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Anthony Lopez, CEO of Azzur Corporation; Nicole Marquis, CEO and founder of HipCityVeg Restaurants; and Manuel Trujillo, CEO and founder of Swain Technologies spoke at the Latino-Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit. (Photos provided by AJC Philadelphia)
Anthony Lopez, CEO of Azzur Corporation; Nicole Marquis, CEO and founder of HipCityVeg Restaurants; and Manuel Trujillo, CEO and founder of Swain Technologies spoke at the Latino-Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit. (Photos provided by AJC Philadelphia)

Successful entrepreneurs give tips for growing a business

At the Latino-Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit, which was held in Philadelphia, successful entrepreneurs discussed how to take a business to the next level.

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It’s not a common association, though it is a significant one.

In an interview with AL DÍA News, Ab Lechter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and Jennifer Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC), spoke of the similarities between the Latino and Jewish peoples.

Both came to the U.S. as immigrants. Both have experienced prejudice and been subjected to untrue stereotypes. Familiar values among many members of the two groups include cherishing family, working hard, and pursuing education as a path to prosperity

And both peoples are known for their entrepreneurial spirit.

In recognition of this intersectionality, AJC Philadelphia’s Latino-Jewish Coalition, in partnership with GPHCC, hosted on the morning of May 15 a Latino-Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit at the Fox School of Business at Temple University.

“We feel very, very good about the fact that we have come up with an incredible group of speakers that will give a really distinct presentation to the audience,” Lechter, who was born in Colombia to a Jewish father and Latina mother, said during the interview, which took place prior to the event.

Rodriguez added that Latinos start businesses at three times the national average (with Philadelphia being no exception), but only 2 to 3 percent of Latino-owned businesses reach or exceed $1 million in annual revenue.

“It’s important for the Hispanic Chamber to showcase that we do have incredibly successful entrepreneurs,” Rodríguez told AL DÍA, referring to speakers at the summit. “It’s not often the case that we get to showcase them at this level. It’s a fantastic event for that.”

Success stories

Speakers included Anthony Lopez, CEO of Azzur Corporation; Nicole Marquis, CEO and founder of HipCityVeg Restaurants; and Manuel Trujillo, CEO and founder of Swain Technologies; as well as Wayne Kimmel, managing partner of SeventySix Capital. The theme of the summit was “The Challenges of Growing a Business.”

The four entrepreneurs each gave individual “TED Talks” style presentations to the 80 or so people gathered for the sold-out event, then participated in a panel discussion moderated by Ellen Weber, executive director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at the Fox School of Business.

Trujillo, who was raised in Colombia, offered this advice: “It’s good to have a plan, but be very flexible,” and persistence is key.  

“In entrepreneurship, you have to have a passion. Love what you do and really never give up,” Trujillo said, adding that one should never be afraid of failing.

“Failure is a learning process,” he remarked.

Marquis said it’s important to remember that entrepreneurs “can’t do it alone,” and it’s okay to rely on others for help, whether that means partners, investors, or employees. In her experience, it’s also vital to have an established mission, like her company’s commitment to sustaining the environment through plant-based foods.

“I have a team that works tirelessly around the clock for the big picture,” Marquis said. “I think that people work harder when there is a mission that’s greater than themselves. They can really commit to that.”

Lopez, who was born in Puerto Rico, stressed that entrepreneurs should keep in mind ways to make their businesses desirable to potential buyers.

“If you build a business that is interesting to be acquired, that means you’ve built a good business,” Lopez said. “Whether you plan on selling it or not is indifferent.”

Kimmel emphasized that to be a successful entrepreneur, “you need to network every single day” and “make as many contacts as possible,” turning those contacts into relationships.

As a venture capitalist, Kimmel said it’s important for his company to invest in startup tech companies that are helmed by the “right kinds of people.”

“Everyone we work with, we want to make sure that they’re smart, that they’re nice, and they have a really big vision,” Kimmel said.

In addition to the panel, Judge Nelson Diaz delivered opening remarks and Alan Weisleder, a native of Costa Rica and a partner in the Jerusalem-based venture capital firm OurCrowd, gave the keynote address.

AJC Philadelphia’s Latino-Jewish Coalition was founded in 2013. Speaking with AL DÍA prior to the event, AJC Philadelphia’s Regional Director Marcia Bronstein explained the purpose of the Latino-Jewish Coalition.

“The mission is to use collaborative relationships and expand interactions on issues that are important to both of our communities,” Bronstein said, naming immigration reform, economic empowerment, civic engagement, foreign policy, homeland-diaspora relations and philanthropy as key intersections.

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