Past Keynote Speakers:
2013 – Keith Koenig, President of City Furniture
2012 – Harry M. Kraemer Jr., Executive Partner with Madison Dearborn & Professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management
2011 – George Feldenkreis, Chairman and CEO of Perry Ellis International
Please note – we did not have a Keynote Speaker at every event.
Susan Amat, Ph.D. | Venture Hive
Dr. Amat is a serial entrepreneur and founder of The LaunchPad. She built businesses in the entertainment industry for over a decade, including the first CD-ROM magazine and a national television show on the E! Network. After completing her MBA, Dr. Amat developed pediatric health monitoring products and earned a Ph.D. in Strategic Entrepreneurship (coursework in industrial engineering, business, and education). Over the last decade, Dr. Amat has mentored entrepreneurs from dozens of countries and founded Venture Hive to educate and empower founders to build global high-growth businesses. In 2012, Dr. Amat was honored as a Champion of Change at the White House and is currently a consultant for the Kauffman Foundation and the World Bank. Learn more
Victor H. Mendelson | HEICO Corporation
Victor H. Mendelson is the Co-President and a Director of New York Stock Exchange-traded HEICO Corporation. He founded HEICO’s Electronic Technologies Group in 1996 and has been its Chief Executive Officer since then. In addition to other positions at HEICO, he served as its General Counsel from 1993 until 2008.
Most identified as the world’s largest designer and maker of FAA-approved alternative commercial aircraft replacement parts, HEICO is a diversified aerospace, defense and electronics manufacturing and services company with production, engineering or distribution facilities in 17 states and 10 countries. HEICO’s products are found on nearly every Boeing jetliner built in the past 30 years, numerous Airbus aircraft, dozens of currently-orbiting satellites, rockets, missiles, military aircraft, targeting systems, medical equipment and other electronic systems. Learn more
Manny Ruiz | Hispanicize
Manny is the Chairman and Founder of Hispanicize Wire, as well as the Chairman and Founder of the Hispanicize brand of platforms that include the annual Hispanicize event, Hispanicize digital, Latina Mom Bloggers and the Hispanic PR Blog. In addition to these sister companies, Manny is a large shareholder in the Being Latino platform and publishes his own personal blog PapiBlogger. Learn more
Gus Vidaurreta | Top Secret Nutrition
For more than a decade, Gus worked at the Miami Herald Publishing Company, where he held different positions in the business side of the newspaper. After leaving the paper, he joined the consulting division of Arthur Andersen (now Accenture) until he founded the Systems Consulting Group (SCG), a full service information systems consulting firm. In August of 1995 Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP) purchased SCG for 30 million dollars. During his career, Gus also became involved in other diversifying ventures since the sale of SCG, such as co-founding Top Secret Nutrition and owning Adjoined Consulting, P&O Packaging and Horizon Bank.
Gus also co-authored the popular book Business Is a Contact Sport in 2001, and co-founded RAM Strategy, Inc., a consulting, training and executive coaching firm built around Relationship Asset Management (RAM), the main topic of the book. He also helped to form the Board of Advisors of Mobiquity, Inc. and was selected to join the Board of the Centro Mater charity organization.
Gus earned a B.S. in Business from Florida International University and an MBA from the University of Florida.
Ricardo Villadiego | Easy Solutions
After more than 15 years in the IT security sector, Ricardo decided to start a security company with the vision of becoming the global leader of electronic fraud prevention. The result was Easy Solutions, a state-of-the-art and creative business that is a reflection of the man who runs it. Ricardo built this company with a highly-motivated group of engineers, who were encouraged to be imaginative as they developed innovative solutions to confront the constantly evolving threats associated with the Internet. Before creating Easy Solutions, he worked in high-level positions at IBM, Internet Security Systems, Trend Micro, and Unisys Corporation, winning awards for his high sales figures and leadership. He majored in Electronic Engineering from the Universidad Distrital Francisco Jose de Caldas in Colombia.
