It had been exactly four years since I last attended a US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Convention & Business Expo. I last attended as Executive Director of the Latin Business Association (LBA) in a capacity of acquiring knowledge and networking at a top level. This year I was attending (along with my team) as the social media manager behind the Convention. As luck would have it, this year’s event was held in sunny Florida at the glamorous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. It’s a dirty job that I’m happy to do.
The journey began out of Monrovia, California, two days before the actual convention. We arrived early to become closely acquainted with the venue for purposes of covering more territory while blogging, tweeting and posting live on Facebook more efficiently. Of course our plans also included catching some rays and enjoying a relaxing meal pool side. The calm before the storm, I guess.
Day one kicked off with a “Personal & Organizational Branding” session by Don Schindler, Director, Marketing & Communications at the Mendoza School of Business, at Notre Dame University. The workshop covered everything from Facebook tricks and tips, to Google+ versus Twitter, search algorithms, and insight on how best to leverage blogs for marketing purposes. Among the many tactics: “delete spam & cursing [from blogs], but negative feedback is good (way better than no feedback), because it shows readers still care. Respond with an apology and a request to continue the conversation in private.” Other clever tactics were: “educate your workforce so that they can continue and expand your social media strategy…and make sure you have a strategy as well as a public policy! Stay involved and don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the free, online resources already out there, and remember that good website design is worth the money.” #USHCC32. Most importantly; “the best way to kill a community is to set it up and never show up.”
Day one was a full-day of classroom-style education, long for sure, but well worth the brain boosting knowledge. Kudos to Professor Schindler for engaging an over-capacity number of CEOs and Chamber leaders and for making learning incredibly practical and fun.
Photos from day one: click here.
Day two was jammed packed with BizFest Training for current high school students competing for startup capital to launch their own entrepreneurial ventures. These USHCC Foundation alums are the innovators for the business world of tomorrow and their work and ideas reflect their poise for success.
In addition, Chamber leaders divided into three groups and were tasked with creating a chamber program that was both innovative and sustainable. Wells Fargo proposed a $100,000 investment over two years for the winning concept. Groups pitched their ideas (which all closely resembled each other) and the winner was a micro-lending program in Spanish. Details of where it will be headquartered or when it will launch are pending.
Lunch on day two was dedicated to the amazing Gloria Estefan and all of her contributions to Hispanics, the entertainment world, and the world at large. Gloria and her husband Emilio have dedicated millions of dollars to causes to places like Haiti, Japan, Africa, and many more. As a team they are putting their great work to good use. And as words to live by, Gloria closed with the following quote; “you don’t have to eat a hamburger to know you have filet mignon at home” – in reference to how pivotal her husband has been and continues to be in her life. For Day 2 Photos, click here.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered keynote address at the international opening ceremony on this day, and while he didn’t provide pre or post interviews, he didn’t disappoint. Photos, click here.
Congratulations to all of those who made the business matchmaking. This is where corporate buyers meet with Hispanic business owners for the chance to procure products/services from each other. I personally made the rounds asking both sides of the equation what if any benefit they drew from the matchmaking. It turns out most business owners were extremely satisfied with simply the chance to pitch. And I admit, I can relate. At times all we want is the opportunity to be heard. What happens beyond that is up to the decision-makers, but that initial opportunity can open doors widely.
As is USHCC Convention tradition, day two culminated with reception that quickly turned into a celebration of what’s so great about our culture – music, food and a good a time. On this special occasion, the fiesta was at Gloria Estefan’s Bongos in downtown Miami. Here are the incriminating photos (evidence) of that evening.
Of course, there were after-parties and parties after that. That’s not USHCC tradition, that’s more its members’ tradition. It’s what keeps us looking young and spicy, right?
And just like that we arrived at Day Three, a.k.a. Expo Day. It opened with a breakfast honoring the best performing corporations in total dollar purchases from Hispanic companies. Among those recognized in the $75 to $100 million in contracts were 7-11, Kraft Foods, MGM, NBC Universal, while in the $100 to $250 million were AT&T, Bank of America, GM, IBM, J&J, JP Morgan Chase, Marriott, Pfizer, Coca Cola, and Wells Fargo; in the $250 to $500 million: Ford, GE, Hewlett-Packard, Pepsi, Southern California Edison, SuperValue, Toyota, Kroger, and Verizon; and in the $500+ million: Avis Budget Group, Sprint, and the unbeatable Wal-Mart.
The expo delivered attendee numbers the Convention has never seen before. But then again, this is the first time Conexion is invited to be part of the marketing efforts. Woot-woot for Conexion.
The best was definitely saved for last. At the Gala on day three, the 2011 businesses and business people of the year were honored, among them; Marcelo Claure, CEO of Brightstar Corp, whose Hispanic-owned business is the only to break the $5 billion in annual gross revenue mark, in the Hispanic market. Marcelo is a towering figure in more ways than one, and his simple message: “Think Big!”
Verónica Edwards founder InGenesis focused on staffing the telecom industry, a natural fit having been nationally recognized as an Outstanding Employee and Top Performing Sales Director multiple times during her 12-year career. She shifted to medical staffing and achieved tremendous growth servicing top commercial clients, government medical centers and military treatment facilities nationwide.
John & Johnson, which is ranked among the most recognized and most favored brands in the world, as well as most philanthropic brands ever, received honors as Corporation of the Year.
Companies owned by Hispanic women:
SDI International Corp., Carmen Castillo
Ole Mexican Foods Inc., Verónica Moreno
Pinnacle Technical Resources, Nina Vaca-Humrichouse
Elder Automotive Group, Irma Elder
PS Energy Group, Livia Whisenhunt
The Alamo Travel Group, Patricia Pliego Stout
Argent Associates Inc., Beatrice Manetta
Navarro Research & Engineering, Susana Navarro-Valenti
Nexgen Information Service Inc., María del Carmen Jacob
InGenesis Inc., Verónica Edwards
Companies owned by Hispanic men:
Brightstar Corp., Marcelo Claure
MasTec Inc., José Mas
The Related Group of Florida, Jorge Pérez
International Bancshares Corp, Dennis Nixon
Quirch Foods Co., Guillermo Quirch
Greenway Ford Inc., Frank Rodríguez
The Diez Group, Gerald Diez
Ruiz Foods Inc., Bryce Ruiz
Group O Inc., Gregg Ontiveros
Gensis Networks Enterprises LLC, James Goodman
A few years ago I was finalist to both Hispanic Business and INC. magazines Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and while I was honored to have gotten that recognition, seeing the family at Goya celebrate 75 years in business, or Marcelo of Brightstar break the five billion in annual revenue, and Veronica of InGenesis break achievement records made me feel so incredibly fortunate to have access to these amazing business people, but most importantly, I left the Convention with a renewed fire in the belly and the desire to take over the world.
Looking forward to seeing everyone at next year’s Convention. Of course, because Conexion is in the Chamber business, we too have a calendar of events; maybe we’ll see you there.
PS – Thank you Maribel La Luz at USHCC for bringing us on board, Michele Ruiz for your super star blogs, Jessica Ramos for your support with the entertainment industry, Gabrielle Klein for your killer Twitter skills, and to the Twitter mob that supported us: @ThomasMiranda @MicheleRuiz01 @AymeeZubi @SparklingLala @webcitygirls @ernestososa @vivianahurtado @MDejean @Miamitude @EusebiaAq @MBEMag @RachelStone @mariaalexandra