Legendary Latinx Entrepreneurs

From groundbreaking innovations to thriving businesses, Latinx entrepreneurs have made indelible marks on the global business landscape. Despite facing unique challenges, they have demonstrated resilience, creativity, and tenacity that have led to remarkable success stories. These individuals embody the spirit of entrepreneurship, serving as inspiration for aspiring business leaders and proving that with determination and vision, anything is possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Latinx Americans represent some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the United States.
  • The number of business owners from Latin backgrounds has grown 44% in the past 10 years, compared with 4% for all other groups.
  • The chances of loan approval for Latinx-owned businesses was 60% lower than that of White-owned businesses in 2019.
  • Gustavo Cisneros, who developed one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, has a net worth of $1.1 billion, according to Forbes.
  • Geisha Williams was the first Latina to lead a Fortune 500 company.?

Carolina Herrera

The Venezuelan fashion designer and creator of the global brand House of Herrera is one of the most iconic and influential Latinx entrepreneurs. Her elegance has been well known in the fashion world since she showed her first collection in 1981. Now her fashions are found in more than 50 countries at over 100 points of sale.

Herrera has designed dresses for five first ladies, including Jacqueline Kennedy and Michelle Obama. She has won numerous awards for her fashions over the years, including the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. In 2018, after 37 years in fashion, Herrera passed the torch to American designer Wes Gordon, naming him the brand’s new creative director.

Alberto ‘Beto’ Perez

This Colombian dancer and entrepreneur is best known as the creator of the fitness program Zumba, but he wasn’t always dancing to the bank. He was born to a single mother and was working three jobs at the age of 14 to help make ends meet. After winning a national dance contest, Perez was accepted at a Cali, Colombia, academy, where he studied dance while teaching workout classes on the side.?

In 1999 he moved to the U.S., where he created the Zumba workout program. Since then he has added workout videos and a clothing line to his growing fitness empire. Zumba is taught at about 200,000 locations in 180 countries, and Perez continues to license new instructors.

Carlos Castro

This legendary Latinx entrepreneur was deported to El Salvador from the U.S. before making his entrepreneurial start. In 1990 he finally became a U.S. citizen and opened Todos Supermarket in Woodbridge, Va. Now the company employs nearly 200 local residents in a 75,000-square-foot store that caters to the area’s large Latinx community.

Castro has become a community activist, helping other immigrants achieve their education and income goals. This is important when you consider that in 2020, 42% of Hispanic families in the U.S. had an income of less than $25,000.

He also founded the Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Action (HOLA), which supports the career advancement of members and is located within the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Geisha Williams

This Cuban American migrated to the U.S. at just 5 years old and earned a degree in engineering as well as an MBA in business administration. Working her way up, in 2017 she became the first Latina to lead a Fortune 500 company as chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Co.

Today she continues to lead the way in developing smart grid technology and renewable energy integration. She also works with organizations, including the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, to advance sustainable energy policies.?

Ramona Ortega

According to a 2020 research report from Stanford University, the odds of loan approval for Latinx-owned businesses was 60% lower than for White-owned businesses. Furthermore, among Latinx-owned businesses that applied for national bank loans of more than $100,000, only 20% obtained federal funding in 2019.

This is why third-generation Mexican American Ramona Ortega created her companies, WealthBuild and My Money My Future (MMMF), and her DineroDiva brand on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Through them Ortega offers financial advice for Hispanic investors to help them succeed and close the racial wealth gap experienced by so many in the U.S. 

Gustavo Cisneros

Adriana Cisneros is the CEO of Cisneros, one of the largest corporations privately owned and operated by a Latina. The conglomerate started as a trucking company owned by her grandfather. Her father, Gustavo Cisneros, eventually turned it into a media machine. Cisneros produces media, such as TV shows and movies, but also boasts a digital media advertising company, a property investment company, and a space-based cellular broadband project.

