It was a night for some of the nation's outstanding Hispanic entrepreneurs to stand up and be counted as Hispanic Business Media held its 16th annual EOY Awards Gala.
More than 600 business leaders and luminaries gathered November 9 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles to honor 15 men and women who have set a standard of excellence for up-and-coming business leaders in the Hispanic community.
"The story of 20th century Hispanic entrepreneurship is a dramatic one. Many of the individuals we will meet tonight are chronologically related to the pioneers who created the Hispanic enterprise marketers," Jesus Chavarria, editor and publisher of Hispanic Business magazine, told the evening's guests at an event themed, "It Begins With a Dream."
"This evening is about them and the companies they have created and which they lead."
This year's top award – the EOY, which honors the year's top Hispanic entrepreneur – went to Enrique Tessada, who founded a Springfield, Virginia-based business solutions company, Tessada & Associates, 13 years ago. He was chosen from among a group of 15 Hispanic entrepreneurs whose qualifications were assessed by a team of faculty members at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. Three finalists from five different award categories competed for the top honor.
Mr. Tessada also received the award for top entrepreneur in the Trade Industry category, one of five industry categories from which the 15 finalists were drawn. The other finalists in that space were Anthony Terrazas, chairman and CEO of TerraHealth in San Antonio, and Julian Rueda, president of Geo Services, Inc. in Naperville, Illinois.
Winners in other categories were:
•Rainier "Ray" Gonzalez of Miami-based Pacer Health Corp. won the Rising Star category. Other candidates were Capone De Leon, owner of ManJon Studios in San Antonio, and Anthony Valdez, president of A. Val Construction Corp. in Litchfield Park, Arizona.
•Yvonne "Bonnie" Garcia of Market Vision in San Antonio garnered the Latina prize. Other candidates were Lillian Jacquez, president of Aseo, Inc in El Paso, and Deborah Wainstein-Goodman, president of Priority Staffing Solutions in New York.
•Brothers John, James, Jody, Jonathan, and Jason Goodman, co-owners of Goodman Networks in Farmers Branch, Texas, claimed the InfoBusiness category. Other candidates were Javier Mariscal, president of Two Connect in Coral Gables, Florida, and Edgar Mejia, president and CEO of Conexion in Monterey Park, California.
•Tony Rey Sr., of Rey Homes in Orlando, Florida, won the Heavy Industry category. Other candidates were Luis Spinola, president and CEO of Azteca Enterprises in Dallas, and Frank Venegas Jr., chairman and CEO of The Ideal Group in Detroit.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dionicio Morales, founder of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), one of the largest Hispanic-serving nonprofits in the United States.
"There are few individuals among us today who can match the historical stature and profile of [Mr. Morales]," Mr. Chavarria said.
The entrepreneurial paths for this year's finalists were as varied as their businesses.
Pacer Health's Mr. Gonzalez, who won the Rising Star category, described his first taste of striking out on his own after leaving his post as an attorney earning a six-figure salary at a prestigious law firm.
"I remember the first feeling of being an entrepreneur was in my rental apartment," Mr. Gonzales told the audience. "I got a letter saying, 'If you don't pay your rent we're going to be kicking you out.'"
The leap of faith paid off for the young entrepreneur who founded a health care company.
"It is a wonderful thing to be up here, it's a wonderful thing to be an entrepreneur," he said. "In reality the reward is just doing it and taking the risk; sometimes you're successful and sometimes you're not, but as long as you take the risk that's what the fun is."
To assist entrepreneurs of the future, two $1,500 Winner's Circle Scholarships – sponsored by Cadillac – were awarded at the gala. Winners were Saul del Real, majoring in business economics and global studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Gilberto M. de Jesus, a masters in business administration student at UCLA's Anderson School of Management.
Among the gala's speakers were Los Angeles County supervisor Gloria Molina, Hispanic Business's 2006 Woman of the Year, and last year's Hispanic Business EOY winner, David Hernandez, CEO of Liberty Power.
Melinda Guzman, general counsel for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and partner at the law firm of Goldsberry, Freeman & Guzman, was mistress of ceremonies for the black-tie dinner.
Headline sponsor for the gala was Cadillac. The evening's presenting sponsors were Sony/VAIO, Exxon Mobil, FedEx, American Airlines, and Choice Hotels International. Other sponsors included Microsoft, Bank of America, Sprint Nextel, and TGIC Wine Importers.
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