Top Latino Entrepreneurs Recount Trials and Triumphs of Starting Up in the U.S.
By Kerry Close Inc.com
Edwin Matos co-founded drug-safety consulting company BioPoint in 2011, but his dreams of becoming a successful business owner began long before that, when he was the young son of immigrants growing up in the Bronx.
Matos’s father, who hails from a family of cattle ranchers in Cuba, fled the island nation in 1967. After making the treacherous journey to the U.S. on a raft, he met Matos’s mother, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. The two started a chain of butcher shops in the Bronx.
Their efforts inspired their son, who worked in the family business throughout his youth, to pursue his own dreams of entrepreneurship.
“My background was really an asset to me,” says Matos, whose Wakefield, Massachusetts-based company ranked 49th on the overall 2015 Inc. 5000 list. “I learned it was possible to build a business from the ground up.”
Matos is one of dozens of Latino founders on this year’s list, who include their background among the tools that have helped them build high-growth companies. Collectively, Hispanic Americans led 130 Inc. 5000 companies on the 2015 list–pulling in a collective revenue of $9.3 billion in 2014.
What’s more, many of them excelled in spite of obvious obstacles like language barriers and prejudice–offering an inspiring look at the difficulty some entrepreneurs face on the road to business success.
Angela Romero, CEO of Hollywood, Florida-based merchandise liquidatorCentralCloseout.com, credits much of her business savvy to skills she picked up in her home country. She learned how to negotiate and not take no for an answer while fending for herself as a single woman in Colombia before moving to the U.S. in 1997. She says that helped her immensely after she took the helm at her own business in South Florida in 2010.
“I was doing my own thing,” she says. “I have that inside of me, as an entrepreneur.”
Still, launching a business as an immigrant came with its fair share of challenges. Romero, for instance, faced a language barrier, in addition to prejudice–from mostly male suppliers who initially refused to speak with her because she is a female who speaks with an accent. Instead of doing business with Romero, many prospective customers would ask to speak to her supply manager, who is a native English speaker.
It was frustrating, but Romero pressed on anyway. “I have to be persistent and constantly showing them who I am, serious and honest,” she says. Now she notes that those same suppliers who initially doubted her are among her best customers.
Francisco Gimenez, CEO and co-founder of eSalon, also built up his resolve by overcoming obstacles. Before launching the hair care products website, he immigrated from Mexico to pursue his MBA at the University of California, Los Angeles. The fact that he was able to pursue a graduate degree at an American university while learning English gave him confidence in his later business ventures, Gimenez said.
“I learned how to work twice as hard as you normally would,” Gimenez says.
Being able to relate to two different cultures also proved to be an asset to Gimenez as he plotted the direction for his new company, which landed at No. 74 on this year’sInc. 5000.
“When you can see yourself being part of two different worlds, you believe you can be part of any world,” he adds.