At Home With Heather Finlay & Greg Flores
Heather Finlay and her husband Greg Flores understand the importance of home more than most. Finlay is CEO at YWCA of San Diego County, which helps abused women and men, children, and families break the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness, and build self-reliance. Her experience as a former real estate developer proved invaluable at the YWCA, where as a volunteer, she helped complete the second Becky’s House, a 14-unit apartment project, in 2007. (There are now four.)
Watching families move into their new, safe homes was a profound experience for Finlay. “When I found out that one in four women are victims of domestic violence [one in seven men], I just decided I had to be involved, and I had to try to help, and I had to do all I could to provide more housing because housing is absolutely key. If you can provide a safe place for these families to go, they have a major shot at rebuilding their lives, determining how they’re going to support themselves, and not go back to their abusers.”
The Carmel Valley home she shares with Flores, the successful entrepreneur who co-founded MP3.com among others, is comfortable, casual, and livable. The “formal” living room, for instance, sports a billiard table. And there’s more than a touch of whimsy. A dragon peers down from the high ceiling of their circular dining room, hung with a massive chandelier, the walls hand-painted to resemble the stones of a castle. “I’ve always loved dragons,” explains Finlay, who displays her collection of the mythical creatures, gifts from friends over the years. “I thought it would be fun to paint a dragon on the ceiling. Sometimes you just want to do something different, a little unique.” The couple delights in decorating the dining room for Halloween, which has become a favorite haunt for neighborhood children.
The house also includes a media room, a family room, and a spacious kitchen where the Texas-bred Flores makes Mexican food — enchiladas and chili are favorites. While they appreciate good food and wine, and often eat out, the couple prefers time at home. Their favorite “room” is outside — the backyard patio with a pool, spa, palapa, barbecue, and stacked rock wall with a waterfall. It’s an oasis, a soothing retreat where they can re-connect with nature, re-energize, and take a respite from their busy lives.
The couple met as students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas — he was the son of a San Antonio police officer; her father was a B-52 pilot in the Air Force. They settled in Carmel Valley in 2004 after years of commuting for their burgeoning careers. While Finlay helped create and build apartments for JPI Realty — she was the company’s first female partner — Flores co-founded MP3.com with Michael Robertson in 1997, selling the company just a few years later for nearly $400 million. (Not bad, considering they bought the URL for about $1,500.) Flores went on to co-found AutoSpies.com, a source for inside car information, and Animusic, a content creation company focused on the computer animation of music. He is also CEO of Pro Heraldica USA, which provides professional genealogy services, using a network of hundreds of researchers around Europe and North America. “If you really want to find out about your family,” says Flores, “you need a professional, simply for the main reason that 95 percent of the records are not online yet. They’re sitting in archives somewhere in the world.” His related venture, Fine Legacy, helps families research or create coats of arms and family crests, based on their ancestry, history, and philosophy.
Not just for nobility and royalty, coats of arms have served as signatures throughout history, he says. “The reason coats of arms came about was that even the wealthy, the people who were buying land, cattle, whatever, they weren’t literate,” explains Flores, “so they would commission a coat of arms to be created for the family to use as their signature.” In modern times, he says, coats of arms serve as “a connection with family,” a “rallying symbol.”
Philanthropy is a constant in the couple’s lives. They support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Flores is the “wine guy” at the annual gala), and of course, the YWCA. Flores dons high heels every fall for “Walk a Mile in my Shoes,” to raise funds for the Becky’s House domestic violence programs, which include a hotline, emergency shelter, transitional housing, and support services.
“We are super grateful that we can be part of this organization,” says Finlay, “that we can give back in this way and try to make a difference.” The public can make a difference, too, this holiday season by fulfilling family wish lists or donating via the organization’s Web site. (www.ywcsandiego.org) ANDREA NAVERSEN
Photography by Vincent Knakal