AL DÍA’s inaugural celebration of Philadelphia’s top, most successful entrepreneurs
The 2021 AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs event acknowledged the bright entrepreneurial spirit that is enriching Philadelphia’s business community.
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On Friday, Nov. 19, AL DÍA hosted its inaugural AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs event.
The event put entrepreneurship at the forefront as a critical driver of innovation, a valuable source of jobs, and a major catalyst for the city’s economic growth.
The night began with a networking session as guests arrived at the event, before officially kicking off with a fireside chat featuring AL DÍA CEO Hernán Guaracao and PIDC President Anne Bovaird Nevins.
Founded in 1958, PIDC is Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation with a mission to spur investment, support business growth and foster developments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods and drive growth to every corner of the city.
Bovaird Nevins officially took on the role as leader of the corporation in January 2020, just a couple months before the start of the pandemic.
Ask her about her proudest accomplishment throughout her tenure, and it relates to something that has been going on since the organization’s founding — the ability to adapt.
“When PIDC first started, our economy was very heavily industrial at that time,” said Bovaird Nevins. “But as Philadelphia’s economy, and the U.S. economy, and the global economy changed over time, so did we.”
She noted that the ability to adapt and evolve in the way that better meets the needs of the city’s businesses and entrepreneurs is something she strives to continue doing more of in the future.
Perhaps nothing in recent memory sparked a more critical need to adapt than the pandemic.
As many small businesses struggled to remain open, especially during the onset of the pandemic, PIDC made sure to continue its effort to provide relief resources to those businesses.
In March 2020, PIDC announced one of the first such efforts in the country, the Philadelphia COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund, which ultimately offered $13.3 million in grants and zero-interest loans to over 2,000 small businesses in the area.
“I’m very proud that, and over the course of the pandemic, we have coordinated over 5,000 businesses with nearly $70 billion in resources,” said Bovaird Nevins, adding that there remains more work to be done.
As she looks ahead, Bovaird Nevins said that PIDC remains committed to listening to and engaging with the city’s entrepreneurs to gain a clearer idea about what these businesses need, and in turn, provide those resources in a strategic manner.
Two main priorities she sees are: taking a leadership role in Philadelphia’s economic recovery, with a focus on equity; and attracting capital.
Through federal, state, philanthropic, commercial and other sources, PIDC is aiming to support equitable growth and development to the city’s business ecosystem.
“How we think about deploying those resources and being intentional about doing that in ways that address racial inequity and poverty in Philadelphia; that is going to be inclusive of focusing on the growth, resilience, of wealth creation for Blacks and Brown entrepreneurs or our entrepreneurs located in low-income communities; or supporting the creation of quality jobs,” she said.
To tie PIDC’s efforts back to the premise of the event, Bovaird Nevins said it’s all about the ability to celebrate the successful businesses and entrepreneurs in the city, while providing the opportunity and resources for those businesses to take that success to the next level, and also doing the same for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to flourish and succeed in their own right, as well.
“Who are that next generation of entrepreneurs that are going to be following in the footsteps of everyone we’re here to celebrate tonight,” she said.
Speaking of successful entrepreneurs, the honorees of the event are some of the most successful in the city.
The inaugural AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs were Mike Diaz, founder of Semper Utilities; C. Frank Igwé, founder & CEO of Moravia Health; Silvia Lucci, founder of LUVH Foods; Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller, founders of South Philly Barbacoa; Cecilia G. Torres, founder & creative director of Casa Papel; and Luis Torrado, founder of Torrado Construction.
Two common themes throughout the honorees’ speeches were the prevalence of the people around them who helped them along their journeys to achieving their success, and the desire to help others.
For Lucci, she took the time to thank her husband and son for helping her during “severe hardship” and what she called, “the worst time of our lives.”
“And the name [LUVH Foods] is because it was actually the source of where all that took us,” she continued, crediting the success of her company to the love and “the creative force” that is her family.
The positivity is similar to the approach Martinez and Miller have taken to achieve the success of their business.
“I feel like our success in business is coming because we put a priority that we’re walking on the spiritual path where we try to give good karma,” said Miller. “So the thing is we try to do good in the world, we can do fearlessly because we know it’s going to come back to us in some kind of way and we’re going to be able to continue to do good work.”
The sentiment of doing well for others was also shared by Igwé.
“As long as I’m the president of this company, we’re going to continue to give back, we’re going to continue to serve while we give all praise to God,” he said.
Overall, the event served as a way to embrace the talent and entrepreneurial spirit that makes Philadelphia the thriving city it is.