From a disruptive childhood to diving in to what’s now a thriving pool business
Very rarely does one’s first job become a lifelong career, but Jose Garcia, who emigrated from Chile, found his calling early on. Now, 30-some years later, he is still doing the work he did when he first got his student visa, leading him to become the embodiment of the American dream.
Garcia grew up in Chile until he was 7 or 8 years old, he said, when his parents divorced. When his mother remarried an American citizen who worked in Argentina, he followed. “When they got married, we ended up moving over there for about another 10 years or so where I did most of my school all the way up through high school,” Garcia said. “And my sister was born there, so there’s like lots of roots from that area.”
He said it was a hard decision to leave his childhood and family in South America. He was part of a traditional large family and enjoyed seeing his cousins, playing soccer and traveling while growing up, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity of coming to the United States.
“I was faced with a choice of either going back and staying with my Dad in Chile and my grandma—and I love both of them—but it also gave me an opportunity and a choice to move back to the States with my Mom, my stepdad and my sister and go to college here,” he said. “I thought it was amazing. The whole idea of the United States was always very appealing and definitely something that I dreamt about.” Garcia moved to the U.S. when he was about 17, and even though he was ahead from his schooling in Argentina and had enough credits to apply for colleges, he and his parents decided it was best for him to take an additional year of high school once in the States to adjust to the language and culture.
“That gave me the chance to really practice the language, get more comfortable with friends and not really have to worry too much about the academics,” he said. Garcia was in high school for roughly eight months before he took up business classes at Arizona State University.
Around that same time, he got his first job doing manual labor in his neighborhood; it was all he was allowed to do under his student visa. It wasn’t until a friend offered him a position at a pool supply store, and he jumped at the opportunity. “I worked there for about a year or more before I basically moved on to do my own thing In the same business,” he said. “My first job was in the pool business that I had never really left.” Garcia said the work became organic to him, and his education in business and management from ASU guided him toward what would become Barefoot Pools.
Once he understood the concept of economics, it clicked and he excelled quickly. Now, 30 plus years later, Garcia is still doing the job he had when he entered the U.S. and enjoys every minute of it. “It’s always been a lot of fun,” he said.
“Just to keep this is internal belief – I just believed in myself a lot and I never doubted that. I think if I was gonna tell myself something just to be reassured that those dreams, with effort and hard work, will come true. And that’s true for me and I think the same for most people.”