In the midst of racial discrimination in business and employment in the late 1920s, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, then known as the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, helped propel a number of minority-owned businesses into existence. Over time, it evolved into an entrepreneurial advocacy organization of more than 1,300 members for all Hispanic people, minorities, and women in business.
For nearly 40 years, the Hispanic Chamber has hosted its annual Business Awards Dinner, where they honor some of those entrepreneurs whose large, small, and family-owned businesses have helped shape San Antonio’s growth. This year’s event is on Tuesday, June 14, at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa at 7 p.m.
To register and purchase tickets, which are $100 for Hispanic Chamber members and $125 otherwise, click here.
“Every year we try to highlight business owners in our community that are giving back and that are doing really exciting things in the local business world,” said Brianna Dimas, the Hispanic Chamber’s vice president of communications.
This year’s event is chaired by founder and CEO of The Gambrinus Company Carlos Alvarez and his wife, Malú, and will honor eight individuals and one family with the following awards:
- Small Business Owner of the Year – Ruben Luna, Anne Marie’s Catering
- Large Business Owner of the Year – Rosa Santana, Forma Automotive, LLC.
- Corporate Executive of the Year – Laura Mendoza, Tesoro Corporation
- Rising Star of the Year – J.J. Gorena, The Trey Group
- Advocate of the Year – Manny Diotte, The Ferrari Kid
- Community Service Award – Mike Flores, PhD., Palo Alto College
- Family Excellence – Robert Rodriguez and family
- Lifetime Achievement – Belle San Miguel Ortiz, Campanas de America
- Community Voice – Robert Rivard, The Rivard Report
Each candidate was nominated by members of the Hispanic Chamber who then formed a special committee to decide on the nine winners. While each category has specific criteria to determine who is best suited for the award, all honorees were judged by their “significant and consistent contributions to our community over the course of their career,” no matter if their business is two years old or 20 years old.
“We also always try to focus on people who don’t always get awarded, stories that people don’t necessarily know,” Dimas said.
This year’s group of distinguished business leaders make up a range of skills, expertise, and commitment to San Antonio’s entrepreneurial landscape. Attendees will get to meet the president of Palo Alto College, the general manager of a longtime catering business, the owner of the first Hispanic woman-owned automotive supplier, a budding real estate broker, an established corporate executive, a renowned filmmaker, and the director of a hyper-local online news outlet.
Belle San Miguel Ortiz, this year’s Lifetime Achievement award recipient and mother of former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, has been a leader in Mariachi education throughout San Antonio for more than 40 years. Her husband, Juan, is the musical director and manager of the 12-piece Mariachi band Campanas de America.
While Ortiz isn’t necessarily a big-time business mogul, her “passion for music and making it accessible to low income people” make her an ideal candidate for the award that highlights dedication to the betterment of the community, said Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Ramiro Cavazos.
“Belle launched Mariachi music in many of the school districts in the inner city as a training curriculum,” he said. “That was her vision – to put music in the schools.”
Something unique about the award ceremony is that each honoree is introduced by a personal friend, colleague, or family member, allowing guests to get a more well-rounded view of each recipient aside from their business endeavors.
“It’s very thoughtful and meaningful program,” Dimas said. “It’s definitely an emotional evening.”
Along with “recognizing people who are doing powerful things in business,” Cavazos said the annual awards dinner is also a way to market the Hispanic Chamber’s variety of small business services. While their annual fundraising gala draws thousands of people each year, the Business Awards Dinner also raises serious funds for the Hispanic Chamber’s operations and program needs.
“We don’t get City rent … we‘re not subsidized, we’re not funded, we’re truly independent and we like to be independent in that way because we can (more freely) speak our mind,” Cavazos said.
“We can continue to fight for more women for public office the way we do with our Latina leadership, we can support small businesses to give them more contracts from the City and the County,” and fight for more inclusivity and transparency in the community.
Disclosure: The Rivard Report is a member of the Hispanic Chamber and will receive an award this year.
Top image: Honorees at a previous San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Awards Dinner pose for a photo. Photo courtesy of SAHCC.