Alex López Negrete shot at the offices of López Negrete | Suit and Tie by Billy Reid | Custom Shirt by Sid Washburn | Vintage Coral and Gold Buddha Cufflinks | Shoes by Donald J. Pliner | Vintage Patek Phillipe Watch

Can you tell us about the early beginnings of the López Negrete agency and how it became the empire it is today?

My wife Cathy and I opened in 1985, in the foyer of our little townhome in Alief, Texas – with a dream of building an agency dedicated to marketing to the burgeoning Hispanic community in the U.S., an agency that would create work that was culturally relevant, respectful and effective. The truth is that it takes a unique combination of perseverance, stubbornness, dedication, and vision to go from one pitch to another, winning and keeping each client as you go through the years. It’s been a wonderful journey – and we’re far from done.

What is your favorite part of being CEO of your own advertising agency? What is the most challenging?

There’s nothing quite like leading a large number of talented and creative people in a day and age where it’s all about creativity and innovation. To see your work and that of your teams get published and create great results for your clients is one of the most thrilling experiences I can describe. And, to do that, consistently for three decades is very fulfilling. Cathy and I are a different breed of CEO and COO. We’re in the business, in the trenches, in the work, every day. I don’t know how else to do it. To be sure, there is pain and there are sacrifices – at least there are if you are truly dedicated to your business, your people and your clients. The hours are long – and the risks are high. But then, again, nothing truly worth doing is easy or without risk, is it? I’m glad we chose the road we chose.

How vital is the Hispanic consumer in this country?

Tremendously so. Latinos are one of the key drivers of the American economy and that is undeniable. Just think: This is a population of 55 million people, growing to 100 million people. It is essential to the American future. It is already making a major contribution in many areas of American life, from religion to politics to entrepreneurship and to corporate business and as consumers. There’s about a trillion-and-a-half dollars of spend by Latinos in this country today, growing at $80 billion to $90 billion per year. On top that, over the last decade, 51 percent of all new home mortgages taken out in the United States of America have been taken out by Latino families. When you look at entrepreneurship, in the last half-decade, 86 percent of all new business formations in the United States shows that Latinos were creating 86 percent of all new business formations. Without Latinos in the mix, we as a nation would have had net negative business formations. America’s Latino community is composed of Hispanics from many parts of the world all having their own unique tastes and customs from one another. How does your agency tailor its marketing efforts from one Hispanic culture to another?

This is a big and deep question. We have to realize that, over time, what has happened is the creation of a very unique U.S. Hispanic Identity that is unique and different to the identity of other Latin American countries. The U.S. is where all Latino roads meet. This is the only market where you have people from Mexico, Salvador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Colombia, Puerto Rico…(and so on), meet, work, live and create together. That does not happen anywhere else in the world – and in the United States that has been happening for decades upon decades. And, as a result, we have a very unique Latino identity that is as diverse, deep and nuanced as we are.

What charitable causes are you currently involved in?

We are consistently involved with the Advertising Education Foundation Houston, Purple Songs Can Fly (Texas Children’s Hospital Oncology), Houston Food Bank, and many others, either through individual donations or an actual program. We’re very proud of the community involvement unit we have created inside the agency called “APOD” (Advertising Professionals On Duty). You see, we use the analogy that you cannot be a strong tree with big branches if you do not have deep roots – and as such, individually and collectively, we are very involved in the community. The number of schools, organizations and events we engage in is very large – and it’s an amazing thing to witness.

As a CEO and Hispanic marketing guru with a busy schedule, what do you do to disconnect?

As an entrepreneur, I don’t know that you ever really do disconnect from your business. Nevertheless, music is one way that has been close to my heart since my youth. I’ve been playing guitar since the 4th grade. The other thing I absolutely love to do is to play with my 2 year-old granddaughter Mia. That’s become my favorite pastime!

What would you like your legacy to be?

As an entrepreneur, a legacy that serves as an example that if you dream it, you can do it, as long as you are willing to work for it and put everything on the line for it. Every day. As a marketer, a legacy that leaves undeniable evidence that the Hispanic consumer is an undeniable source of growth for marketers in this country who have the courage and open-mindedness to pursue it on a consistent, dedicated basis and are willing to invest in the opportunity accordingly.

Photography by Rodolfo Michel | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Interview by Pauline Snyder-Goodwin

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