Maria Elena Ibañez, Founder and President Intermark Foods/El Latino
With an exceptional track record building fast-growing, highly successful companies, first in information technology, and now in Hispanic food products, Maria Elena is often referred to as a serial entrepreneur. She led her two prior companies into the Elite Inc 500 list and has already led Intermark Foods to be recognized among the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies three times in a row– 2009, 2010, and 2011. Maria Elena launched her “El Latino” brand in 2002 and built it into one of the fastest growing Hispanic food brands in the nation. El Latino offers Latin consumers the authentic flavors of their roots, prepared with carefully selected ingredients of the highest quality. Her products are widely distributed through major supermarket chains including Wal-Mart, Publix, Winn-Dixie and all the Hispanic supermarkets in the Southeast.
Maria Elena is a Computer Science graduate from FIU, where she served on the Board of Trustees. She has been involved in a number of boards and community organizations including: The Beacon Council, The Fiduciary Trust, Sprint and President Clinton’s Southern Region Advisory Committee for Economic Development.
Mitchell Kaplan, Founder of Books & Books & Co-Founder of the Miami Book Fair
Books & Books, an independent bookstore in Coral Gables, Florida, opened its doors in 1982. He is also co-founder and guiding light of the Miami Book Fair, which he has helped to direct since its founding in 1984.
Born in Miami, Florida, Kaplan pioneered independent bookselling, making Books & Books a success at a time when long-established bookstores began going out of business. One of his most popular strategies has been bringing touring authors to the store for lectures, readings and signings.
Mitchell is the former President of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and also served on the Board of ABFFE, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. In 2011, Mitchell received the National Book Foundation’s prestigious “Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community”.
Today Books and Books has three locations in South Florida, plus stores in Grand Cayman, Miami International Airport, Westhampton Beach, N.Y. and the newest location at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.
Keith Koenig, President of City Furniture
American Dreamer & 2013 ESummit Keynote Speaker
City Furniture is a retail furniture company with 24 showrooms in South Florida under two brands, City Furniture and Ashley Furniture HomeStores.
City Furniture evolved from Waterbed City which was started in 1971 by Mr. Koenig’s late brother, Kevin. Keith became Kevin’s partner in Waterbed City directly after receiving his MBA from the University of Florida. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida. Mr. Koenig is active in many South Florida community organizations, and has received local and national recognition, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the UF MBA Outstanding Alumnus Award, and the Furniture Retailer of the Year Award. He is past board chair of the University of Florida Foundation, and he chaired the Broward County Regional Council for the UF “Florida Tomorrow” $1.5 Billion Capital Campaign. He was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope John Paul II.
Remedios Diaz-Oliver, President and CEO of ALL AMERICAN CONTAINERS INC.,
Presidential Award Recipient for Excellence in Export
All American Containers, Inc. founded in 1991 is a leading supplier in the United States of glass, plastic and metal containers and caps with operations in Miami, Tampa, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Atlanta and Dallas, producing innovative containers for the food & beverage, chemical, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
Prior to All American Containers, Mrs. Díaz -Oliver was Director and Consultant of the New World School of Language in Miami, Florida; President of the Association of Exporters, Freight Forwarders and Manufacturers of Greater Miami and Vice President and Member of the Board of Havana Business Academy and Havana Business College, as well as tenure (past and current) on the boards of the following corporations: Avon Products, Inc., Barnett Bank (Bank of America), American Cancer Society, Cuban Liberty Council and many more. She was appointed in 1988 and 1992 to the Advisory Board Trade Policy, Negotiations and International Policy for the President of the United States. Mrs. Díaz Oliver was the first woman to receive the “E” award (for excellence in export) from the President of the United States and the only Florida woman to be a member of the Board of Directors of three Fortune 500 companies, simultaneously.
