Mexican businesswoman conquered the US

Meet Carmina Zamorano, Founder, and CEO of a 9 successful business empires

Meet Carmina Zamorano, Founder, and CEO of a 9 successful business empire: HARAS DOS CAVALEIROS, Integra Consultores, Haras Enterprises, SHAMBALLA & PARADIS EYEWEAR, Haras Productions, Carnan Properties Houston International, Hispanocard, and HispanoClub, she is considered one of the most powerful businesswomen in the United States.

“It is never late to make your dreams come true, I am not an architect, but I build buildings with my Real State company, Carnan Properties, I sell them, I work with a lot developers, so I am making my dream come true”

Who is Carmina Zamorano? define yourself.

I am a mother, I am a daughter, a friend, then I am an entrepreneur.  I just feel so comfortable with my skin right now. I have been through a lot of changes in the past 3 years, before I used to be a businesswoman, I realized to be a businesswoman is different than being an entrepreneur when you are a businesswoman, it is like you are running something you start believing and creating, now I recognize myself as I don´t build, grow, and believe in something that I am not comfortable with.

You have a very close relationship with your mom and your brother. Tell us more about your family, how were you as a kid?

I love my mother; I am who I am thanks to her. She was a super businesswoman, she retired 10 years ago, she taught me everything I know, for example how to be disciplined, how to balance in a negotiation, she was behind me all the time. My brother is my best friend.  When I was a child, I attended school but honestly, I did not like it, because my classmates bullied me so much, I studied a lot, I was under a lot of stress and I was in a hurry, my father used to tell me STOP, I do not know why I was in a hurry. I was running a very fast life; I was an entrepreneur at 7 years old, we lived in Veracruz I asked my mom to get Hello Kitty things and I used to sell them at school. I remember that I was always selling something. If you are bullied is an advantage to be better.

You have a Bachelor´s degree in Law from the University UVM in Mexico, and a master’s in law in Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, you have mentioned in several interviews that you studied this career because your father asked to, how was your experience about it, what would YOU have liked to study and why?

I wanted to be an architect but I wasn´t good at math, I failed all the tests to be in the exact sciences career division in High School, I had dyslexia and my mom didn’t ‘know so I realized when I was 25 because I swapped the phone numbers. So, because I was failing the tests in High School my dad told me: “Carmina, you don´t have any chance to be an architect! so you need to be a lawyer”. I went to a social sciences career division, then I passed the tests for college, and I went to law school.

I think it wasn´t so bad, because as an attorney I can have all those skills as negotiation, I realized 20 years after that I really wanted to be an architect when I was checking for my real estate company, that is the one I enjoy the most. I think these new generations as the millennials are freer. My brother wanted to be a doctor and he is an attorney too! we come from a very strict and structured family, my father was so square and my mother so disciplined. It is never late to make your dreams come true, I am not an architect, but I build things and now I build buildings with my Real State company, Carnan Properties, I sell them, I work with a lot of developers, so I am making my dream come true. It is never late to start something you really dream about.

“If you remember where you´re coming from for sure, you are not going to forget where you´re going to”

How did you start your professional career?

I studied in Mexico but when I finished college, I wanted to live in Europe, the best professional career I had, was when I was working there, I studied for my MBA there I worked for McKinsey, I worked 17 hours a day, it was overwhelming, we didn´t have weekends or days off, because you work by projects as long as the project lasts you´re working until you finish, I traveled a lot, I had to learn German which changed my mentality because I worked as a German I always deliver my tasks on time. With my team in Mexico sometimes it is difficult because if I need a document for today, it is delivered 2 days later. For me today is late. Everything should have been done yesterday! That fact gave me an advantage in Mexico because in this country everybody is working for tomorrow.

