Stepping Up: Rafael Marrero Helps Small Businesses Succeed

Stepping Up: Rafael Marrero Helps Small Businesses Succeed

By Migdalis Pérez

Rafael Marrero’s passion for opening the door to Hispanic companies through million-dollar contracts with the federal government is legendary.

Marrero’s efforts have saved countless small businesses.

Rafael Marrero & Company specializes in securing contracts with the world’s most powerful client: the United States Government.

Knowing there is an abundance of federal purchasing opportunities, Marrero never tires of discussing them with his Latino business community. He has done it in seminars, business conferences and training, as well as radio, print, and television interviews.

While touring the U.S., Marrero learned that many entrepreneurs are not aware of the immense possibilities. In 2018, he wrote La Salsa Secreta del Tío Sam, a helpful guide on doing big business with the federal government.

The book helps small companies connect with the U.S. Government for business. *** El libro ayuda a pequeñas empresas a conectarse con el Gobierno Federal de Estados Unidos para hacer negocios. (Amazon)

Of Galician descent, Marrero is the son of Cubans and was born in the United States. He firmly believes the Hispanic community is the spearhead of the American economy. “Every year, we work on growing our clients as government contractors, and we nominate them for awards, based on the result of working directly with us,” he said.

Businesses led by minorities, veterans and women receive Marrero’s training through a process that “is not about philosophizing, but about learning.” Many people are unaware that 23% of government purchases are made from small businesses, he said.

“The government does not produce anything; it buys everything. So, it’s about sponsoring entrepreneurs, teaching them to navigate the labyrinth of bureaucracy and applications, and serving as a bridge for them to be able to sell to the government,” he said.

Considered by Inc. Magazine as one of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the United States, Marrero’s firm also teaches its clients to establish trust with government buyers.

“The government operates using the private sector’s products and services, from consulting and cleaning services to the manufacture of solar panels.  Our clients even manufacture the furniture [of government agencies],” he said.

Based in Miami, Marrero works with small businesses across the country, as well as lectures and training courses. *** Basado en Miami, Marrero trabaja con empresas pequeñas en todo el país, así como da conferencias y cursos de capacitación.  (Blake Connally/Unsplash).

Marrero has a list of companies he has helped grow, but he loves to mention Miguel López Jr. Inc. The Miami-based company has been in business for 30 years. However, after Marrero’s certification and advice, it grew more in two years than in its entire history.

Miguel López Jr. Inc. “is our greatest pride because we helped it grow. It went from being a $7 million-a-year company to a $23 million one,” said Marrero.

“To start working with the government as an entrepreneur, the first thing I recommend is to take our training and our preparatory course. These resources are decisive to make an exhaustive evaluation of the company’s state at the beginning of its journey into the federal world,” he said.

“We develop a business plan starting from this point and perform an analysis of strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats. The initial process — between workshops, enrollment, and marketing — takes about 90 days. You cannot improvise when dealing with the federal government, which spends $500 million dollars an hour.”

If one plans to become a successful federal government provider, it is critical to know how it does business, which is the opposite of commercial enterprises. It is more rigorous and based on industrial codes and the classification of products and services. 

“Those who don’t know that slang can’t taste Uncle Sam’s sauce,” he said. The post La Salsa Secreta de Rafael Marrero appeared first on Negocios Now.

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Melanie Slone and Fern Siegel.)

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Carmen Solano’s 15 McDonald’s

Carmen Solano’s 15 McDonald’s

Carmen Solano came to Chicago from her native Dominican Republic with a single suitcase and a huge dream: to become an artist. Today, she is an entrepreneur and the owner of 15 McDonald’s.

When she set foot in Chicago in 1980, Carmen Solano-De Carrier knew she wanted to study broadcasting at Columbia College and pursue a career behind the cameras and microphones.

The 19-year-old was the daughter of Rafael Solano, a famous Dominican musician and composer, and grew up admiring her father. (Rafael Solano composed Por Amor, a song translated into several languages ​​and performed by such artists as Plácido Domingo.)

“My father had a show called Solano. When I was 12, I introduced people to the show. From that time, I loved the microphone, television and being behind the cameras. I sang with my dad, and that’s what I wanted to do,” she said with a smile.

But to fulfill her dreams, she had to work first. Solano did not realize it then, but she chose a job that would set the course for her life.

“A McDonald’s restaurant was opening then. I applied for a job and secured it. I worked from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; at 2:00 p.m., I would go to Columbia College until 10:00 p.m., and I would do the same the next day.”