John Ruffin, Jr., Founder of J.D. Ruffin & Associates, CEO of Trans Ocean Investment Services & Chairman of the United Negro College Fund
John Ruffin Jr. earned his bachelor’s degree at Morgan State University and a master’s degree from Cornell University. Mr. Ruffin came to South Florida in 1980 as the Vice President of Pantry Pride, Inc. and became the owner of the first black-owned radio station in South Florida. John and his wife, Dottie, formed J.D. Ruffin Associates, Inc. He is also the CEO of Trans Ocean Investment Services, LC- a firm dedicated to business opportunities between Africa, the US, Caribbean and Latin America. JD Ruffin Associates, Inc. has been responsible for helping to provide scholarships in Florida and North Carolina totaling $250,000 over the past 20 years.
As Chairman of the United Negro College Fund, Mr. Ruffin was instrumental in raising over $1 million for scholarships in Broward County. He has also been a chairman of the following organizations: The Urban League of Broward County, The Community Foundation of Broward, National Conference for Community and Justice of Broward & Palm Beach Counties and the Internet Coast Initiative Council. John Ruffin, Jr. is a Leadership Broward and Leadership Florida graduate and a founding board member of the Huizenga School of Business at Nova Southeastern University.
Stanley Tate, Tate Capital, LLC
Mr. Tate began his business career in 1949, building single and multi-family residential properties. By the late 1950s, Stanley Tate Builders, Inc., broadened its scope to include commercial and industrial properties as well as providing leasing and consulting services. In 1969 he focused on condominium development and shopping center, apartment, office-building, warehouse, restaurant, and residential construction. During the $17 billion REIT crisis in the 1970’s, Mr. Tate’s expertise was sought after by many REITs, Nationally Chartered Banks and Courts (Federal and State) and the New York Federal Bankruptcy Court. Mr. Tate was appointed by the New York Federal Bankruptcy Court as Trustee to establish a work-out Plan of Arrangement for Associated Mortgage Investors, Inc. and Chase Manhattan Bank, the lead lender for 27 National and State chartered banks involved in this work-out. Mr. Tate’s efforts concluded with a 100% pay back of all of the individual banks’ invested capital. Due to Mr. Tate’s success with the Associated Mortgage Investors, his expertise was used to oversee the workouts of 12 other REITS in similar need. Mr. Tate participated in the formation of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, which laid the foundation for the Resolution Trust Corporation (“RTC”). In 1989 he was named Chairman of Region 1 of the RTC, which included 20 states on the Eastern seaboard. In 1993, Mr. Tate was nominated by then-President Clinton for appointment as CEO of the RTC.
Jimmy Tate, Tate Capital, LLC
Jimmy Tate, along with his brother, Kenny, co-founded Tate Development Corporation in 1986. Tate Development Corporation has developed a range of asset types, including: condominiums, apartments, single and multi-family homes, industrial parks and commercial retail properties. The Tate family has successfully developed, built and or managed over 7,000 single family and multi-family residences throughout the United States and has developed, operated and managed approximately five million square feet of retail and office space, hotels/casinos, golf courses, office buildings, motels and industrial parks throughout the United States and the Caribbean. From 1993 through 1996, Tate Development Corp. managed the reconstruction efforts for approximately 2,000 multifamily and single family residences which were destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. Mr. Tate, along with his brother, Kenny, also founded a number of well-known companies in Florida, New York, Los Angeles and the Dominican Republic, in the fields of real estate development, general contracting, clothing manufacturing, management and finance. In 2009, Jimmy and Kenny formed Tate Capital, LLC which, over the past four years, has been an active purchaser of over $600 million of institutional grade real estate related distressed debt. The Tate’s have successfully been able to convert most of this debt into ownership positions for which they oversee all asset and property management. Mr. Tate currently holds Board positions with Mount Sinai Medical Center Board of Trustees, North Miami Museum of Contemporary Art Advisory Board and Miami Country Day School Development Committee.
