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Meet Manny Ruiz, the accidental entrepreneur behind Hispanicize

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This story originally ran on Digital Trends Español — the Spanish-language version of the site you know and love.

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“We want to inject new ideas that Latinos have never heard before. We want to unite Latinos and create our own voice.”

Born in Miami to a Cuban father and a second-generation Cuban-American mother, Manny Ruiz is one of the most influential personalities in the Latino community in terms of empowering content creators and digital media trendsetters. Ruiz is an entrepreneur, a businessman, and founder of Hispanicize, one of the most important events for Latinos in tech and digital media in the United States.

“I’m an overachiever of epic proportions,” he says. Ruiz is a true businessman … even though he admits he never planned it.

Call him the accidental businessman.

Related: Meet Alexis Tirado, the young Latina carrying the flame of Hispanic millennials

In Cuba, his family lived a humble life. In Miami, the family had limited resources as well: As a boy growing up in Little Havana and Hialeah, he looked forward to an escape from the challenges and struggles of his childhood and adolescence, especially in primary and secondary school. A victim of bullying, he saw journalism as a salvation, a way to communicate and inform.

“I failed my senior year in high school, and I had to take it again,” he said during a candid, exclusive interview with Digital Trends Español. “It wasn’t because I was a flunker, it was because I thought I wasn’t smart … I didn’t have any confidence in my skills or the academics to be able to go anywhere, but what I always had was a strong gut feeling and desire to find and fill a gap in something.”

From journalism to activism

Ruiz’s business adventures have been diverse — some successful, others less so. But a thread weaves them all together: He has always fought to create opportunities and bring the Latino community together. “I’m a businessman in media that actually never intended to be part of the business, to be honest.”

“I’m a businessman in media that actually never intended to be part of the business.”

He began his career with the Miami Herald. Ruiz was a part of the team that covered Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Florida in 1992, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. After his career as a journalist, he ventured into public relations, marketing, digital media and entrepreneurial business. “I’m a journalist at heart. I used to cover police stories for some time at the Herald, and then in 1994 I pursued a career in law. Life changed and then I decided to get into public relations to survive — literally.” In 2013, he was named one of the most influential Hispanics in America, according to Latino Leader magazine.

Ruiz today is one of those people who, when he speaks, captivates others with his rhetoric and energy, which transmits a contagious sense of confidence. He’s also extremely knowledgeable about the entrepreneurial world. He started this chapter in 2000.

Related: The Latino ‘Perfect Pitch’ competition is coming to Hispanicize

“Right when everybody was getting the bug for business, I came up with my first idea, which would later become known as Hispanic PR Wire,” he explained. And this was when his first efforts began to pay off. “We innovated something that changed the industry and also made us a strong target for acquisition.”

Hispanicize 2016 Preview Video - The Year of #PowerInUnity

Hispanicize began in 2010 when he sold his first company. Ruiz’s online publications and press releases targeted the Hispanic community; Hispanic PR Wire was bought by one of its competitors and market leaders, PR Newswire, for $5.5 million. With this capital the entrepreneur decided to start Hispanicize. “Many times, I’ve been the first in and the first out,” Ruiz states when discussing his entrepreneurial vision.

Carving a space for Latinos in media

Regarding entrepreneurship, Ruiz highlights his experience working with new concepts, and how to bring them to fruition. “I thought it was much easier than what it is … but the reality is that being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things one can do. It is very fulfilling in some ways, but it’s a lot of work and, it isn’t for everybody. It is hard to do and be successful at it.”

“I think we don’t dream enough and we don’t dream big enough.”

The goal of this year’s Hispanicize is to provide opportunities for Latinos in media, entrepreneurial businesses, and agencies, and for them to connect and collaborate. “The biggest challenge is that our community is not as economically mature outside of the small business world as other communities are. We have a lot of smalls businesses and we are trained almost organically to be business people, but we don’t know how to scale. We don’t have mentors to help us scale business ideas.”

For 2016, Hispanicize is about opening new doors where Latinos can grow their businesses, presence, and outreach in the U.S. “What we want to do with Hispanicize is stretch the minds, the thinking, and the attitudes of Latinos. We will do that this year. I will be introducing some ideas about leadership, and hopefully, about economic empowerment.”

Related: What to watch at the second annual Tecla awards

Ruiz is a firm believer that the Latino community can come together and be unified. “We are very humble and content people, collectively speaking, as Latinos, but I think we don’t dream enough and we don’t dream big enough. I hope that through this industry gathering with many opportunities showing and doing different things at a larger scale, we will ourselves discover our voice.”

Finally, Hispanicize’s founder states, “We are an event and an organization, a movement with an attitude that we are not going to ask for permission, we are just going to do what we’ve got to do. Because if we continue to wait, ask, and beg, we are not going to get anywhere. We do need to unify on this. Unless Latinos learn how to unify we are not going be able to see our collective efforts.”

Hispanicize 2016 is expected to gather more than 3,000 of the nation’s most influential Latino professionals from the industries of digital content creation, journalism, music, marketing, film, and business over five days. The event will take place in downtown Miami’s InterContinental hotel, April 4-8, 2016.

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