absolutely fell in love with the business from there.”
“It was a complete surprise,” explains April. “I was such a shy child that mom and dad thought I’d be a starving artist locked away by myself. To come around like this and turn into someone very outgoing, specializing in people to people interaction, really began on the Trinity campus.”
April says she became much more confident and secure within herself at Trinity.
“I took freshman creative writing under Dr. Grissom and got the worst grade,” she chuckles, “but, it was my very favorite class because it got me out of my shell.”
Sensing she was onto something, April searched out the scariest class she could—public speaking—and signed up immediately. “It was a Trinity summer course with a Harvard professor and really offered direction in realigning your thoughts to express them in such a way that your audience could not only understand what you were explaining, but would be held captive by how you expressed yourself. A lot of that came with injecting a sense of humor into the speeches.”
Now, April is an accomplished speaker, frequently keynoting for such organizations as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the board of the United Way and has a long history of supporting non-profits like Habitat for Humanity, having become involved at an early age with her mother Robin, one of her strongest influencers.
This year, she raised $77,000 for the Brighton Center as Queen of the Vine and $38,000 for the ALS Foundation. “Next year,” she says enthusiastically, “the Boys and Girls Club!”
April and her family appear in most of the car company’s television advertising and she appreciates the positive comments from the San Antonio community about son Gunnar, age three, whom she calls, ‘little man,’ and daughter Hope, who is one.
“We’ve gotten such positive feedback about the commercials that any hesitation I had about putting my kids in the ads has been replaced with knowing that we are truly a family company.” April’s husband, Jason Thompson, whom she met at a Dealer Academy in Virginia, also appears in the ads, drawing on his extensive background in the industry gleaned from his family’s chain of car dealerships in Maryland.
Family is paramount for April, who says living as a full-time student on the Trinity campus provided her with a ‘second family’ of friends. She was a Chi Beta, who attended her “fair share of parties,” and all of the bridesmaids in her wedding were Beta sisters.
“Trinity was a great experience,” says April. “The friends I made and the education I gained gave me the confidence to feel good in my own skin. Now I feel I can hold my own with anyone in any conversation, no matter how powerful. When I start to feel intimidated, I just think to myself, ‘I’ve got this. I’ve got this.”
“I believe that Trinity delivers a tremendous education, but one that is underappreciated by the community. It’s like a secret, so I’m on a mission to raise awareness by serving on the University’s board of visitors. I am so lucky to have gone there because Trinity shaped everything that I’m doing now.”
You may contact April at aancira [at] ancira.com