Solano worked her way up at McDonald’s, from being a cashier to executive positions. While working behind the counter, she met her first husband, married, had children and continued to grow with the company. She was an employee for 23 years, but suddenly her life took a turn, and she became an entrepreneur.

“I divorced my first husband and met my second husband at McDonald’s. He was a department head in the company, and I worked as a consultant for franchise operators. It was then when I learned what an operator was,” she said.

Pregnant with a baby girl and with two decades of experience in the world’s largest restaurant chain, Carmen and her husband decided to buy their first McDonald’s franchise in 2002.

“People in the central office were not very happy because they did not have many Latinos in high ranks in Chicago. They didn’t want us to leave, but they ended up helping us and wished us luck,” she said.

McDonald’s had a rule of thumb at that time: it did not grant Chicago franchises to company employees. So, the couple opened their first two restaurants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. How did Solano and her husband secure the initial capital? They used money from their 401K and a company loan.

That’s where Carmen started her mini-chain. Later, the possibility arose of opening a restaurant in Chicago, and another came, and another. The couple controls 21 restaurants today, 15 of which belong to Carmen.

“When you become an owner, it’s as if a train passed over you. There are many things that you are not taught as an employee and that you have to learn as an owner,” she said.

The businesswoman sees her colleagues and employees as part of a family. *** La empresaria ve a sus compañeros y empleados como parte de una familia. (Negocios Now).

People want to work with Carmen

Asked about the challenge of getting 15 restaurants in just 17 years, the businesswoman acknowledges that she has had many challenges, but none harder than finding employees.

“Right now, for all businesses, the most difficult thing is to get the staff. I have been fortunate. Chicago has a large Latino community, and people who come want to work for Carmen, not for McDonald’s,” she said.

The businesswoman attributes it to the special relationship she has with her employees. “I talk a lot with them. We have a very close relationship. I go to different restaurants every day, and I try to get to know them. Some tell me about their personal lives, and I try to help them,” she said. “If they have an emergency, I give them a loan, and they pay me little by little with their check.”

She has built a kind of family that is key when dealing with 15 restaurants simultaneously. “A lot of people have made their way up here, starting from the bottom,” she said. “When I see that they have potential, I send them to classes. McDonald’s has one of the best business training in the world. I didn’t know anything about business because I wanted to be on television. I learned it here.”

Carmen Solano believes that McDonald’s has been a great help and an incredible opportunity in her life. *** Carmen Solano considera que McDonald’s ha sido una gran ayuda y una increíble oportunidad en su vida. (Crystal Jo / Unsplash).

Carmen would like to say other businesswomen who are dealing with a myriad of challenges, “As Latinas and women, we have a lot to contribute to a company. We are moms, and ‘we run’ the house business. We are the ones who go to the supermarket with a budget to spend, the ones who usually make the children’s medical appointments, help them with homework. I mean, we know how to plan and that makes things a little easier.”

“As Latinas, we protect our children. We want them to be with us at home. We believe a lot in family life, and we take those ideas into business and make a family. This is what I have done, and I believe that’s why I have done so well,” she said.

“What is the limit of Carmen Solano? Where do you want to go?” we asked her.

“This is something people usually ask me,” she said. I don’t know, because when I started, I didn’t think I would have 15 restaurants. But I’m one of those people who believe that if there’s an opportunity, one has to take it.”

The post Los 15 McDonald’s de Carmen Solano  appeared first on Negocios Now.

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Melanie Slone and Carlin Becker.)

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How Earthquakes Have Scarred Chile and its People

How Earthquakes Have Scarred Chile and its People

Some of Chile’s majestic landscapes result from massive earthquakes, which hit all too often in this South American country.

In fact, Chile lived through the strongest earthquake in the world — 9.5 degrees on the Richter scale — in 1960.

Chileans have dealt with the consequences of living in a seismic area for centuries.

Chile is seismic because it is part of the so-called Ring of Fire, a region in the Pacific Ocean that often experiences earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Ring of Fire covers the western coast of the Americas from Alaska to Chile, the eastern coast of Asia, and some islands in the west of the Pacific Ocean.

Large earthquakes often rattle the inhabitants of the Ring of Fire. *** Los sismos de mayor fuerza ‘agitan’ a los habitantes del Cinturón de Fuego. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

Living in Chile and Argentina since the 16th century, the Mapuche people consider earthquakes an expression of a cosmic imbalance. To recover the universe’s equilibrium, they perform rituals and give offerings to their gods and ancestors’ spirits.

