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Former SBA head speaks at Deer Valley

Kelly Evertsen, Of the Record Staff

Fifty years ago, who would have imagined that by the year 2007, there would be more than two million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States? But, according to Hector V. Barreto, the past head of the Small Business Association (SBA) and president of the nationwide Latino Coalition, that number is expected to double in the next decade.

It’s one of the latest trends in the small business world in America that Barreto talks about in his new book, called "The Engine of America: The Secrets to Small Business Success from Entrepreneurs who have made it!," released this year. Barreto discussed the "secrets" and tips for how to successfully launch small businesses at a seminar of local entrepreneurs sponsored by Zions Bank at Stein Eriksen Lodge Wednesday morning.

Barreto was the child of Latino immigrant parents who came to America from Guadalajara, Mexico to make a better life for their family. Barreto said his father was a determined and passionate man with a dream to become a successful entrepreneur and provide his children with the best education possible. He used to work odd jobs as a janitor and cattle trader, but Barreto said his father, Hector Barreto, Sr., knew that wasn’t who he truly was.

"[He said] ‘That’s not who I am, I’m an entrepreneur,’" Barreto said. "And he did become that."

Barreto explains in his book that, because his passion and drive to succeed, his father successfully opened three Mexican restaurants in Kansas City after immigrating to America in 1950. At that time, Mexican food was considered an extremely authentic dish, and many Kansas City citizens flocked to the restaurants. When business picked up, people started asking for Mexican merchandise and Barreto, Sr. opened a small importing-exporting business for Mexican goods. When that proved to be a success, as well, Barreto, Sr. felt the need to join a Hispanic coalition. When he discovered there was no such organization in his city at that time, he established the Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Barreto, Sr. wanted to help others succeed as well, his son explains.

After making more strides with his own businesses and helping other Hispanics in Kansas City to succeed, as well, Barreto, Sr. began to help on a national level. When he saw there was no national Hispanic organization in America, his father reached out to Hispanic business leaders across the country and established the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. While the chamber was up-and-coming, Barreto, Sr. had the opportunity to meet former President Ronald Reagan at a national conference. Barreto said his father was overcome with the opportunity to speak with Reagan, and spoke passionately with the former president about the Hispanic business community and how to help it grow and be successful.

"Without protocol, he launched into his talk," Barreto said of his father. "He said ‘We want and expect jobs in this administration, we want seats [at this table to help in making] decisions "

Barreto said while the other men from the Hispanic Chamber feared how the president might react to such forthright talk, Pres. Reagan respectfully addressed Barreto, Sr.’s concerns telling him that he felt "his people," meaning the Hispanic community, "haven’t learned how to be a part of the melting pot of America."

Barreto’s father immediately disagreed with the president.

His father " ‘If I am not Hector Barreto, I wouldn’t be good for anyone’ he said he ‘didn’t want to be a part of something melted,’ he ‘wanted to be a part of a stew,’" Barreto said. Barreto, Sr. explained to the President that a stew is made up of all sorts of ingredients and vegetables that add spice to each other.

At that point, Barreto said Reagan started speaking of how proud he was of his Irish heritage. The former president stood up and told everyone at the conference, "I have been speaking with my friend Hector Barreto, and I want you all to be proud of this great American stewpot," Barreto, Jr. recalled.

Barreto, Sr. later became a full-time advisor to the president. He turned the restaurant over to his son, Barreto, Jr. Barreto, Sr. also worked with George H.W. Bush and eventually he became an American citizen

"My father was a visionary," Barreto said. "He could see the future."

The U.S. Hispanic Chamber has grown and developed a national reputation over the years, Barreto, Jr. said.

Barreto said he owes his passion and drive in the small business world to his mother and father.

"My father worked his way from practically nothing to a seat at the White House where he advised the President, and he helped organize a nation of Hispanics with dreams like his," he said. His book is dedicated to his mother and father.

After Barreto took over his father’s restaurant, he decided he wanted to move into the large business sector as an area manager for Miller Brewing Company, where he worked with beer distributors and small businesses, including restaurants, bars and convenience stores. But, Barreto said, he felt trapped working for a large company and missed his years growing up and expanding small businesses with his family. He later went to work with a friend who opened a small health insurance company. From there, like his father branching out into exporting, Barreto broadened the company into a larger financial planning service.

This led to Barreto to acquiring a securities broker-dealer license and he started his own broker-dealer firm, "one of the few Hispanic-owned firms of its kind in the country," his book reads. He was also a member of the Latin Business Association for 15 years and eventually, the chairman.

Because of his experience in the small business world, and because he started as a young boy, working with minorities and growing up with a successful minority business owner and becoming one himself, Former Texas Gov. George W. Bush asked Barreto to be a part of his presidential campaign. Shortly after Bush was elected, he asked Barreto to lead the SBA.

"It was a huge honor, but totally unexpected," Barreto said. "I was minding my own business quite literally: it was growing and I was feeling the initial benefits of real success."

Barreto said he knew the call from the president was a unique honor, and he ended up serving the second longest term of an SBA administrator for five years.

Barreto said through his experience in the SBA, he has learned firsthand what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in America. Barreto has assisted and spoken with dozens of successful and mom and pop business entrepreneurs in his travels around the world. His book tells the stories some who started with nothing but the "shirt on [their] back" and found opportunity in America.

Barreto is now the chairman and leader of the Latino Coalition, "one of the nation’s most dynamic Hispanic organizations," he said. He asked the president to allow him to leave the SBA to work with the new presidential administration in Mexico "to help them better understand the United States," the book reads.

Three years ago, he started program called Business Matchmaking.

"Business Matchmaking is one of the proudest achievements of my five years at the helm of the SBA," Barreto says in his book.

The program helps small businesses meet with larger businesses and assists motivated buyers and qualified sellers to do business together.

In his lecture at Deer Valley, Barreto said small businesses have to have the "know how" but also have to have the "know who," and said the matchmaking program allows small businesses to more easily market their products to larger corporations.

In his book, Barreto provides tips, gathered from and inspired by small business owners’ success stories. The tips are straight-forward and practical. Barreto emphasizes the need to plan vigorously, "be persistent," "competitive," and to be "patient" when a business first opens. Barreto reminded small business owners and potential business owners at the lecture that "nobody does anything by themselves" and encouraged them not to give up if their business doesn’t succeed right away.

Barreto also emphasized the importance of education and said the children of today face a much more competitive world than their parents did. Barreto said because America is falling behind in science and technology, parents should help "direct" and "drive" their children to their dreams.

"Provide them with the skills they need to be able to compete in a global world," Barreto said. "Don’t plan it for them, but just motivate them."

All of the tips in Barreto’s new book and in his lecture, he said, are necessary effectively planning and building a small business to make it a part of the greater "Engine of America."

For more information about the Engine of America: The Secrets to Small Business Success from Entrepreneurs who have made it!, or the author, Hector V. Barreto, visit http://www.theengineofamerica.com .


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