Culture Shift

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we tracked down a few of Miami’s leading Hispanic entrepreneurs to get a glimpse into what it means to be your own boss and how to effectively balance an ever-changing world where a regular 9 to 5 just won’t cut it.
Words by Jorge Arauz | Photography by Alê Bomeny | Produced & Directed by Ana Claudia Negri & Isabella MarkmanN | September 30, 2019 | People

Eric Castellanos

Making his first big business move at the age of 13 by investing in mutual funds, Miami native and serial restaurateur Eric Castellanos says he’s aspired to yield a healthy ROI for as long as he can remember. “I’ve always loved creating, developing and improving things,” he says. “I strive to partake in any form of business that allows me to do that.” As such, throughout his career he has owned franchises for Chick-N-Grill, invested in countless real estate opportunities and, most recently, he owns and operates three locations for Latin Café 2000, including the newest restaurant in the heart of Brickell. “Being an entrepreneur means taking big risks in order to find creative ways to make your money work for you,” he says. “Grit and determination are essential ingredients in any successful business.”

Tiffany C. Gonzalez

When Tiffany C. Gonzalez founded her company, Accounting To Scale, at the tender age of 25, she found herself at a crossroads in her life and career. “After 6 years of working at a local accounting firm, it became increasingly apparent that the owner and I were no longer on the same page about my future career path at the company,” she says. “I had a big decision to make — apply at another firm and spend a lifetime trying to make partner, or I could go out on my own. I went to Best Buy and bought a new laptop and a printer and set up shop in my living room!” Five years later, the leading CPA and her staff work directly with business owners as part of their executive team, providing remote controllership, bookkeeping and tax services for small to midsize businesses. The qualities that have made her successful in her profession can be traced back to her childhood. “As a child I was often given extra math homework to avoid boredom,” she says. “I was thrilled! Mathematical problem-solving is an accountant’s dream!”

Rafael Cabrera

For more than 15 years, venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur Rafael Cabrera has influenced the economic growth and development of South Florida. Among his many career highlights, he is a principal at Formative Linear Construction — the national distributor for “Woodn”, an innovative raw Italian wood used in several cutting-edge construction projects including the largest recreational pool area in Florida housed at Hollywood’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Guitar Resort. His diversified business portfolio also includes several franchises and investments throughout Miami-Dade within the fields of healthcare, construction, food services, real estate and e-commerce. In addition, his community involvement is extensive and includes roles with the Miami Sports & Exhibition Authority, City Year Miami and Big Brothers Big Sisters. He is also the current Executive Director of the Latin Builders Association. “To be successful in business, you have to be diversified and have an entrepreneurial fire inside,” he says. “It’s important to always put family first, lead with integrity, respect others, and, most importantly, always keep your word.”

GiGi Diaz

With a moniker like “The Conscious Influencer,” it’s no wonder that Cuban child star turned media personality turned life coach and entrepreneur has inspired the life of millions. Miami natives may recognize her from Sabado Gigante, where she became part of the show’s official dance team after winning first prize in a dancing competition; or perhaps you remember her from those old-school viral Santa’s Enchanted Forest commercials, in which she starred when she was just 15. Today, she runs GiGi’s Academy, a leading dance studio in Miami, offering afterschool care, quinces, hora loca and dance lessons in ballet, jazz, salsa, hip-hop, fusion, flamenco and belly dance. She also founded Seizing Happy, a life coaching organization focused on helping Latina women reach their full potential both personally and professionally. So does the woman who does it all have an elevator pitch she likes to share with the world? “It depends on the elevator,” she quips. “There’s nothing like the freedom of being an entrepreneur as long as you don’t lose yourself to the business!”

Claudia & Natalie Splinter

When powerhouse twins Claudia & Natalie Splinter were growing up in Cuba, they would always dress alike — but instead of donning the latest Barbie outfit, they dressed up as executives and role-played being businesswomen! When they arrived in Miami during their high school years, they got a job at Taco Bell. “As recent immigrants without even knowing English, we had no idea about anything in this country, except that everybody wanted to come here to make their dreams come true,” they say. “We were so proud to have that job. We had to learn how to work in a team, how to keep a schedule and how to keep our finances in order on a very tight budget.” Today, the duo is known as the CRE Twins, heading Trajan Commercial Real Estate. “We have found that the average person is extremely frustrated with the stock market, their bank CDs, their mutual funds and other investment channels — they want more,” they say. “As a commercial real estate investor, you hold the power of the world’s finest and most proven strategy for creating wealth!” 

Karina Rosendo

As the founder of Stitch Lab, a talent incubator that helps emerging fashion designers from Latin America grow their brands and crossover to the U.S., Caracas-born Karina Rosendo has accomplished in a short time what many others only dream of. “In two years, we have introduced more than 60 Latin American fashion labels into the U.S. market by curating opportunities for them to realize their American Dream,” she says. “To me, entrepreneurism is a mindset, a special way of thinking and acting to help solve problems and create value.” As such, she started her first entrepreneurial venture when she was just 12 years old. “One summer, I decided to run a summer camp for the smaller kids in my neighborhood,” she says. “Surprisingly, their parents let me take care of them for a couple of hours each day and paid me very well!” Throughout her entrepreneurial journey, Rosendo says she has learned a lot of lessons: “It’s essential to surround yourself with positive people, live outside your comfort zone, listen carefully, stay humble and always trust your gut feeling!”

Ariel Quiñones

Arriving in Miami half a decade ago, Puerto Rico-born Ariel Quiñones had big dreams of building a global tech business with a strong presence in Latin America. Today, his company, Ironhack, trains people in software development, user experience design and data analytics through a highly immersive “bootcamp” format that takes as little as 9 weeks to complete. The experience culminates with meaningful introductions to potential employers who are looking for tech talent. “We live in a world where technology is disrupting industries and totally changing the skills companies are looking for,” he says. “In this environment, one of the best ways to move your career forward and move up the value chain is by becoming a creator of technology.”