Kenny Tate, Tate Capital, LLC
Kenny Tate has started a number of private companies in South Florida over the past 30 years. With his brother Jimmy, Mr. Tate was a co-founder in the Tate Development Corporation. Kenny has had a certified general contracting license in the State of Florida for over 30 years and was appointed by the Governor to serve on the State of Florida Contractors Licensing Board for seven years. During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Mr. Tate was directly involved in the management and work-out of distressed real estate as a Receiver for multiple State Courts in Dade and Broward County. In the 1980’s thru the late 2000’s, Mr. Tate was an owner and the managing partner of the Villa del Ray Golf Club, an 18 hole championship golf course located in Delray Beach, Florida. In 1996, Jimmy and Kenny formed TKO Apparel Inc, a clothing manufacturer of many national name brands produced and sold around the world. Currently, in addition to operating the TKO family of apparel companies, Kenny and Jimmy, own and manage a number of institutional grade multi-family and commercial properties throughout the United States. Mr. Tate graduated from Vanderbilt University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and Duke University, where he earned an MBA. Kenny currently serves on the board of Nova Southeastern University, the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, and Kids In Distress. He has been married to his wife, Sandy, since 1977 and together they have three adult daughters.
Dr. Susan Amat, Co-Founder, The Launch Pad; Founder, Venture Hive
Entrepreneur Catalyst Award
Dr. Susan Amat is a serial entrepreneur, promoting concerts in Miami at age 15. Before 25, she started a record label, national television show and the first CD-ROM magazine. Susan returned to South Florida to complete her bachelor’s degree, earned an MBA and developed products for child health monitoring. Dr. Amat also co-founded The Launch Pad at the University of Miami. The international model for entrepreneurship education, TLP has been replicated with support from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, creating the only national network of collegiate entrepreneurs.
With the support of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Dr. Amat founded Venture Hive. Venture Hive is a technology accelerator based on economic development principals, recruiting new talent in focused verticals based on the strengths of Miami: healthcare, travel/hospitality, and creative industries.
Dr. Amat is the Chair of Startup Florida, authors monthly columns in the Miami Herald and the South Florida Business Journal, is currently an International Women’s Forum Leadership Fellow and is in the XXXI class of Leadership Florida. In 2012, Dr. Amat was honored at the White House as a Champion of Change. She loves her husband Luis, and children Frances (6) and Dominic (1).
Alina Villasante, Peace Love World
Entrepreneur to Watch Award
Peace Love World is a lifestyle brand and Alina Villasante’s vision of life. Born in Cuba, Alina moved to South Florida where she and her best friends became known as: Peace, Love, and Happiness. Alina was Love. Alina built a successful aviation business and raised three children. In 1999, she launched the annual “Love Party” and designed t-shirts, pajamas, and jewelry which incorporated her signature symbols of Peace, Love and Happiness. Today, Peace Love World operates six stores in South Florida and three in Hong Kong. The brand is sold online, in 1,800 boutiques and department stores and is distributed in 18 countries. In 2013 she will debut casual clothes line with Coca-Cola, and a luggage collection with Heys USA. Peace Love World is frequently worn by celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Ellen DeGeneres. Peace Love World spreads peace and love through numerous philanthropic endeavors.
2012 American Dreamer Awardees
Michelle Bernstein, Award Winning Chef, Published Author & Restaurateur
She’s a James Beard Award Winner, one of South Florida’s most well-respected and successful chefs/restaurateurs – and entrepreneurs. A Miami native and author of Cuisine a Latina, Bernstein is the creative force behind several acclaimed restaurants, including her latest ventured called Crumbs on Parchment. Her other restaurant outposts include Michy’s and Sra. Martinez dubbed by Esquire Magazine as one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” in 2009. This former ballerina is also a host on PBS of a weekly television series, Check, Please! South Florida. She’s a community activist who launched the South Florida chapter of Common Threads an after school program dedicated to teaching youth to cook and eat healthy and recently launched a cookware and cutlery set collection called Michelle B. on the Home Shopping Network.
