In August 2001, Maria Merce Martin and her family moved from Venezuela to Weston, Florida, trying to escape horrific violence in their native country and joining thousands of others fleeing the Latin American country. It was a decision she has never regretted, even during a moment of concern when the 9/11 terrorist attack occurred one month later.  

“I didn’t think about giving up and moving back,” says Martin. “We don’t give up. I love this country. We’re very thankful for the opportunities we’ve had here.”

Those opportunities have proven fruitful for the energetic and vivacious Martin, who arrived with perfect timing—just as the Internet was blossoming into a major business tool. Now a U.S. citizen and proud of it, she didn’t just bring her entire family with her to a foreign country. She also brought along a company she had founded three years earlier, Optime Consulting, designed to hold the hands of Fortune 500 clients looking to reach international markets online.

Optime Consulting today is a privately held high-tech marketing consulting group with annual revenues of $7 million, 100 employees and offices in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Spain. Acting as a sort of middleman between high-tech companies and international customers, Optime counts such blue chip companies as Hewlett Packard, Citrix, Microsoft and Motorola as clients. Among other services, Optime designs and executes multilingual customer loyalty programs, online marketing strategies and social media campaigns. 

One of Optima’s clients is Avaya, the $5 billion business telecommunications company. Over the last 10 years of working together, Avaya’s vice president of marketing, Roberto Ricossa, has watched Optime grow to include a virtual Babylon of international linguists who speak English, Spanish, Portugese and French. He says their companies have grown together.

“Optime Consulting has been instrumental in all the programs we’ve launched, including a loyalty program for Latin American partners,” he says. “We developed the program together. I don’t consider them a vendor or supplier, I consider them a partner. They don’t just copy what other agencies do. They have such creativity—and passion for helping their customers to achieve their goals.”

Martin herself downplays her considerable career, preferring to focus on good health, family and charitable works. She intertwines all three with her business whenever she can.

Staying fit is a passion of Martin’s, which is obvious to anyone who meets the trim, perfectly-groomed 48-year-old. She says she is motivated to maintain good health by her parents’ experience. Her father, who lives in Venezuela, is blind due to diabetes and has other ailments.

“When I see my parents I see they don’t take care of themselves,” she says. “In order to get old with quality of life, you have to take care of yourself. My dream is to enjoy life with my kids and grandkids.”

To spread the gospel of good health to others—and also help the community she has grown to love as well as celebrate 15 years in business—Martin held a 5K run September 15 at Markham Park in Sunrise. With sponsorships from Whole Foods, Offerdahl’s, Midtown Athletic Club and others, the race raised $15,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Optime hopes to make it an annual event.

When Martin first approached certain sponsors about the race, they were skeptical. “‘Don’t think of having more than 400 participants in your first race,’ they told me,” she says. But, with her marketing prowess and Fortune 500 company contacts, Martin knew she could do better. And she was right: More than 1,000 people jogged, ran and walked that day.

Martin lives in the city where Optime is based, nicknamed “Westonvuela” because of the large influx of Venezuelans there—so much so that she sometimes bumps into people she knew back home. She lives with her husband, Guillermo Palm, who runs a computer and network security company called Odveloper, and their two children, Andrea, 20, a student at Notre Dame University, and Michelle, 13, a student at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.  

When she misses her homeland, Martin knows where to turn—the local gas station, which houses a PANNA Café Express where Martin can grab an empanada or desgrenado and, for a few minutes, feel like she’s back in Caracas.