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The crowd at AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs on Friday night, Feb. 24.
While they weren't winners, attendees of AL DÍA's Top Entrepreneurs Forum and Reception had a lot to say about the big night. Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick

Philly’s tight-knit entrepreneur community came together to celebrate the 2023 AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs

Among the many attendees at the Top Entrepreneur event, AL DÍA spoke with a few to learn more about who they were, and why they came.

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Editor's Note: This story was written by AL DÍA Leadership fellows Eliot Olaya and Emily Leopard-Davis. 

Out of all the Latino entrepreneurs in the city, only a select few have been chosen for recognition for their work, dedication, and determination to make their own way in the world. This year, AL DÍA was proud to host Top Entrepreneurs 2023 and award these pioneers.

On Feb. 24, 2023, AL DIA hosted its 2023 Top Entrepreneurs Forum and Reception, celebrating and honoring Latino entrepreneurs from across the City of Philadelphia. Attending the event was a diverse mix of the honorees' friends and family members, event sponsors, and guests attending the event.

AL DIA spoke with several attendees to understand who they were and why they had come to join the celebration of Latino entrepreneurship in Philadelphia.

Zachary Wilcha, the CEO of the Independence Business Alliance, was a panelist speaking at the award ceremony, discussing the importance of making business resources accessible to those from underrepresented communities, such as the Latino community, among other topics like the role small businesses play in the economy.

His work at the Independence Business Alliance, Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, has put him close with Jennifer Rodriguez, the President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC). 

He views the Philadelphia business community as strong and vibrant, and worthy of government support as it continues to recover from the global pandemic.

Wilcha said that Top Entrepreneurs and other events like it are vital for the visibility of diverse entrepreneurs and that the honorees represent a sample of the great work businesses in the region do. 

Another attendee AL DÍA spoke to was Gladys Olaya, the mother of Richard Olaya — the 2023 Pioneer winner at Top Entrepreneurs. For her, the day was special enough to warrant a flight north from her home in Florida, so she could be present to celebrate her son’s achievements.

She believes that events like this help to highlight the hard work people of different races and cultures have contributed across industries.

Bert Gonzalez is a member of Community First Fund, a CDFI that helps its clients achieve financial stability, supporting families, communities, and entrepreneurs.

For Gonzalez, the ceremony puts Community First in the same room as many people they can support, and is also an opportunity to expand its network of aid.

Gonzalez described the many struggles immigrant entrepreneurs face, noting that sometimes banks will see that they are immigrants and deny them the capital needed to start a business, an issue the CDFI has prioritized.

Gerardo Zampaglione is married to Sofia De Leon, the night’s honoree for Top Restaurateur. But he didn’t come to the event just for her, as he supports entrepreneurs from all walks of life regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender.

Zampaglione works in health insurance and sees the city’s business community as very tight knit. He sees events like AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs giving entrepreneurs who might not be able to break into the world of entrepreneurship a chance to follow their dreams. He also talked about the importance of listening to entrepreneurs from all walks of life.

A full recap of the 2023 Top Entrepreneurs ceremony can be found here.

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