So, I worked and lived in Europe and I came back to Queretaro where my family was living, and I did not like it, I didn’t ‘feel I belonged. It is not because is a small city I just wanted more, I wanted to grow, I went to Mexico City and I didn´t have money to eat so I did a lot of things after having an amazing career in Europe, I started from scratch. I knocked on the door of different companies, I had one of the worst years economically, I didn´t want to get money from my parents and I was proud of myself. I was making money as a model, but I learned that wasn’t the career I want to follow, I was more intellectual I had much to offer than just my look. I was 23-24 and I was hungry for being successful and being rich. I wanted to make decisions of doing things that I really wished, I did not know how, so I looked for a job, a nice one from 9 to 6 pm.

Then I found a Human Resources company where I learned most of the knowledge, I know about HR, the owners were my guard angels, I learned to deal in a male-dominated business environment. I learned how to focus, how to behave. I realized I was growing to become an entrepreneur.

It seems you always have been an entrepreneur since 1999 to date, you have been the founder or co-founder, CEO, or Vice-president of 9 companies: HARAS DOS CAVALEIROS, Integra Consultores, Haras Enterprises, SHAMBALLA & PARADIS EYEWEAR, Haras Productions, Carnan Properties Houston International, Hispanocard, and HispanoClub, how did you jump from working in the HR company to found so many companies, along these years?

Integra was my first company, which is an HR company I do payrolling for international companies in Mexico, it was a challenge, I started dating Rafael, he was a great accountant, and we started this company together, we made a great match at the moment. We got married and had our first child, it was a great moment of my life, I was in love with everything I was doing with him, my daughter, my company. I learned how to sell and negotiate. It was an amazing time I was enjoying myself so much.

At that time, I was young taking risks and making money and then 4-5 years later when I was 30. When we were  very successful, it came the worst part, because we lost control of what we were  and what we were doing,  so people may make the wrong decisions if you don’t ‘have your roots grounded, because you have money, power, the first, that happens in your life you must be very careful because life is full of ups and downs, so the first time when you are learning to be in the business then you are successful you need to be careful with thatWhen this happened to me, I went back home with my mom in Mexico, visited my friends from childhood, if you remember where you´re coming from for sure you are not going to forget where you´re going to.  Mexico is a country full of opportunities for business if you have the vision to grow, but most of my adult life I have spent in the States so most of my companies are in this country. We started with the horses, we bought a place that became an equestrian center, a hotel, spa, restaurant one thing brought another.

“BELIEVE in what you do, CREATE it, GROW it and SHARE it, because otherwise it is useless”

People think that when you are successful you are always up and this is not true, Rafael and I had a huge fight, we crumbled and we had to learn again how to build this and start over with other companies, new ideas, for 5 years I lived in Disneyland, everything was amazing we had 2 beautiful girls, I had everything I wanted, a lovely husband, our business grew very fast in 5 years, we were so successful suddenly something happened and we crumbled, we were apart for one year and we decided to divide the companies,  I was growing in a different direction, we lost ourselves, we simply weren´t on the same page so we started to build everything again and other 8 companies came.

With the time we got divorced, we keep doing business together and we have a good relationship, he is a great dad, he is just there when we need something, it took a while, it was not easy. Life is not a straight line; it is a line with ups and downs, I see life as a roller coaster and you must learn when you are down and analyze what took you down? Then you can be up again and don´t make the same mistakes.

Carmina, you are considered one of the most powerful businesswomen in the United States, you successfully run 9 companies, you speak 4 languages:  English, Spanish, Portuguese and German, you serve on the board of various organizations, including the Houston Intercontinental Chamber of Commerce, Latin Women's Initiative, Latino Learning Center, and the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show and you gave a conference at Harvard University, What´s the recipe for your success?

I will divide my recipe into 2 parts:

1)     I do what I like, this is something I learned I do what I like. I enjoy my life, I am not afraid of making the decision if I must close a company I do it, for example, Carnan properties is on suspension now for the pandemic, I am not afraid of closing one company and opening another, just take it easy, I am comfortable with what I am doing. When you are just relaxed, I think your energy flows better so more opportunities come to you.