The largest quake recorded in the colonial period took place in May 1674. It reduced all of Santiago to rubble, causing a significant economic crisis in a season of droughts. It was a devastating combination of misfortunes for Santiago’s people.

In 1751, the earth shook again, this time in the city of Concepción in central Chile. The magnitude of the quake was 8.5 degrees Richter and forced the entire town to relocate.

The 19th century brought three major shocks to this South American country. Two earthquakes destroyed Concepción and Talcahuano in central Chile in 1822 and 1835. The third one with a tidal wave hit the northern province of Arica in 1868. Complete Chilean cities went through several reconstructions and suffered thousands of human losses, due to these natural phenomena.

The Pacific Ring of Fire. *** El Cinturón de Fuego del Pacífico. (Urvashi Makwana)

Chile suffered massive seismic destruction during the 20th century, as well. An earthquake ravaged the city of Chillán, in central Chile, in 1939, but this time, Parliament took action.

While the government and the population worked in the reconstruction and rescue process, the Chilean Parliament created CORFO, the Development and Reconstruction Corporation. Run by the state, the agency promotes industrial activity and the country’s reconstruction every time an earthquake destroys a town.

The 1960 earthquake remains in Chileans’ memory. Followed by a tsunami, it devastated Cautín, Valdivia, Osorno, Llanquihue and Chiloé. The tremor left 2 million homeless people, killed over 1,600, and caused significant damage to Chile’s economy.

One more earthquake hit the central zone in 1985.

At least two destructive earthquakes have hit Chile during the 21st century. Aysén in southern Chile and Tocopilla in the north of the country suffered significant architectural losses in the 2007 shock.

But the most destructive quake in Chile’s history happened in 2010. According to the local media, it was as intense as 8.8 degrees on the Richter scale and left 2 million victims, which accounts for 10% of Chile’s population.

Why is Chile so seismic?

Chile is prone to these natural phenomena because it is located on the edge of the Nazca tectonic plate, where it collides with the South American plate. Through a geological process called subduction, the Nazca plate is pushing underneath the South American plate, creating the earth’s involuntary movement.

Marcelo Lagos, a geographer from the University of Chile, explains that the interaction between the Nazca plate, the South American plate and the Andes mountain range creates “an area where shallow earthquakes can occur which, being so close to the coast, can generate tsunamis.”

Earthquakes can cause the loss of life as well as property damage. *** Los terremotos pueden provocar muertes y daños materiales. (José Jiménez/Getty Images)

But not all earthquakes in Chile are caused by the interaction of the Nazca and the South American plates.

A geological fault crosses the eastern part of Santiago, causing the earth to move. “Other types of earthquakes are those produced by the San Ramón Fault, which has caused superficial movements, such as the 1947 earthquake,” Lagos said.

“The San Ramón Fault is quite dangerous. Scientists have confirmed that this fault is active. It has produced earthquakes in the past. For this reason, the best recommendation to all Chileans is to have a culture of prevention, be ready,” Lagos said. He was emphatic on how important it is to follow the authorities’ instructions in case of emergency.

“No one can forecast earthquakes accurately. It is impossible. No one can tell you when or how often they happen,” said the specialist.

While some Chileans are used to living in a seismic land; for others, it is stressful. Earthquakes leave material damage and emotional scars, which are harder to tackle for the population most in need.

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Melanie Slone and Fern Siegel)



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Diversity Seen Playing Greater Role in Energy Industry’s Future

Diversity Seen Playing Greater Role in Energy Industry’s Future

Daniel Valdés is a 22-year-old born in Texas to Mexican parents. As a child, he watched full of enthusiasm and childhood glee the wind turbines in his native state every time his family drove by through the vast fields where these massive constructions laid.

That same fascination with power generation would later nurture a concern for the environment and the natural phenomena that he experienced in his hometown of Galveston. He decided that he wanted to be in a place where eco-friendly energy policies could make a difference.

More and more Latinos seeking work in the energy industry are receiving scholarships. *** Se beca a cada vez más latinos, quienes buscan trabajar en energía. (Photo by Matthew Henry/Unsplash.)

Today he is a chemical engineer, recently graduated from Columbia University in New York amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic. He got the opportunity to be a public policy fellow at the American Petroleum Institute (API) until December. From there, he went through the House of Representatives as part of the Public Policy Fellow of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI.)

