Hispanic Entrepreneur Lives American Dream
23 Aug, 2012
Jesus Navarro’s humble beginnings gave way to hard-earned success rooted in family bonds and an unwavering work ethicEditor’s note: This article originally appeared in Latin Business magazine the predecessor of Latin Business Today.
His is the quintessential feel-good success story, this Hispanic businessman complete with penniless beginnings and a winding path of adversity leading improbably to a life of affluence. But to talk to Jesus Navarro is to talk to a man who ultimately cares less about the trappings of prosperity than about what they can teach others.
“Wanting to succeed is more important than having the educational tools or background to succeed,” he says. “Just look at me.”
Anyone who knows Jesus the Hispanic businessman would probably not know he was born the sixth of 13 children in the small city of Los Reyes de Salgada in Michoacán, Mexico, Mr. Navarro began working in the fields in the nearby rural pueblo of Apatzingan at age 4.
A year after returning to Los Reyes he left home at the age 11 with little more than the clothes on his back and a third-grade education. Finding field work and jobs in newspaper stands and selling trinkets at local farmers markets, he slept in bus stations and anywhere he could find shelter from the elements, taking care to regularly visit home and share his earnings with his family.
“To this day I’m convinced that my good fortune is the result of my mother’s blessings to go back into the world after my visits. That and the unity of our family,” Navarro now says.
In 1970, he found his way to Mexico City, where he worked at the famous Blanquita Theater. Two years later he arrived in the United States and went to work in the fields of central California with an older brother and other immigrants from Mexico. He was just 16.
“I have always felt, as so many immigrants do, that the U.S. is filled with opportunities,” Navarro says. “I’ve had big expectations for myself since I was a young boy and never saw anything as unattainable, so my thoughts when I got here weren’t so much about surviving or finding a place to stay as about how I could prosper.”
Foray Into Entrepreneurship
He eventually gravitated to Los Angeles and began working for manufacturing companies in and around the Huntington Park area of the city. After stints at Nissan Foods and Marvin Windows and Doors, he embarked on his first entrepreneurial venture, selling small toolkits, which he’d buy wholesale, to customers outside large hardware stores. The year was 1979 and Navarro already had a young bride and a newborn at home.
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