Gustavo Cisneros built the organization from the ground up, without the need to answer to public shareholders. He was able to assemble a range of assets in several different markets, forging connections with big names in broadcasting, telecommunications, beer, and baseball. He has acquired hundreds of brands and positioned the company to be a major player in the fast-growing media market that is Spanish-speaking broadcasting, where ad revenues jumped by 9% in both 2021 and 2022 while remaining flat in the overall TV market. According to Forbes, his net worth as of March 2019 was $1.1 billion.

Honorable Mention: Rebecca Alvarez Story

While not yet a legend, Rebeca Alvarez Story is well on her way. The founder and CEO of Bloomi—an intimate care brand with its own “Clean Standard” for ingredient transparency and green manufacturing, which is designed to ensure that “toxic ingredients never touch your intimate areas”—has established herself as a leader in the wellness industry. The sexologist and social impact entrepreneur works with people around the globe to help them maximize their sexual agency. Her intention is to help women be the “CEO of their body” through empowerment and education.

The 2021 Well+Good Changemaker sells these products as well as others that meet the company’s exacting standard. She travels the world and gives talks about sexual agency, health, self-care, and innovative intimate healthcare products.

What Does It Mean to Be a Legendary Entrepreneur?

A legendary entrepreneur is an individual who has overcome significant barriers to establish measurable business success.

Who Rose to the Top of the Success Ladder?

With privately held companies, we could not confirm everyone’s wealth, but Gustavo Cisneros has a net worth known to be $1.1 billion.

Which Population Group Is the Most Entrepreneurial?

The Latinx community wins hands down. Though this group represents 19% of the U.S. population, its members are starting businesses at a faster pace than all other ethnic groups. There has been a 44% growth in Latino-owned businesses over the past 10 years, compared with 4% for non-Latinos, according to a study at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

The Bottom Line

These Latinx entrepreneurs have paved the way for others in the community to create wealth and contribute to the economy of the U.S. and countries around the world. Whether they’ve done it through groundbreaking innovations, new mergers and acquisitions, or showing others how they can impact their communities, these and other leaders have proved that much is possible with talent, passion, vision, and tenacity. 

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Carolina Herrera. “Our Story.”

  2. Caroline Herrera. "Careers."

  3. Fashion Network. "Carolina Herrera Offers to Dress the First Lady Amid NYFW Show."

  4. Reader’s Digest. “Meet the Man Behind Zumba: Beto Perez.”

  5. LinkedIn. "Alberto 'Beto' Perez."

  6. Zumba. "All Moves Welcome."

  7. Zumba Wear. "Best Sellers."

  8. Zumba. “Who Are We? We Are....”

  9. Institute for Immigration Research. "El Salvador: Summary of Interview With Carlos Castro."

  10. One Degree Capital. “How Todos Supermarket Found Success by Giving People ‘Their Food’.”

  11. Pioneer Institute. “Carlos Castro: From Crossing the Border to Owning a Business.”

  12. Young and the Invested. “60 Personal Finance Statistics You Might Not Know (but Should!).”

  13. U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA).”

  14. CNN Business. "A Former Refugee, She's Now the First Latina CEO of a Major U.S. Company."

  15. Bipartisan Policy Center. "Geisha Williams."

  16. Forbes. “Geisha Williams.”

  17. Marlene Orozco, Inara Sunan Tareque, Paul Oyer, and Jerry I. Porras, via Stanford University Graduate School of Business. “2020 Research Report: State of Latino Entrepreneurship.” Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, January 2021, Page 4.

  18. LinkedIn. "Ramona Ortega."

  19. Twitter. “dinero_diva.”

  20. Financial Planning. “Ramona Ortega.”

  21. Cisneros. “Adriana Cisneros.”

  22. Cisneros. "Our History."

  23. NextTV.com. "Spanish-Language TV Networks Show Ad Revenue Growth: SMI."

  24. Forbes. “Gustavo Cisneros & Family.”

  25. Bloomi. “Story Page.”

  26. Republic.com. "Bloomi: The First Marketplace for Wellness and Intimacy."

  27. Well+Good. “Meet the 2021 Changemakers: These Are the People Changing the Future of Wellness.”

  28. Stanford University Graduate School of Business. “Adapting to Pandemic, Latino-Owned Businesses Get Stronger.”

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