The Century Plaza Hotel, located on the Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles, has over the years hosted numerous tributes to some of the biggest names in show business. But on Nov. 20, 2003, it was the CEOs' turn to take the stage for the Hispanic Business Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) 2003 Awards.
The celebration of entrepreneurship began in the afternoon, when most of the 15 finalists and a few invited guests met with Hispanic Business staff in a private meeting room. The discussion centered on the future evolution of the U.S. Hispanic economy, with a consensus that access to capital and education were key issues to help small Hispanic firms transition to the middle market.
Less than an hour later the group reconvened in formal attire for a gala reception. Nearly 500 people attended the black-tie event, which featured artwork by Jack Alvarez and the newest models of Ford cars and trucks.
Maria Hinojosa, urban affairs correspondent for CNN and host of National Public Radio's "Latino USA," acted as mistress of ceremonies for the special event. Three finalists in each of five categories competed for the EOY Awards with one winner from each category taking home a trophy (see accompanying profiles).
Headline sponsors for the evening were Ford Motor Co. and Office Depot. Publisher Jesús Chavarría noted Hispanic Business readers "represent a significant share of drivers of Ford autos and trucks," while Office Depot has emerged rapidly to become "one of the best-known brands in the world of business." Delta Airlines acted as travel sponsor for the event. Community sponsors included Pharmed Group, Monterrey Security Consultants, Olé Mexican Foods, Schieffelin & Somerset, and Union Bank.
This year the EOY unveiled the Lifetime Achievement Awards, which recognize individual Hispanic leaders who have impacted the community for a long span of their career. The inaugural winners were Daisy Expósito-Ulla, CEO of advertising agency The Bravo Group, and Antonio Flores, director of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (see accompanying profiles).
The evening ended with the announcement of the Entrepreneur of the Year, chosen from among the five category winners. Mr. Chavarría and Ken Macias, whose accounting firm Macias Gini & Co. handled the judging of the awards, presented the EOY Award to Marcelo Claure, CEO of Miami-based Brightstar Corp.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD WINNERS
Antonio Flores, CEO
Antonio Flores deserves to be proud of his tenure leading the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). Under his leadership, the organization has grown by 18 percent each year, more than tripled its budget, and expanded its programs three-fold.
Mr. Flores has spent his entire career in higher education. He has worked as a teacher and administrator at private and public institutions, conducted research, and supported state and national advancement initiatives.
Based in San Antonio and Washington, D.C., HACU has 330 member schools that collectively enroll more than two-thirds of all U.S. Hispanic students in higher education. "This [Lifetime Achievement] award belongs to the outstanding leaders of every member college or university of HACU who daily champions the college and career success of our Hispanic students," says Mr. Flores.
Daisy Expósito-Ulla, CEO
The Bravo Group
Daisy Expósito-Ulla has seen the New York-based Bravo Group grow from less than $5 million in billings in 1985 to an estimated $280 million in 2002. Bravo stands as the largest advertising agency in the Hispanic market.
Cuban-born Ms. Expósito-Ulla started as creative director at Bravo and has held the positions of senior vice president and general manager and president and chief creative officer. In her role as chairman and CEO, she has the expanded responsibility of overseeing a group of multicultural agencies that includes Bravo, Mosaica (a multicultural agency), and Kang and Lee (the leading Asian agency in the United States).
"I still feel midway through a trip on a road of promise, challenge, and invention," she said upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. "There's still plenty of unexplored land, and I'm ready to continue ahead with the same love for what I do and the same passion for my people."
EOY CATEGORY WINNERS
Jorge & Carlos de Céspedes
The Pharmed Group
In 1980, Jorge and Carlos de Céspedes left their jobs at SmithKline Beecham to start their own business. The brothers' Miami-based Pharmed Group has grown from a one-room operation to the country's largest minority-owned distributor of medical, surgical, and rehabilitative supplies and pharmaceuticals. In 2002, revenues exceeded $560 million.
Pharmed offers same-day delivery and has a multilingual customer service staff that takes orders in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The 240-employee company has introduced generic products as well as its private-label brands in Latin America, distributing directly from its Miami facility to regional operations in Panama, Costa Rica, and Brazil.
In his 23 years as an entrepreneur, Jorge de Céspedes has come to believe that big dreams are the key to success: "Dream big," he advises. "If you dream small, you will settle for small."
If Veronica Moreno has her way, Olé Foods will be a household name by 2005. By then the co-founder plans to have the company's authentic Mexican tortillas and high-quality foods on grocery store shelves in every state. Currently, the company supplies grocers and restaurants in 38 states and in Puerto Rico.
"We have broadened our advertising and marketing plans for the upcoming year, and we are working to educate non-Hispanic consumers on the preparation of authentic Mexican meals for their families," says Ms. Moreno, who started the Georgia-based company in 1987.
Demand for Olé's products was so great in 2003 that sales exceeded production capacity. A refitting of the production lines with new components enabled the 425-employee firm to solve the problem quickly and had the bonus side effect of nearly tripling yield.
Juan Gaytan Jr.
Monterrey Security Consultants
A dilapidated building in the predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago may have been an "eyesore for many," but according to Juan Gaytan, there was an "opportunity to develop it into a state-of-the-art security command center."
In 1999, Mr. Gaytan started Monterrey Security Consultants Inc. with the mission to hire from the local community and "give people a chance to work in our field who would not necessarily have had the opportunity to do so." He says that by conducting in-house training of his private protection staff, he is better able to meet specific client needs and is best positioned to fill local employment opportunities. With 2002 revenues of nearly $4.5 million and a staff of more than 300, the company has found a successful niche.
Mr. Gaytan offers three pieces of advice to would-be entrepreneurs: build a solid foundation of family and friends, conduct your business with passion and commitment, and be willing to work hard and accept new ideas and advice.
Carlos Sanchez & Guiomar Obregon
Precision 2000 Inc.
Airport construction may not seem harder than any other type of construction, but at one of the world's busiest airports, diverting traffic to patch a runway is not an option.
When Atlanta-based Precision 2000 participated in the repair of taxiways and runways at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, company President Carlos Sanchez and CEO Guiomar Obregon had a one-night window of seven hours to get the job finished. They did it by investing in new machinery to expedite the most time-consuming stage of the work.
"Whatever you choose to do, do it right," says Mr. Sanchez. "By providing a good and consistent service, it's possible to have repeat business and referrals." The strategy paid off for Precision 2000, which nearly tripled its revenues from $1.2 million in 2001 to $3.5 million in 2002.
Latina: Alba Aleman, Cairo Corp., Manassas, VA; Marisa Jeakle, Filmateria, Seattle, WA. Heavy Industry: Frank Otero, PACO Group, New York, NY; Gregg Reyes, Reytec Construction Resources, Houston, TX. Trade Industry: Miguel Fernandez, CarePlus Health Plans, Coral Gables, FL; Alex Garcia, El Taller Colaborativo, Newark, NJ. InfoBusiness: Danny R. Pedregon, Communication Experts, El Paso, TX; Santiago Pozo, Arenas Entertainment, Beverly Hills, CA. Rising Star: Tony Medrano, SEED Enterprise, San Diego, CA; Rudy Ruiz, Interlex, San Antonio, TX.