They are a diverse group: a corporate executive, an inventor, a coffee retailer, a parking and transportation services provider and the head of an influential business association. What they have in common is their leadership and commitment to advancing the interests of Los Angeles’ Latino business community.
These individuals and organizations were honored at Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce’s (LALCC) 10th Anniversary Latino Business Awards held May 21 at the Intercontinental Los Angeles. Award recipients included: Pedro Pizarro, president and CEO, Edison International; Maria Salinas, president and CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; Robbie Cabral, inventor, founder and CEO, BenjiLock; Tierra Mia Coffee; and Parking Company of America.
“Our honorees have set an example for others to follow through their support of Latino businesses and helping to ensure their success and viability,” according to LALCC CEO Norma Gomez. “They inspire others to step up and use their voice to advocate for and promote the economic development of Latino-owned businesses in Los Angeles. I can’t think of a more deserving group of Latino business leaders.”
In accepting the Corporate Executive of the Year Award, Pizarro spoke of Edison International’s subsidiary, Southern California Edison, and its diversity and inclusion initiatives. He said in 2018, the utility procured more than $2 billion in goods and services with diverse business enterprises, of which over $700 million was spent with Latino suppliers.
Salinas, recipient of the Inspirational Leader of the Year Award, was cited for her trailblazing role as the first woman and Latina to lead the L.A. Area Chamber in its 131-year history, taking the helm in August 2018. As the largest and most influential business association in Los Angeles County, the chamber represents more than 1,650 members and 650,000 employees.
Cabral was introduced as the inventor who disrupted the padlock industry with BenjiLock, the world’s first rechargeable padlock with fingerprint technology. The Innovator of the Year Award recipient was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, where he landed a deal with Kevin O’Leary (whose video message was shown at the awards luncheon) in 2017. Cabral’s patented invention is now available at Lowe’s, Home Depot and Ace Hardware.
Tierra Mia Coffee President Ulysses Romero, receiving the Rising Star Award, shared his company’s rise from one café in South Gate in 2008 to 16 stores across California. He thanked his parents and 350 employees and said the success of Tierra Mia Coffee “shows how investing in our communities can create jobs and improve the quality of life for those in these communities.”
The final Legacy Award was presented to Parking Company of America. In his acceptance remarks, CEO Alex Martin Chaves said, “Who would have thought that when my mom and dad started their parking business…over 52 years ago that we would become the largest Hispanic family-owned parking companies and one of the largest privately-owned minority-certified parking and transportation companies in the country?” He attributed his family’s success and legacy to “long hours, hard work, respect for others and a little luck!”
Preceding the awards program was a fireside chat on “Unstoppable Women” featuring Monica Gil, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, and Zoila Escobar, president of AltaMed Foundation and senior vice president and chief administrative officer of AltaMed Health Services.
When asked what Gil would do differently early in her career, she said understand the politics between an organization and the competitive landscape, improve financial acumen regardless of industry, work to become a better public speaker and move out of her comfort zone by leaving home and traveling outside of California earlier.
The event also included a workshop on how to do business with the state, held in conjunction with State of California Department of General Services. The information session covered resources and tools to determine if businesses are suited for contracting opportunities with the state.
This year’s presenting event sponsor was Bank of America. Other sponsors included: Coca-Cola, Entravision, Wells Fargo, Commercial Bank of California, CIT Bank, AltaMed, US Bank, Southern California Edison, Delta, AeroMexico, Vasquez & Company, Citi, Kaiser Permanente, JP Morgan Chase & Co., ACS Group, Airbnb, Adventist Health White Memorial, AlvaradoSmith, AT&T, Banc of California, First Choice Bank, Fox Deportes, SoCalGas, TELACU, 4over Inc., Union Bank and Walmart.