UW-Eau Claire student gives back to community through club

Senior Alex Martinez adapts business lessons to real-life club



Story by Austin Mai, Editor in Chief

When a green-thumb places soil, plants a seed and starts to water it, they never know how big or how fast it’ll grow. Senior Alex Martinez has held a similar role, but instead of gardening, he started a club with the idea of breaking down barriers in the automotive community.

Martinez, a car enthusiast, witnessed lots of disdain between car owners. He believed people spent too much time on hostile arguments with each other about topics ranging from different car brands to the different subgenres of cars, such as muscle versus tuner or trucks versus cars.

So in Dec. 2013, the then 18-year-old made a Facebook page called the “Wisconsin Car Enthusiasts Club,” but more commonly referred to by its acronym WCEC. The page consisted of 18 of his closest friends and family who all held their own interests in cars.

“I wanted to try and create a community of people here in Eau Claire that I could talk to, learn and continue to grow my knowledge, of cars and in general,” Martinez said. “I invited about ten or twelve of my friends, I made a vision statement and a core purpose: To create a community of individuals from all walks of life to come together and better themselves.”

Creation and growth

What happened over the next six months sometimes still comes as a shock to Martinez. The group’s membership expanded rapidly, and by May 2014 the club had reached 6000 members. Not only did Martinez handle the new flow of page-posters and commenters, but the car decals and t-shirts he originally created for the first few hundred members were becoming very popular with the ever-growing membership.

“When hundreds of orders started to come in that’s when I knew we were on to something here,” WCEC member and Martinez’s girlfriend Rebekah Donnelly said. “That’s when Alex recruited me and a friend to help him with the distribution.”

Martinez’s club was growing faster than he had ever anticipated, but after the first six-month membership boom, he decided he needed to treat this operation as professionally as possible.

Guidelines were set for members on the page, including rules as to what’s appropriate to post and what’s inappropriate to do on the page. Every now and then members would lose their cool and get heated over the classic battle of “Ford versus Chevy” and would start to use very aggressive language over something meant to be an enjoyable hobby.

“If I had the ability to moderate and remove members, we’d be down to ten percent of our membership,” Donnelly said between laughs. “Alex does a much better job trying to be understanding and giving people a shot to redeem themselves.”

Fast forward to Sept. 2015: WCEC has more than 28000 members. A staggering figure considering the original intent of the group, but what might be more impressive is that the values Martinez created the group around nearly two years ago still stands strong and serves as the backbone for what has become a legitimate organization and operation.

Well before now, Martinez formed his own limited liability company to operate the group as it continued to expand and develop different aspects.

“Once we had a few hundred members join from out-of-state and had thousands of members from within the state, we knew we could start doing meet-ups,” Martinez said.

Personal development

Martinez is a management major with three semesters left until he graduates from the university. With a 16-credit semester this fall, he still finds the time to facilitate the needs of the nearly 30000 members who affectionately and sometimes mockingly refer to him as dad and Donnelly as mom.

“It’s been more fun than I could have ever imagined,” Martinez said. “Just because of the fun nature of the interactions, it hardly feels like work sometimes.”

Even with classes and the club, Martinez works nearly 30 hours weekly at a local Royal Credit Union as a financial service representative. He aids customers with loan financing and options.

He then combs through the few remaining hours in his week and spends 10-20 hours weekly working on his other hobby, photography.

“Wedding season is upon us,” Martinez said. “I’ll probably be busy with shoots as well until at least November.”

He operates that facet of his life under the company AM Productions, under the same LLC which operates WCEC.

“You can tell pretty early on that he’s an interesting young man,” Accounting and finance senior lecturer Thomas Mihajlov said.


Mihajlov previously taught Martinez in a management course and spoke highly of him, including his success in the classroom and his “sparkling” personality.

“He has a great array of talents,” Mihajlov said. “We connected on a variety of interests, which made him unique.”

No U-turns

Despite the group’s size and it’s expansion through other states, reaching as far as Oklahoma and South Carolina, Martinez still prioritizes the club’s original focus of the sense of community. He believes some of that can be attributed to not having any membership fees and the only major requirement is to be respectful of one another. However, WCEC has made some money off decals and t-shirts sales.

“After collecting significant money from merchandise sales, we knew there was something better we could do with it,” Martinez said.

Martinez and the club began to create events and over the past year and a half, these events have raised money and supplies for charitable foundations.

The club’s latest event took place during July in Appleton and it collected 500-750 items and donated them to St. Francis food pantry, Martinez said. Along with that, a cash donation was made to the Wounded Warrior Project, he said.

With five events in the books this year, WCEC has a two-day event happening later this month on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 in Eau Claire. The club is having a night cruise through the region starting at nightfall, meeting at O’Reilly Auto Parts on South Hastings Way.

The next day’s activities will start at 1 p.m. at Action City on the south side of Eau Claire.

“I’m really proud of him,” Donnelly said. “Myself and others do what we can to help but what’s happened so far is so great.”

Martinez is happy with what he and his team have been able to accomplish is just under two years. However, his business-psyche can’t let him settle for complacency. Instead, he has engineered a five-year-plan and plans to run by that until the next plan is determined.

“Between Bekah and the club, it’s provided me such an opportunity to grow as a person and really decide what I want to do with my life,” Martinez said. “I want to create businesses and create revenue. Then take that revenue and help people. That’s what I want to do.”