eMerge Americas

5 self-made Hispanic immigrant millionaires

Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Zumba creator Beto Perez
WireImage | Getty Images

Hispanics make up 17.6 percent of the total population of the United States. By 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that figure will jump to 28.6 percent.

As of 2012, the most recent figure, there were 3.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses, a modest rise from 2007. But the odds of middle-aged, college-educated Hispanics becoming millionaires are less than 7 percent, while those of Caucasians are better than 21 percent. And those odds only go up for immigrants.

Immigrants, though, are risk-takers. A recent Kauffman study found that people who come to the United States are almost twice as likely to be entrepreneurs versus native-born Americans. And while their failure rate is also higher, there are some very notable success stories. Here are some of the biggest.

Jorge Pérez, co-founder and CEO of The Related Group

Jorge Perez profile photo (handout)
Andrew Milne

Born in Argentina, Jorge Pérez came to the United States in 1968 after finishing high school. Settling in Miami, he, perhaps more than anyone else, is responsible for the skyline of that city. Pérez has a net worth of $2.8 billion, according to Forbes, and has been called "The condo king of South Florida" by the Wall Street Journal.

A chance meeting with New York developer Stephen Ross led to the founding of The Related Group, which started off making affordable housing but today specializes in high-end condominiums. His success in that line of work led to a friendship with President Donald Trump, as well as several joint business ventures. However, when it comes to the topic of the wall along the U.S./Mexico border, the two disagree, with Pérez calling the idea "idiotic."

Alberto "Beto" Perez, founder of Zumba

Beto Perez
Source: Beto Perez

Zumba, the dance fitness regiment that has been popular for more than a decade, got its start in Colombia in 1986. Perez, an aerobics instructor at the time, forgot the regular music for his class, so he improvised with a tape of Latin music he'd recorded from the radio. Thirteen years later he moved to Miami to grow the business. Today 15 million people at 200,000 locations in 180 countries take Zumba classes, according to the company.

The craze has moved beyond workouts to include a clothing line, shoes, food items and even a cruise and video games. In 2012, Raine Group and Insight Venture Partners took a minority stake in Perez's business, giving it a valuation of $500 million.

Carlos Castro, president and CEO of Todos Supermarket

Carlos Castro, a prince William County businessman, owns theTodos Supermarket mini empire.
Margaret Thomas | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The year 1990 was a busy one for Castro. He not only founded Todos, a supermarket chain catering to Latino shoppers in the Washington, DC, area, he also became a U.S citizen, 11 years after he first entered the country. He initially fled El Salvador in 1979 and entered illegally but was later deported. The next year, he was back, working a series of odd jobs and eventually bringing over his wife and children.

Todos (Spanish for "everybody") is a small chain, but it's a multimillion-dollar business — and a well-respected one. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce named it one of its Fantastic 50 businesses for three consecutive years starting in 2005, and in 2007 it claimed business-of-the-year honors from the Virginia Merchant and Retailers Association. And Castro himself picked up this year's Charles J. Colgan Visionary Award from the Prince William Chamber of Commerce for his business and civic leadership.

Jordi Munoz, founder of 3D Robotics

Jordi Munoz, right
Source: 3D Robotics

Jordi Munoz's empire got its unlikely start while he was waiting for his green card. In 2007, after moving from Tijuana and awaiting the all-clear to legally work, Munoz hacked the sensors on the controller of his Nintendo Wii, wrote some code and gave birth to the first autopiloted drone.

Two years later he and his partner, Chris Anderson, former editor in chief of Wired, launched 3D Robotics, despite never having met face to face. (Their previous business dealings were all done online.) Munoz left the company in 2015 in the first of a series of consolidations. As recently as last March, 3DR went through another round of layoffs, reducing its staff to less than 100.

The company's still attracting investors, though. To date, 3D Robotics has raised $159 million in venture capital, including a $53 million Series D round earlier this year. Munoz, while he has left, is still a shareholder.

Maria Contreras-Sweet, former administrator of the SBA and founder of ProAmérica Bank

Maria Contreras-Sweet receives an Honorary Doctor of Public Service Degree at the 2017 Tufts University 161st Commencement at Tufts University Green on May 21, 2017 in Medford, Massachusetts.
Paul Marotta | Getty Images

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Maria Contreras-Sweet may not have the accumulated wealth of someone like The Related Group's Jorge Pérez (the Center for Responsive Politics estimates her net worth at $3.5 million), but she has a business record that few can match.

While she's most widely known for her four-year stint as the administrator of the SBA under President Obama, she also served as executive chairwoman and founder of ProAmérica Bank, which services businesses within the Latino community. She launched Contreras-Sweet Enterprises, a marketing and research firm. Among her clients: Coca-Cola, Pacific Gas and Electric and Walt Disney. She also co-founded the venture-capital firm Fortius Holdings. Since leaving the SBA, she has joined the board of directors at San Diego-based Sempra Energy.