2)     The team, the best gift God gave me was to choose the right team, your employees are your best partners in business, maybe they are not the most skilled but if they are committed and are willing to learn, it is not about money is about belonging and creating.  There are team members who have been working for me for 16 years and they don´t go.

Also, I am very disciplined, if I must do something, I finish it.  It is important to learn how to delegate, you need to trust in your team, they will mess up for sure, maybe they will steal from you, you can't control it all, you'd go crazy, I know that because I am a control freak but you choose the right team, and sometimes the right team is temporary, one of the things I have learned is relationships have an end, all type of relationships, people die, people change etc. I have the Carmina 4C´s in Spanish:  CREER, CREAR, CRECER, COMPARTIR, translated to English is: BELIEVE in what you do, CREATE it, GROW it and SHARE it, because otherwise, it is useless.

“I realized that I did not want to be just successful which is the part of the business, of having money, I also wanted to be a WINNER, which means someone complete, this is about take care of my personal life”

It seems you love horses, Haras Dos Cavaleiros has become the world-renowned breeder of Lusitanian horses and the main equestrian center of the country, did you get the interest in them since you were a child or later? even one of your daughters participates in horse competitions.

No, honestly it is borrowed, it is my former husband Rafael´s passion. He is a breeder. We started this business because we had horses here in Mexico and we exported them, it was to make his dream come true, he wanted to be the best breeder and I had the vision to made it happened. I built the brand with him.

The experience I got at McKinsey was very useful to build successful brands.  Rafael´s horses are one of the best in the world. 3 years after we started winning the best breeders in the USA.

What does a normal workday look like for you?

Before COVID-19, I wake up at 7 am, I drink coffee, it is not regular coffee it is a detox coffee from Rafael´s company, I go to see my daughters, I have breakfast with them, sometimes I comb Natalia (my younger child) I get them ready for school, I come back to my room,  I do some exercise or sometimes I go to the GYM, I eat well, do exercise for around 40 minutes, I care for my skin, etc. because I want to be healthy, I do it for my inside, I  take a shower, get dressed and at 9:30 I am leaving my office, sometimes I take calls at 8:30 am. I am on the phone all time, I am meeting people all the time in my office, I try to have all my meeting in the same office to avoid moving to my other different companies.

I train myself to change one subject to another talking about horses, later hotels, real estate development, a project in Mexico etc. So, I learned to focus and be disciplined, I take notes, and I leave the phone when I am in a meeting, I try to focus on the conversation I mastered that skill at school, if you pay attention you will understand the class, be there in the moment, this is a respectful behavior as well.  2020 was a different year, one of the best for me, because I have time for my family, my kids, for myself, to sleep, to watch series, to eat, exercise, to enjoy my house, before COVID I used to have lunch in the office now I organize my schedule differently and I don´t go to the office in the afternoons, I do home office otherwise I would be working until 6 or 7 pm. Sometimes some projects require I work not before 10 pm.

Before Covid, I used to work until 3:30 come home, do some home office and I take time to myself, for example, my boyfriend and I have a day a week alone, we go to lunch, we go to the movies we come back home at 9:00 pm, we watch TV with the girls and go to bed. I try to sleep, this is a must if you want to be creative, this is crucial for me, so my order of importance of a healthy routine is this: Sleep, eat, and then exercise. It is a rule if you are rested you can create and if you create you make money.

“Long lunches don´t get you anywhere. Today at 40, I sit anywhere and I’m a respectable businesswoman because I didn’t get drunk with anyone”

Do you have a philosophy that guides your career decisions?

To take risks, I am not afraid, If I have to start a business in LA tomorrow, I go for it, If I have a job proposal in Madrid, I will take it, I am not afraid of changes, I am not attached to anything, neither material, emotional, family, changes are always with you.

What do you love most about your job as CEO? & what is the most difficult part?