“I have had several experiences in the Gulf of Mexico, most recently, Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston hard. It was one of the worst hurricanes, just after Katrina. There are wildfires in California, and in different parts of the world, the winter is extremely cold. The important thing to consider is that with the changes that we will see in the following 10, 15, 20, or 100 years, there will be a real need to lower carbon emissions.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Nowadays, the energy industry seeks to broaden its diversity to include minorities such as African Americans and Latinos such as Valdés. The Community Energy Center (CEC) emerged to provide information and perspectives on the sector’s role in these communities. It also provides a forum that raises awareness, understanding, and discussions about the energy sector’s importance in their everyday lives.

Thus, the industry’s projection regarding the recruitment of these ethnic and racial minorities is positive. It is thanks to this that young people like Valdés should have more significant opportunities.

“The CHCI Public Policy and Graduate Fellowship Programs provide an unmatched leadership experience for the brightest and most innovative emerging leaders in our community. Through our program, they acquire in-depth knowledge of highly relevant topics and industries, such as energy. This, combined with induction into an incredible network of peers and established leaders, gives CHCI fellows a boost to their careers, advances the Latino community, and strengthens the nation,” said Marco Davis, CHCI president and CEO.

In Valdés’ view, diversity is essential in any industry to have minorities represented in the decisions that also impact these communities. He is confident that the only way to know the minorities’ perspective on these subjects is to allow them to form part of the decisions and get involved in them.

“Without a science program, I would not have had the opportunity to know how energy policies operate from the perspective of the organization that is in charge of American oil. It is a perspective that I appreciate very much, as I did not know about it,” he said.


Opportunities for minorities

According to an API analysis based on the IHS Global Insight report, oil and natural gas will continue to be the primary fuel source for decades to come, while other energy forms will become commercially viable.

There will be an increase in export capacity and more than 800,000 jobs in the energy industry by 2030 under the energy development policies. Of the new jobs created by 2030, African Americans and Latinos could fill more than 285,000 (35%.)

“The energy industry has proven to be a catalyst for economic activity and has long supported members of our communities,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the National Publishers Association of Newspapers (NNPA) in the framework of the joint effort with the National Association of Hispanic Publications Media LLC (NAHP Media) for the launch of the Community Energy Center.

Ricardo Hurtado, president of media for NAHP Media, endorsed Chavis’ view and pointed to the crucial role of this new organization in “the path to the creation of new careers and professional development opportunities” for minorities.

Valdés, who completed his bachelor’s degree with scholarships and a lot of effort from his family, is a clear example of the need for these new policies and fellowships. As the young man aspires to continue training, he is in the process of applying for a master’s degree in chemical engineering and environmental sustainability, with plans to then go for a doctorate in public policy. He has also not ruled out knocking on the API’s doors again, once his education is complete.


Valdés is optimistic about the future of the energy industry in terms of diversity and sustainability. “I would say that I see a transition from fuels to renewable energy. Regarding the oil industry, I see a more diverse future in terms of gender, race, and color.”

During his stay at the API, Valdés drew satisfaction from the work he did in the institution’s programs, both in English and Spanish, which focused on guiding high school students and their parents in STEM and other university study areas.

Programs such as API, CEC, and CHCI empower Latinos like David Valdés. *** Programas como API, CEC y CHCI empoderan a los latinos como David Valdés. (Photo by Ricardo Annanda/Unsplash)

The CEC promotes the empowerment of minorities and raises awareness about the environment and the need to make energy affordable in minority communities.

To learn more about the Community Energy Center’s work and to receive information about their work, visit To learn more about the scholarship and leadership programs offered by CHCI, which has an application deadline on Jan. 15, visit

David Valdés: “Veo un futuro más diverso en cuanto género, raza y color en la industria petrolera” appeared first on Negocios Now.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez. Edited by Matthew B. Hall.)

The post Diversity Seen Playing Greater Role in Energy Industry’s Future appeared first on Zenger News.

La variedad en la comida callejera resalta en Ecuador

La variedad en la comida callejera resalta en Ecuador

Cevichocho, cuy, y más es lo que Ecuador ofrece al mundo gastronómico.

