News Column

Celebrating Business Heroes

December 2002, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Scott Williams

At this year’s Hispanic Business magazine EOY Gala, publisher Jesús Chavarría noted, "It is the determined, often lonely business visionary who really sets the wheels of change in motion for our society." Each year the magazine recognizes these heroes through the Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards.

During the course of the year, Hispanic Business receives hundreds of news releases, media kits, e-mails, and product samples from new and emerging small businesses. A select few possessing a remarkable business concept, marketing niche, organizational approach, or success story appear on these pages as winners of the 2002 Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards.

Miguel Mercado is an artist with an unusual medium – water. The CEO of Ocean Gallery in El Paso leads a team of engineers and designers in constructing aquaria, lagoon-style swimming pools, waterfalls, and water sculptures. Backyard lagoon created by Miguel Mercado.

The idea came in high school when Mr. Mercado cleaned aquaria that, although large and luxurious, lacked creativity. "They were big and they would make an impact, but they were all rectangular," he says. "There was nothing artistic to it."

Today he makes one-of-a-kind watery creations that invoke "good karma." A personal favorite is a 300-gallon, cube-shaped aquarium that spins slowly on one corner, like a die on a Las Vegas craps table.

Ocean Gallery’s products appeal to more than the eccentric rich. Companies incorporate water in their buildings because they think it brings good fortune. "A lot of people believe water creates positive vibes – and positive cash flow – in a business," Mr. Mercado says.
The founders of BLVD magazine are taking back the streets. They believe the streets have been kidnapped by Primedia, the media conglomerate that bought Lowrider magazine from Alberto Lopez in 1997. Cover of BLVD magazine

Now Mr. Lopez's brother Lonnie Lopez, former editor at Lowrider, and Elliot Gilbert, former creative director, have launched BLVD. The first issue hit the streets in October. Compared to Lowrider, BLVD will have a larger format and more photos of individual cars, according to Mr. Gilbert. He also plans to feature classier women who complement rather than compete with the road iron.

"We thought the cars deserved more than they were getting," he says. "We just thought the cars were fantastic, and we wanted to create a magazine that would reflect that."

Lowriding, originally a distinctive U.S. Hispanic automotive art form, has spread throughout the world. BLVD will reflect that with regular reports on lowriders in Mexico and Japan, Mr. Gilbert says.
Support hose doesn't enjoy a great reputation among the fashion-conscious. Those who need support hosiery usually endure their ugly appearance and heavy weight in an attempt to control the spread of spider and varicose veins. Dr. Zoraida Navarro

Zoraida Navarro, a South Florida doctor who treats varicose veins, has a solution. In its first year, her company Preferred Hosiery by Navarro has sold around 2,000 pairs of stockings, pantyhose, and socks (for men) at $20 to $30 each. Ms. Navarro says her "gradual compression hosiery" stops the spread of vein and circulation problems in the legs.

Unlike other support hose, Preferred Hosiery, which comes in a variety of colors and styles, uses a thin fiber that shapes and slims the legs.

"I felt that there was a market for a product that could help shape and give you some athletic and health benefits," Ms. Navarro says. She markets her products via the Internet at
"Personal branding is basically a collection of all the perceptions people have about us," says Peter Montoya, a California-based entrepreneur. "I like to say, 'If you are breathing, you are branding.'" Peter Montoya

Establishing a personal brand means making a conscious effort to put your best foot forward, a feat especially important to sales professionals. To help, Mr. Montoya publishes Personal Branding magazine and has a book on the concept. Mr. Montoya advises clients to specialize, become leaders in their field, and inject their personalities into business.

He points to Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and Martha Stewart as people with strong personal brands. Among Hispanics, Mr. Montoya admires Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos, and Oscar De La Hoya.

And his personal brand? "I'm doing everything I possibly can to attach my personal brand to the concept of personal branding," Mr. Montoya says.
"Beware The Hispanic Inquisition!" That's the title of a humorous skit written and performed by the Chicago theater group called Dramatic Diversity.

The ensemble company of Hispanics, African Americans, Anglos, and Asians performs Inquisition and other scenes for companies that want to address diversity issues in an entertaining and non-threatening way. Dramatic Diversity’s 20 actors and five writers help managers understand biases and stereotypes and get a feel for how people from other cultures react in the work environment. The company also has seven diversity professionals who lead post-performance discussions with the audience.

Harry Tapias, chief marketer for Dramatic Diversity, says the recent production of The Hispanic Inquisition helps explain the roles of Hispanics in Corporate America and highlights the differences across Spanish-speaking cultures. The show uses a humorous game-show format to explain how Hispanics understand and react to the organizational work environment.

To nominate a CEO for the 2003 Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards, send reader tips, news releases, product descriptions, photos, or media clips to:

Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards c/o Senior Editor Joel Russell Hispanic Business Magazine 425 Pine Avenue Santa Barbara, CA 93117

You may also fax information to (805)964-6139 or send it via e-mail to In evaluating entries, editors consider Hispanic CEOs of small companies with interesting or outstanding products, services, marketing methods, organizations, or track records.


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