Luis E. Capó, President of El Dorado Furniture
El Dorado Furniture is one of the largest Hispanic-owned furniture retailers in the United States. As the political situation became untenable, Luis, his father and one brother left Cuba on a repaired (previously sunken) boat which they christened El Dorado. After arriving in the U.S., the Capos opened their own store and named it after the boat that brought them to freedom: El Dorado. El Dorado Furniture is now 14 stores strong and continues to expand throughout Florida. Luis also oversees approximately 220 sales associates all of whom go through his own training seminars given at El Dorado University, the company’s in-house training institute. Luis is the eldest of seven brothers. His four sons all work full time at El Dorado. http://www.eldoradofurniture.com
Laurans A. Mendelson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HEICO Corporation
HEICO Corporation, an aerospace, defense, and electronics company headquartered in Hollywood, FL. HEICO is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and was cited last year by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 Best Small Companies.
HEICO products are found on large commercial aircraft, regional, business and military aircraft, and on a large variety of industrial turbines, targeting systems, missiles and electro-optical devices. Mendelson has been at the helm of HEICO since 1989. Under his leadership, HEICO has grown to record-breaking sales, operating income, net income and share value. Today, more than 2,300 employees throughout the world are engaged in the design, manufacture and sale of HEICO products and services.
In 1999, Mendelson received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He is a recipient of the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce 1998 Private Sector Community Service Award, and the John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement by Columbia College in the City of New York. Mendelson is a member of various boards, including the Board of Governors of the Aerospace Industries Association in Washington, D.C., and the Society of Mount Sinai Founders of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. He is also a Trustee Emeritus of Columbia University in the City of New York and has been a distinguished guest lecturer in The Executive Forum of the MBA Program at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.
Mendelson received an AB degree from Columbia College in the City of New York in 1960, and an M.B.A. from Columbia University Graduate School of Business in 1961.
Alberto Perlman, CEO & Co-Founder of Zumba Fitness, LLC
Zumba is the largest dance-fitness company in the world. The global lifestyle brand fuses fitness, entertainment and culture into a dance-party experience and has more than 12 million weekly participants in 125 countries. Prior to founding Zumba Fitness, Perlman was founder and CEO of Spydre Labs, an Internet incubator. Perlman’s commitment to community service spans the world as well. He created the Zumbathon charity platform, which is Zumba Fitness’ answer to the walkathon. Zumbathon campaigns have raised over 3 million dollars globally for causes /organizations. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, Perlman now resides with his family in Miami, Florida. www.zumba.com Twitter: @zumba
ANF Group, Inc
Since 1981 ANF Group, Inc. has been providing general contracting and construction management services within the South Florida area. 30 years later they are considered an industry leader in the commercial and education construction arena and have played a vital role in the highly specialized niche of healthcare construction in South Florida. ANF Group provides quality preconstruction, construction management, design-build, and general contracting services. Not only are they known for their professionalism, meticulous work and expertise but also for their involvement in the community. They are always quick to support and lend a helping hand to a worthy cause; their philanthropic involvement in the community is a big part of what the ANF Group and the Fernandez family stand for. www.anfgroup.com
George Yap, Chairman & CEO of LEASA Industries Co., Inc.
LEASA started 34 years ago in Liberty City. Mr. Yap arrived in the U.S. with $50 in his pocket in 1976 and his company now employs 80 people and is recognized as the largest employer in Liberty City. LEASA is the leading tofu manufacturer, processor, and distributor and is also among the largest logistics company of numerous food products in Florida. The company supplies goods to more than 1,800 supermarkets and its products are sold across the U.S. including Alaska, the Cayman Islands, and other Caribbean counties. George and his company generously give back to the community through funding, food donations, scholarships as well as, volunteer hours. www.leasa.com
2011 American Dreamer Awardees
Ron Bergeron, Sr., Entrepreneur
Mr. Bergeron knows hard work. His were humble roots. A machete to clear 5 acres and an old truck worth $235 dollars. Today Mr. Bergeron manages more than 35 companies and is a major force in the real estate, land development and building industries. He is CEO or President of most of these companies which span Florida, Georgia and Michigan. Mr. Bergeron is a Florida native – eight generations preceded him in Davie, Florida.
