July 30, 2014

Trendsetters

Mike Vogel | 5/1/2005
René Albors' lessons in entrepreneurship include the day he first interpreted for a Spanish speaker in a lawsuit deposition. The plaintiff's lawyer was Cuba native and now U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez. The witness was Cuban. Albors is Puerto Rican-born. It became apparent that Albors wasn't adept at the nuances of Cuban Spanish. Martinez had to halt the deposition. "He was a little bit upset," Albors remembers. "That was an experience. People think that because they're bilingual, they can translate, they can interpret. That's like saying because you have two hands, you can play piano. You have to be very precise."

It is an unusual entrepreneur -- with unusual confidence, unusual humility or both -- who can talk graciously about a foul-up. But Albors, 46, is unusual. The son of a prominent entrepreneur in Puerto Rico, he wanted to make his own way like his father. After graduating from Purdue University, he tried retail in Miami and advertising in Tampa before sliding into interpreting for Spanish-speaking workers' comp patients. The niche became his business. From Winter Park, his 34 employees (27 of them Hispanic) operate a national network of interpreters and translators who speak, in total, more than 200 languages and dialects. He launched a similar network to provide insurers with non-emergency transportation to doctors' offices for claimants. Combined, the businesses' revenues increased by 7% last year to $7.2 million.

As his business grew, Albors rose in prominence. He's on the Orange County planning and zoning commission and this year got a gubernatorial appointment to the university system's Board of Governors. He has received honors too, including the Don Quijote Award from the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Metro Orlando -- presented to him, as he recalls, by Mel Martinez.


Adonel Concrete :: Solid Success

Luis Garcia
President / Adonel Concrete, Miami

Family: Wife, Ana, from El Salvador; three daughters,
Melissa, Patricia and Diana. "I'm working hard, making sure they don't go through the things I went through when I was 16 and 17. I worked very hard."

Nicaragua: "I miss the peace of mind living in Nicaragua. Everything's slow. You don't have to rush for everything. I charge my batteries when I go there. I am a go-go guy, but sometimes it gets to you. Whoever says it doesn't get to them -- it gets to you. It's good to relax and plan."

Just don't ask the kids about Nicaragua: "They say it's too hot and too dusty."

Getaway: A beach house on Melbourne Beach. "It's so beautiful. You don't feel like you're in Florida. It's so green. It's so calm. It's so relaxing. There's no condos. When you go to the beach, there's nobody on the beach."

Here's a job interview tip you haven't seen: Wear three shirts, big boots and loose pants. At age 15, Luis Garcia needed to look older and stronger to land a $4.50-an-hour job pumping concrete. Not long after he arrived in Miami from Nicaragua without his parents, Garcia needed money, and concrete beat bagging groceries by $1.15 an hour. Five years later, in 1984, with a $5,000 pump and a pickup truck, Garcia went into business for himself.

With as much concrete as south Florida pours, Garcia picked the right business. He has become one of its major handlers -- pumper, finisher and, since 1995, plant operator. His 170-employee Adonel Concrete posts $40 million in annual revenue. Hispanic Business listed his company among the fastest-growing Hispanic firms. He has built relationships with key players in the construction industry in south Florida and serves on the board of the potent Latin Builders Association.

Garcia, 41, opened a third plant in Miami-Dade last year but senses growth will be constricted in five years as the county fills up. That's why he plans to sweep up the Treasure Coast, opening five plants, at $5 million each, and adding 90 employees in 24 months. He knows he will be a rare, large Latin contractor in the new territory, but his existing customers already there should make the move somewhat easier. "It's a lot of stress," he says. But "I'm still young. That's why I'm doing it. I don't want to reach 60 or 70 years old and say I had the opportunity and missed it."


Yuca Productions :: Rolling the Dice

Robert Barrueco had a solid job programming computers, but he also had the entrepreneurial itch. That's why he's now a part-time programmer and spends his days pushing Mentirosa.

Mentirosa is a traditional Cuban game of poker dice, tubes and wagering. While wondering what he could do out on his own, he thought of the game. "This game has been part of my life a long time, and I should try to introduce it to the rest of the world," he says. He trademarked the product and aimed for the premium market with a cedar wood box, leather tubes and a $74.99 price.
Mentirosa involves lots of bluffing and teasing. "It's not a game of luck in any way," Barrueco says. "It's completely a mental game. You're supposed to lie to be any good at it."

Truth be told, Barrueco, 30, hasn't gotten rich from it. He has sold approximately 1,000 units through a handful of cigar shops and specialty retailers in Miami and through his website. He is encouraged to see non-Hispanic names among his web buyers. He scored a coup by having Dewar's sponsor a citywide tournament in Miami.

A Miami native, Barrueco named his startup Yuca Productions, as in Young Urban Cuban American and a play on the name of the vegetable used in Hispanic cuisine. This month, he plans to launch Cubilete, a classic Latin dice game, and is delighted that Navarro's, a growing south Florida pharmacy chain, will carry it.

Being an entrepreneur, he says, "is not something you can study for and become. I'm just trying to get there."

Tags: Trendsetters, Around Florida, Business Services

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