Vitals: 43; born and raised in Coral Gables; oldest of four sons born to Cuban exiles Manny and Lillian, who were “starting from scratch” when they opened Diamond’s, the famed Miami party supply and housewares store; graduated from Christopher Columbus High School before receiving an associate’s degree from Miami-Dade College and dropping out of Florida International University to take “the entrepreneurial path;” married second wife, Telemundo anchor Mariana Rodriguez, in October 2013; father of Manny, 11, and Nicolas, 8, from his first marriage.
Current job: President and CEO of ethnic cookware manufacturer IMUSA-USA, where he oversees marketing and sales, recruits celebrity chefs such as the Food Network’s Aaron Sanchez and James Beard Award winner Michelle Bernstein as brand ambassadors, and innovates ways to update traditional Hispanic kitchen cookware for the modern, multicultural cook. “It’s been a whole evolution. A lot of international products, from the wok to the paella pan, have become so mainstream.” He’s been so successful with products for the Hispanic market, he’s now working on doing the same thing for the Asian market.
First paying job: “My brothers and I had a mango stand on a major intersection by the house where we grew up. I was 11 years old. I wanted to see the latest Star Wars movie and get the action figures, and my parents said I had to work and save for them.”
As a kid you wanted to be: “A veterinarian. But that didn’t work out. There was more money in pots and pans.”
Moment you knew you made it: “The chain-wide placement of our cookware in Target in 2013. As in every Target in America! It took us out of our comfort zone of just being within Latin and Asian pockets of the country, and it took our brand to the next level. It was total validation.”
What you value most about Miami: “I think Miami has grown up as a city, from its art to its infrastructure to its outdoor activities. It has become more multicultural. It’s easy to get customers to visit. They all love Miami.”
Kitchen confession: “My wife, Mariana, doesn’t cook. She likes making reservations! But I do love it. In fact, a great part of the business has been getting to work with cooks from all over the country—and from all over the world—because I get to learn about different cuisines and really understand why cookware needs to be built a certain way. It’s helped me understand, for example, the difference between a wok and a regular sauté pan and how a wok can make the food taste different. Plus, not long ago, one of the bloggers who writes for the IMUSA site taught me to make pad Thai!”
Best advice you ever received: “My grandfather told me, you need to set the example for everyone at the company. Be the first one in the office and the last one to leave. That really stuck with me. Work was never just coming in the door and leaving.”
Greatest accomplishment: “Being a father. It’s so challenging today. I travel extensively—120,000 miles a year—but I am still a soccer and flag football dad on the weekends. I used to coach, but now I sit quietly, listen, and bite my tongue most often.”
How you give back: His son Nicolas was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, an autism spectrum disorder, when he was 2, but early intervention helped resolve his issues. “Once I saw he was well on his way to living a normal life, I decided to get my company involved so I could help other families touched by this devastating disorder. Ever since then, we’ve championed Autism Speaks as our primary philanthropy.”
Greatest extravagance: “My passion for the outdoors. I love to hunt and fish. On my last safari in Africa two years ago, a rhino charged at us. He came within 10 feet. It was very cool, but very scary. My older son was with me. It was major show-and-tell material.”
The last time you did something for the first time: “I surfed in Maui. It is very challenging getting on a surfboard and riding the waves. My wife got up on the board before I did. The competitive part of me was like, ‘Hey, wait! You beat me.’”
Something people who know you don’t know about you: “I love to read all types of books. I’m also writing a book about my life lessons, with different ideas, quotes and experiences, to self-publish and give to my kids.”
Your motto: Chance favors the prepared mind.