Top 10 Latino and Hispanic Entrepreneurs
Marc Barros, CEOArmando Montelongo, CEOMatias De Tezanos, CEOAlex Charfen, CEOArthur Miller, CEO Carlos Lagomarsino, CEO Andres Ruzo, CEO Jose L. Prendes, CEOTony Jimenez, CEO Guillermo “Bill” Calvo, CEO
2010 Revenue: $15.1 million
Three-Year Growth: 11,663%
Marc Barros’ father moved to Seattle from Brazil when he was 25 to start a new life. Barros, who launched Contour, a company that manufactures video cameras, while he was still an undergraduate in college, says that his father’s story has largely influenced his own approach to business. “His lessons in life have guided my own decisions, my way of approaching problems, and my openness to new cultures, languages, and ways of thinking,” he says.
The Armando Montelongo Company
2010 Revenue: $47.1 million
Three-Year Growth: 8,161%
In 2001, Armando Montelongo says he was living on food stamps, barely scraping by. But within a couple of years, he claims he went from $50,000 in debt to flipping over 300 properties a year, becoming a multimillionaire, and founded The Armando Montelongo Company. Montelongo says he does not like to play up his Hispanic roots as an entrepreneur. “When people go and use their ethnicity for a crutch or a springboard, it creates a weakness,” he says. “I’m not known as a Hispanic businessman, I’m known as a businessman.”
2010 Revenue: $15.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 8,127%
Matias De Tezanos has lived in many places. He was born in San Jose and grew up in Guatemala city. In his early 20’s he lived in Mexico city and Buenos Aires, starting—and selling—two companies, before launching BrokersWeb.com, a pay-per-click marketing agency. “That ability to develop a business anywhere in the world, regardless of where you were born or raised, particularly in the U.S., is one of the greatest opportunities our generation has,” he says.
2010 Revenue: $9.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 8,007%
Alex Charfen (pictured third from the right at the bottom) grew up in Mexico City and moved to the United States when he was five. In 2008, after investing in Florida real estate for about a decade, the housing market crumbled and Charfen and his wife went bankrupt. “It was one of the most formative experiences of my life,” he says. But Charfen would not give up. He relocated his family to Austin, and founded Charfen Institute, a firm that helps distressed homeowners find solutions to foreclosure issues.
2010 Revenue: $8.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 3,874%
Arthur Miller grew up on the south side of Chicago, where he was raised by his Puerto-Rican born mother. “My Latino core values taught me to have pride and integrity in who I am and the work that I perform,” he says. MZI Group, a construction firm, “prides itself on employing Latino’s and doing business with other Latino firms. If we don’t promote other Latino business why should I expect non-Latino business to engage our community?”
2010 Revenue: $7.6 million
Three-Year Growth: 3,458%
Carlos Lagomarsino was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, where his father worked for IBM. His family moved to the United States when he was a baby, but Carlos has lived all over, including Peru and Puerto Rico. The experience has helped him in business. “I was exposed to a wide variety of people,” says the founder of HomeInsurance.com. “Early on I noticed that diversity is a good thing and beneficial for the workplace.”
2010 Revenue: $136.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 3,224%
Andres Ruzo was born in Peru and grew up in Lima where his father was an entrepreneur and his mother—a chef—was “the Julia Childs of Peru.” In 1994, Ruzo founded Link America, a firm that sells equipment within the communications industry, and says that his cultural roots are directly linked to his success as an entrepreneur. “Our origin, culture, ethnicity, and history is what defines your path as a person, and most importantly, drives your “why” for your life journey,” he says.
2010 Revenue: $9.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 2,679%
Jose L. Prendes was born in Cuba in 1971 and lived under the communist regime until 1985, when Prendes, along with his mother and sister, fled to South America, and legally emigrated to the U.S. in 1991. On the success of PureFormulas.com, an online vitamin and health product retailer, Prendes is blunt: “I'm very analytical and I'm convinced I'm a very lucky guy.”
2010 Revenue: $331.1 million
Three-Year Growth: 2,579%
Tony Jimenez, a native of Puerto Rico, enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent 24 years serving in four overseas tours and in five combat zones. When it came to founding MicroTech, which manufactures and manages technology products, the experience prepared him for life as an entrepreneur. “My military career offered a number of important learning experiences and lessons that would all come into play when I started my own company,” he says.
2010 Revenue: $5.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 2,466%
In 1969, when he was two-years-old, Guillermo (Bill) Calvo’s family emigrated from Peru to the suburbs of D.C. Regardless of his immersion in American culture, being someone who has an ethnic “origin” does have an effect in life, he says. For example, Provideo is a certified 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business and Calvo (pictured on the left) says he’s “met people with the gall to say—out loud—my success is because I was given this certification as a ‘handout,’” despite the fact that these contracts account for less than a quarter Provideo’s revenue. “When things like this happen, I am affected briefly then move on with even more vigor to succeed.”