About 225 people attended the Celebration of Hispanic Business event at Safeco Field, which featured speakers, exhibit tables and networking. This event proved to be a meaningful experience for furthering growth of Hispanic businesses in the community. Many worthwhile business transactions occurred as a result of this event, for which the Seattle Mariners received numerous accolades. Overall the event was considered to be a tremendous success. A Celebration of Hispanic Business featured table-top exhibits by select businesses, networking opportunities and an on-field presentation.
The on-field presentation was emceed by Ralph Ibarra. He asked each of the speakers to talk about their business, what has motivated them, challenged them, and advice they could provide for fellow entrepreneurs. First up was Chuck Armstrong, President and COO of the Mariners. Armstrong described his friendship and long-time association with former Mariner Edgar Martinez. He described Martinez as being both a successful baseball player and businessman. Martinez, President, Caribbean Apparel, explained that his 18 years with the Mariners made him the luckiest man alive. He established an embroidery firm in Puerto Rico in 1992. In '94, he moved it to Redmond, Wash., where they sold embroidered goods to a wide range of industries. Today they have modern, sophisticated equipment and especially loyal employees who turn out quality products to over 3,000 buyers. By developing solid partnerships, they have access to over 75,000 products. Martinez said that success has come by providing solutions to customers. "If you seriously want to help provide solutions, it will pay you back -- not only in business, but also in life," he said. Also present was radio personality Jamie Mendez of Nuevo Directorio. His program, "The Voice of Washington," is a talk show for a Spanish-language audience. Mendez has begun a Spanish-language Yellow Pages. He spoke passionately regarding entrepreneurship and described the importance of building solid relationships in order to foster business development. Carmen Nazario, Elyon Internacional, said after many years with many IT companies, she began her software-development-solutions firm in Vancouver, Wash. Nazario credits her time in the U.S. Army, major corporations, the state and federal government for her success. She also founded a Strategic Alliance Minority Business networking organization, in which she advises entrepreneurs to become involved in things that they are passionate about. Finally, Nazario feels her success is defined by helping others attain success. Carlos Veliz, PCSI, began his remarks by pointing out that he and his family have enjoyed a long association with the Mariners and have hosted a number of ballplayers, including Jose Lopez when he played for the AquaSox. PCSI is based in Everett and offers engineering solutions to a wide range of firms. Veliz is a mechanical engineer and worked for companies such as Atari (when it was a small firm), and Microsoft, among others. Presently he's working with Boeing on passenger service units for their new aircraft (these are the ventilation, lighting and call button units found above the passenger on the airplane). Success comes from positive relationships. When asked, Veliz said he is in the "people business" -- not engineering, per se. He expects to double his business in the next five years. "If you can't talk to everyone all the time, it won't work," Veliz said. When he looks in the mirror in the morning, he asks, "Who can I help to succeed?" That, he said, is what helps him to succeed. Carlos Herrera, Herrera Environmental, originally from Cuba, said they are involved in large municipal projects with the City of Seattle Sound Transit. They build sewers, and water systems. Herrera is concerned about retiring staff, and will have to build new talent. He has basically sold his company to his employees, which has created a genuine customer service and entrepreneurial spirit. His advice was to "surround yourself with good people." Last up was Mike Sotelo of Approach Management Services. Sotelo's company offers risk management services and recently was voted CEO Magazine's "best company to work for" in their sector. "Success comes when you let the employees run the company," he said, and four things: "get up every day and work hard, you have integrity, don't forget where you came from and you couldn't do it without your people." Sandy Fielder, Director of Procurement, Seattle Mariners, closed the program with many thanks to the companies assembled, and to the Mariners organization. Armstrong said he wanted to give a lesson that he learned during his years, "follow your cash, understand your cash flow -- sometimes you outgrow it." At the conclusion of the speaker portion of the program, more networking took place followed by a tour of Safeco Field. Much of the help putting this program together originated with Ibarra of Marketeer Unlimited, along with the support of Victor Valdez of the Northwest Minority Business Council and the assistance of Joe Coe, Chair of the NMBC.