Brightstar Corp.'s shining success illustrates how a driven entrepreneur's startup can grow quickly and exponentially, becoming a dominant global player in a sharply competitive industry.
R. Marcelo Claure launched Brightstar in 1997, distributing cell phones to Latin America out of a nondescript warehouse. By 2002, the Miami-based company had become the largest independent distributor of cell phones in Latin America.
Now, Brightstar is the world's largest wireless phone distribution and supply chain solutions company. And with Mr. Claure at its helm as president and CEO, it's aggressively expanding into North America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. It distributes in 49 countries, but that number may increase to as many as 65 in the next five years, Mr. Claure says.
The CEO's dedication to quality service and aggressive growth has produced annual revenue increases of more than 50 percent for nine consecutive years. In 2006, Brightstar posted revenues of $3.6 billion, earning the No. 1 spot on this year's Hispanic Business 500®. The company's 2007 revenues will likely grow by another billion dollars and its five-year plan calls for $10 billion in revenues, Mr. Claure says.
The 36-year-old son of a Bolivian diplomat has succeeded with the following deeply held philosophies: "You must have a vision and go at it with no fear, as if you have nothing to lose. In speeches, I tell young people that the only way to succeed is by taking risks."
Also: "The day that we stop exceeding our customers' expectations is the day that we will begin to stop existing."
His multicultural background is well suited to Brightstar's global expansion. Mr. Claure lived in several countries, including the Dominican Republic and Morocco. He attended high school in Bolivia and came to the United States in 1989 to attend Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts. After graduation, he worked with the head of Bolivia's soccer federation to help the nation's team qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
Mr. Claure later returned to the United States and purchased a cell phone retail store in Boston. "After developing a relationship with the owner, I bought the store for zero money down," Mr. Claure says. A year later, he had built a chain of 134 wireless stores throughout the Northeast.
He later sold the business and became president of Small World Communications, a cell phone chain based in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. After turning around the unprofitable chain, Mr. Claure started Brightstar with Dave Peterson, who is now vice-president of sales in Brightstar's Chicago office.
Mr. Claure sold some of his possessions to launch the project in October 1997. He named the company by combining the names of two top competitors, Coppell, Texas-based CellStar Corp. and Plainfield, Indiana-based Brightpoint Inc.
Brightstar did not undergo the typical lengthy entrepreneurial struggle for revenue and financing. The company raked in sales of $14 million during its first three months. Miami-based Ocean Bank granted Brightstar a $2 million loan. Suppliers such as BellSouth and Spain's Telefonica connected their bankers to Brightstar and growth has soared ever since.
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