Colombian-born Manuel Gutierrez came to the United States in 1999 in pursuit of the American Dream.
Gutierrez is the owner of Kite Technology USA Inc. and Kite Environmental Inc. in Kissimmee, Florida. In 2011, the University of Central Florida civil engineering graduate launched his business born out of his passion for the planet and the environment.
“I started Kite Technology and Kite Environmental to make an important impact in the waste management industry, on the environment and in our community,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez began his company with the purpose of creating a waste-treatment facility to reduce the carbon footprint. He accomplishes this by converting used cooking oil from restaurant grease traps and organic food waste into recycled biofuels, fertilizers and/or animal feed, without the need to burn fossil fuels. This innovative capability also prevents the waste by-products traditionally sent to landfills, consequently emitting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere as those waste products decompose.
In 2016, Gutierrez walked into the Regions branch on John Young Parkway in Kissimmee where he met branch manager Carmen Rivera.
“Carmen helped us when there was no hope,” shared Gutierrez who was looking to grow his business and seeking a business credit card and small-business loans to purchase two trucks and additional equipment.
Fast forward to 2021. Rivera recognized that Gutierrez’ business needs had grown beyond that of branch small business. She introduced him to Commercial Banking relationship manager Deanna Trippi and SBA banker Ashley Caroli. Through SBA financing Regions provided the financing Gutierrez needed to purchase an additional centrifuge machine, allowing his company to handle more than double the volume.
“My success is a team effort and one I could not have accomplished without my team members, as well as Regions Bank,” said Gutierrez.
According to 2021 research by the Latino Business Action Network Latino-owned businesses have been booming over the past decade, with an impressive new business starts growth rate of 44%, compared to 4% for non-Latino owned businesses. Many Latino-owned businesses have thrived in the face of economic adversity even with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
An hour north in Sanford, Florida, sits one of Xiomara Perez’s three Bravo Supermarket locations. Bravo Supermarkets sell grocery products specialized in different Latin ethnicities, including Jamaican, Colombian, Venezuelan, Haitian and Central American countries.
A self-made entrepreneur, Perez opened her flagship location without taking on any debt in 2009. She met SBA banker Eddy Balzac in 2010 when she was with another local bank, and with her help in 2013, Perez purchased the building she had been leasing.
In 2017, with Balzac’s help, Regions refinanced Perez’s Sanford location, and the following year financed her second Bravo Supermarket located in Casselberry, Florida. Perez continued to grow her Bravo Supermarket operations and, in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Regions financed the purchase and buildout of Perez’s third location in Longwood, Florida.
“During the pandemic, we did really well and were able to continue serving our customers in a safe and efficient way,” said Perez. “Our traffic increased, thus increasing sales and profits. It gave us an opportunity to open our third location to serve even more customers in Central Florida.”