Carmen Castillo, Founder & CEO Superior Design International (SDI)
Founder, Owner, Chief Executive Officer and President Carmen Castillo has grown SDI by an average of 19% per year. SDI currently delivers programs to more than 26 customers, and manages a consultant workforce of 2,000 staff members. SDI has been identified as one of the largest Hispanic Businesses in the United States. Learn more
Manny Cherubin & Jean Cherubin, Founders TeleAmerica
The Cherubin brothers, Manny and Jean, immigrated from Port-au-Prince, Haiti decades ago. Their dream was to create a media empire. They began operating a 4-hour radio program 20 years ago. They were the first Haitian-Americans to own an FCC licensed radio station in the U.S. Today, they own two (2)television channels covering South Florida and 23 Caribbean islands 24/7 through Caribvision, and two (2) radio stations fully licensed by the (FCC) covering South Florida and the Bahamas with 24/7 Live streaming. Learn more
Henry Fleches, Founder & CEO
UDT, an IT services provider, was started by Henry Fleches 15 years ago and is a now nationally recognized company and on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 550/500 List Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. UDT is headquartered in Doral, FL, and has 120 employees located at offices in South Florida, Orlando, Tampa, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Learn more…
Benjamin León Jr., Founder Leon Medical Center
Benjamin León Jr.’s family emigrated to Florida in the 1960’s. Mr. León, Jr. alongside his father, Mr. León, Sr., founded Clínica Asociación Cubana (CAC). The Leon Medical Centers and Leon Medical Centers Health Plans now support more than 1,900 dedicated healthcare professionals who serve more than 37,000 Medicare recipients throughout South Florida. Learn More
Alan Levy, CEO Great American Farms, Inc
A resident of Broward County since 1942 Mr. Levy Alan is the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great American Farms, Inc. a Pompano Beach based agricultural marketing firm now a company generating millions in annual revenues. Mr. Levy is a deeply involved community leader. Among his accomplishments is being a founding member of the Performing Arts Council Authority responsible for the initial design and building of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Learn more
Mark Llano, Founder & CEO SourceOne
Mark Llano is Founder and CEO of SourceOne. In 2009 he was named Vetrepreneur of the Year by the magazine of the same name. His first three months in business were spent researching – he estimates hundreds of hours – on how to become a government contractor. His hard work paid off. SourceOne had sales revenues of $1.6 million its first six months in operation. Learn More
Jose Mas, CEO MasTec
José R. Mas, was appointed CEO of MasTec in 2007 and during his tenure MasTec’s revenues have doubled and earnings have more than tripled.
José Ramon is the son of the company’s founder, the late Jorge Mas Canosa who started a telecommunications company with a $50,000 loan. MasTec is now a publicly traded company valued at over $2 billion dollars. Learn more
Barbara Palacios, Entrepreneur & Former Miss Universe
Former Miss Universe Barbara Palacios has successfully transitioned from beauty queen to entrepreneur. Ms. Palacios has worked as a television host for more than two decades, and has been a spokesperson for multinational corporations in the United States and Latin America. She has founded several advertising agencies. In 2010 she founded Barbara Palacios Corporation, a U.S.-based company which sells jewelry and beauty products on line and at Barbara Palacios boutiques in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America. Ms. Palacios is a native of Venezuela. Learn more
Commissioner Barbara Sharief, Founder South Florida Pediatric Homecare
Barbara Sharief started a pediatric home care business ten years ago using her retirement funds and an SBA loan. Her first year in business generated $700,000 in revenue. By year three, she was grossing more than $2M in revenues. And, every year since, the business has experienced double to 50% in revenue increases. Her firm has more than 600 nurses and therapists working in patient homes. She is a Florida native. Learn more
Antonio Vilariño & Family, Founders of Las Vegas, Las Villas & Casitas Restaurants
The Vilariño Family arrived during the Mariel boatlift in the 1980’s. Antonio and Nilda and their five daughters now own a 19-restaurant mini-empire including Las Vegas, Vilas and La Casita Restaurants. The family also operates Ku-Va at Miami International Airport. Learn more
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