The American Dream remains one of the most popular endeavors many of the hardest working, passionate and most intelligent people have in the world. The definition of the American Dream varies across individuals, but one conventional achievement is financial freedom (i.e. earning enough money to support your family, own a home and pursue happiness). Since we’re entrepreneurs, let’s define one measure of the American Dream as having, let’s say, a net worth over one million dollars.
Despite its popularity, the American Dream is not easy to achieve. It requires focus, passion, hard work and smart decisions to achieve. These are the stories of three Latino millionaires and the principles they used to become successful.
Tips from Latinos Who Turned the American Dream into a Reality
“Follow Your Passion” – Beto Pérez
Beto Pérez is the founder of Zumba, a fitness program involving Latin music, dance, and aerobic exercise. In 2012, Raine Group and Insight Venture Partners took a minority stake in Perez’s business, giving it a valuation of $500 million. Being the son of a single mother, Beto was working three jobs by the age of 14 to support his family and fund his dream: dancing. To pay for dancing school, Beto made money teaching aerobic lessons. The combination of Beto’s work ethic and incessant passion for fitness and dancing resulted in the creation of one of the most prominent exercise programs in the United States. From Beto’s entrepreneurial story, we also learned that passion alone doesn’t drive strong business results. Beto (short for Alberto) partnered with two other people (both also named Alberto!) to ensure he could create a profitable business model that he could market and grow at scale. Now Zumba employs over 200 people and claims approximately 14 million people in 185 countries are Zumba practitioners.
“Build Resilience” – Nina Vaca
Nina Vaca is the Founder, Chairwoman, and CEO of the Pinnacle Group, an IT staffing company. She founded Pinnacle in 1996 with only $300, and in 2016 the business reported $1,890 million in annual revenue. The key ingredient of Nina’s success is her resilience after negative personal and business events. Nina experienced her first major hardship when she was 17 years old and her father was killed at the business he owned. Before she graduated from high school, Nina and her sister Jessica managed to get the financial records in order and sell the business. In 2001 after 9/11, Nina was on the brink of throwing in the towel since many of her clients were not focused on growing their teams. To avoid liquidation, Nina shifted her sales tactics to bid for project work and after 40 attempts Pinnacle was awarded 2 contracts which put them on a path to break $1 billion in sales. If you’ve been in business long enough, it’s only a question of time when you encounter events that may kill your business. It’s resilient entrepreneurs who can see opportunity even in the most difficult times and earn millions along the way.
“Don’t Follow the Herd” – Patty Arvielo
Patty Arvielo is the Co-Founder and President of New American Funding, a national mortgage lender that funds approximately $1 billion in home loans each month. Growing up in a household that valued work ethic over education, Patty started her career in the mortgage industry at age 16 as an input clerk. Soon after she skipped college to eventually co-found a mortgage lender with her boyfriend (and now husband) Rick Arvielo in 2003. When Patty and Rick founded New American Funding, the mortgage industry was “hot” driven by the subprime mortgage phenomenon which triggered the financial crisis in 2007-2008. Instead of “following the herd”, the founders focused on applying their marketing technology to target qualified loan candidates in the community and streamline operations to fund loans more efficiently than their competitors. Patty’s ability to focus on the company’s core strength (technology), and adherence to their principle to help the community allowed New American Funding to grow during the Great Recession. If you study financial history, self-made millionaires make their money during tough economic times. Patty was no exception.
Many of these principles are common sense and logical. Despite their simplicity, the majority of people don’t follow them. I challenge you to write down your principles and goals and make them visible so you don’t forget them. Try and adhere to them even when your emotions sway you not to.