‘LL: How did Hispanicize come to pass?
Ruiz: It began as an experiment of several that I took after I sold my company and it was probably the one that I least believed that I would want to do for many different reasons, including the fact that I was never in the business of coordinating or organizing events.
And so it began as an idea of what would happen if we began to put together an event that was for multiple industries at one place and one time. The event took off and after several years of doing this, [we’ve] put additional industries along – like journalism, film, music, marketing and bloggers.
At first, people criticized it because they felt like it was all over the place. But after a while, everybody began to realize that all of these industries have converged. They are in each other’s faces. They are collaborating with each other and they’re connected. Digital is a great connection point. The idea began very different than what it is now because it wasn’t done with all these industries. But once we did the first event [in 2010], we realized that we were on to something.
‘LL: What have been the toughest challenges with Hispanicize?
Ruiz: My toughest challenge was probably convincing different industries to get into the water because there was a lot of suspicion, sometimes territorial feelings. So that was one. The other challenge has been helping brands understand the uniqueness of what we represent. People now don’t need the long explanation anymore of what we do and how we accomplish what we do. But it took a lot of [speaking to people] over and over to convince people of the value of the event. It wasn’t just about one thing anymore, but it had become a multi-industry event.
‘LL: What is your vision for Hispanicize for the future?
Ruiz: The future of Hispanicize and the mission of Hispanicize will be to unite what is known as a powerful Latino community that is not united, doesn’t have a voice and does not know how to be anything but an economic target for other people to take advantage of. So, as of this year, we are going to give people the secrets on how this Latino community is going to come together. It’s not going to be something that is a political slogan. It’s not for Republicans. It’s not for Democrats. It’s going to be a Latino-focused and Latino-first mindset that we are going to inject into the culture so that we can stop being manipulated and taken advantage of and demonized the way that we are right now. It is time for the Latino community – all the nationalities – to realize that we have real strength [if] we can unite.
‘LL: People have been saying and working towards that for a long time. Why is now going to be any different?
Ruiz: I think what’s going to make it possible, first of all, is that we have some unique ideas that have not been expressed before that will be expressed over the next couple of days for the first time ever that are going to give the community and its leaders an opportunity to get our act together. If we don’t get our act together, then we probably don’t deserve a voice.
We have a moral imperative that has become very clear in the past couple of months to get our act together or to just be a joke that everyone strikes like a piñata. We are either a force to be reckoned with or we are a piñata. But we can’t be both.
‘LL: What has been the most rewarding thing for you putting on this event?
Ruiz: The event is so painful to produce that’s its easy to forget sometimes what’s so rewarding about it. I have taken a lot of licks through the years and have had many, many disappointments. But that’s part of life and part of being an entrepreneur. But I think that is most rewarding about it is that we are actually in a very unique position to be more than just a great business. We are becoming – and have become – a platform of inspiration and empowerment for Latinos.
This year, I have felt it more than ever before, that we have a moral imperative to do something that is more than a great event. At one point, I wanted our goal to be the best event in the country. Now I want us to be the event that solves the Latino weakness in the country and gives that voice, that strength, to the community. We have a unique opportunity, through this five-day event, to not only bring us together, but to make a real big difference.
It’s not going to be because we want to be the leader. We want to find the leader. We want to be a part of making the community stronger.
So this had gone from becoming a business that I wanted to be great platform to [making] a difference in history. The history of Hispanic Americans. That’s my goal….We are not just a business, but a legacy building concept and movement. And again, this is not political. It’s about our culture. About respect. About our dignity.
Words of Advice
‘LL: What career “words of wisdom” do you have for people who are entrepreneurs or for those in the media space?
Ruiz: I usually start my words of wisdom about ‘business with caution.’ The caution would be don’t get in the water if you are not willing to swim like crazy to the point of exhaustion and to the point where it hurts to work.
I think a lot of people think that they want to be an entrepreneur. I am not trying to discourage people from doing it. I think it’s worthwhile and wonderful. But the reality is that it is dirty work. It’s a lot of pain to be an entrepreneur. It’s a lot of time that you’re doubting yourself, that you are wondering if you are going in the right direction. It’s going to hurt to work to the point where its exhaustion to do something and achieve something.
I have talked to many entrepreneurs because I have wondered [myself] ‘Am I the only one that is feeling that it hurts me to work?’ Sometimes, that’s how tired I am. And I have turned around and talked to people who are way more successful than I am. And they are like: ‘Manny, if it’s not painful, it’s not real.’
So you better know. If you are going to get into this, you are only going to succeed if you are willing to work until it hurts. It’s going to be more challenging. It’s always going to cost more. It’s always going to take longer. And it’s always going to be a lot harder than you think that it’s going to be. Even if you think you think it’s going to be very hard, multiply it by 10. If you can survive that stress test, then you are totally up for it.
Entrepreneurship is not for everybody. And perhaps if I knew how hard it would be, and I didn’t get deeper and deeper into it, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I’ve gotten to the point where I just can’t go back.