El país se caracteriza por tener formas diferentes y variadas de preparar su comida y bebidas. Además de contar con recetas caseras y tradicionales, ofrece comida rápida como una opción balanceada; ocupa ingredientes que satisfacen el gusto de la población. Para ellos es muy común comer una gran variedad de frutas o buscar siempre el equilibrio de la canasta básica como el arroz, huevo, aguacate y carne de cerdo o res. Sin embargo, practican la cocina como todos los maestros latinoamericanos, así que el concepto de comida rápida para ellos no deja de ser sinónimo de buena alimentación.

¿Qué opciones tiene Ecuador a la hora de comer en la calle?

Además de platillos clásicos—como el ceviche, los langostinos y el cuy, entre otros—, pueden encontrarse variedades como las empanadas, que van rellenas de carnes, verduras, queso o frutas. Las hay de morocho, que se hacen de maíz con arroz; las verdes de plátano con queso; o las de viento, preparadas de harina con queso y azúcar.

Mercado artesanal , Otavalo, Ecuador. (Andrea Leon/Unsplash)

Las humitas son de origen peruano, pero llegaron a la Cordillera de los Andes—Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador—, para dejar a los ecuatorianos preparaciones rápidas como esta, que es una pasta de maíz, envuelta y cocida en las hojas de una mazorca también de maíz. Se le acompaña con huevos, aguacate, cebollas, y distintas especias para darle más concentración al sabor, y las hay dulces o saladas.

“Por un dólar puedes comprar un cevichocho, son súper ricos; se consiguen en la calle también por cualquier parte, es algo delicioso, te llena full, es barato. El plato tiene chochos, tiene candil, lleva chifle que es plátano picado. Y se le baña con un juguito que es a lo que llaman ceviche, y de ahí es el nombre de cevichocho. También le ponen limoncito”, dijo Albert Oleaga, venezolano radicado en Ecuador.

El pan de yuca, elaborado con queso blanco, almidón de yuca, huevos y polvo de hornear, se amasa y se hornea en toda la costa del país, lo que lo hace una delicia exprés y de paso. Los patacones son una comida frita, hecha con plátano verde; son muy famosos en otros lugares de América Latina. Los pinchos, palillos rellenos, contienen variedades de vegetal, papa y carne.

Los bolones se hacen con plátano verde o macho; se cocinan y se aplastan hasta hacer una masa que se rellena con queso, chorizo o chicharrón. Son el desayuno ideal para los ecuatorianos, acompañados con una buena taza de café, huevo frito y ají.

La salchipapa se consume en toda América Latina, pero igualmente en Ecuador se prepara, pues las salchichas fritas, cortadas en rodajas o enteras, acompañadas de papas fritas y salsa son una opción deliciosa. El choclo o el maíz peruano puede prepararse con queso y carne desmechada; se encuentra en puestos de comida callejera. Por último, los cevichochos son preparados vegetarianos que llevan semillas de chocho, limón, sal, cebolla, salsa de tomate, maíz tostado y banano frito, listos para todo el público en general.

“Algo que te puedes topar de primera instancia en Quito son los puestos de salchipapas, es algo común, tradicional; te sirven una cama de papas fritas y encima de ella una salchicha de buen tamaño, las rocían con sal y pimienta; además las puedes bañar de salsa de tomate y mayonesa, acompañadas de un poco de ensalada de cebolla o ensalada de col”, dijo Albert Oleaga.

Las bebidas allá igualmente son famosas, y hay desde preparaciones en restaurantes o bares hasta los mismos que se encuentran en locales más típicos o clásicos. Las más comunes son las dulces como el morocho seco y granos de maíz agrietados, que se hacen con leche, canela, azúcar y pasas, así como el rompope o ponche de leche, el cual se bebe frío o caliente y lleva por ingredientes leche, azúcar, vainilla, cascara de naranja, crema, y alcohol de caña de azúcar. Se disfrutan con o sin alcohol, en una reunión, en la calle o a solas.

“Otro alimento callejero que hay acá son los pinchos, conocidos también como chuzos, que tiene plátano maduro, lleva papa y a veces chorizo porque tú puedes elegir eso, y la gran parte del pincho es de pollo que también puede ser de carne, también lo decides tú, entonces se dice me das un pincho de carne o dame un pincho de pollo”, dijo.

Sin duda, Ecuador tiene mucho que ofrecerle a sus visitantes y a sus propios pobladores dentro de su gastronomía nacional.

Por Vanessa Sam y Christian Valera Rebolledo

(Editado por Melanie Slone y LuzMarina Rojas-Carhuas)

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