There is one answer for both, what I like, and dislike is: TO MAKE DECISIONS, it is horrible! When you are an employee you receive your payment, it is easy, but when you are the CEO the decisions you make is like a domino, it is so difficult, if you do it right OMG, we are successful, we are a great team, but if you make wrong, everything fails, you are a failure. In general, in every company the decisions you make impact society.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend to everyone else do?

Discipline, if you want to be successful you must be disciplined and take care of, take care of the people who are around you, take care of your business, take care of your clients, take care of everything. Sometimes I am exhausted, and I am not in a good mood, being an entrepreneur is not easy.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I have several businesses, I founded different companies: one of the Human resources, the hotel, the horses, the restaurant, the jewelry, the glasses.  I am successful because I don´t focus on one type of business, I am an attorney, but I have a Real State company, I just create, I am creative, and I am not afraid of starting a new business I can sell whatever I just have to find a niche.

“I work on my personal image, you have to look for an appearance that represents what you want to be but not losing what you are”

You have a very tight schedule, but still, you have been recognized for years due to your business acumen and charitable contributions. Even you received the Humanitarian Award from the Latino Learning Center and you were later recognized as one of the Houston Sweethearts of 2016 by The Mission of Yahweh. What does it drive you?

To share, if you don´t share your circle is not complete, I am back to my 4C´S:  CREER, CREAR, CRECER, COMPARTIR, it means: BELIEVE in what you do, CREATE it, GROW it, and SHARE it.

Sometimes is not even money, but you share knowledge, for example, I share my knowledge with small groups of women and men in Houston, and then they invited me to Harvard, to give a lecture at Harvard this was the best experience of my life, the conference was to students in Master´s degree and they were listening to me I just talked about my experience. It is all about giving back and not only money.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to be with my girlfriends drinking some tequila, I like to spend time with my mom.  I like to go to the beach I am a mermaid. I grew up in Veracruz so I enjoy swimming and taking the sun, I am simple I am not so fancy as you can think.  I go out with my boyfriend; I spend time with my 3 daughters, I travel as much as I can.

Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, a blossoming family life, and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, you are divorced and you have a boyfriend and have 3 daughters, so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?

Anyone can be successful, but not everyone can be a winner, you can be successful in some way, but to triumph is really feel happy with what you have, I was very successful in business, I’m still, but I wasn’t a successful woman in my personal life, I realized that that family photo that I had was not what I had really looked for in my life, it has been a big change this coronavirus covid19 for me, it has been the culmination of something wonderful, very tough but wonderful.

I separated from my husband 3 years ago, I got divorced 2 years ago, and it was a very difficult divorce and I think successful women go through a lot of these things, in my case I did not have a man who was jealous of success, we were great business partners, but the human and family values that we needed to work as a couple has been lost. It started my life in transformation 3 years ago, but it has been a good thing for Carmina, the entrepreneur. The businesswoman realized that she earned the same by working smarter, not killing myself 17 hours a day, sacrificing time with my daughters, in the end, I was trying so hard to please who I thought was my boss, the CEO of the house, Rafael my former husband.

Suddenly I gave myself some space and a new person was born a much more complete one, obviously based on a lot of pain, nobody wants a transformation like that, I found myself, I slept, gave me time to be stressed, not to be stressed, to cry, to get angry, I did not even have time for that before. So, you saw an extremely strong but restrained Carmina, I realized that I did not want to be just successful which is the part of the business, of having money, I also wanted to be a WINNER, which means someone complete, this is about taken care of my personal life. Fortunately, now I have all and I am very grateful for that.

How is Carmina as a girlfriend, as a mom of 3 kids?

I am very dedicated, I am a homegirl, my boyfriend and I have a rule that we don´t go out alone, for example, we have our work lives, but we don´t go alone, we go with our friends, my daughters love him. Manolo knows what he wants, it is very difficult to be with a woman like me you must be very confident. When he knew I was divorced, he started calling me and we dated. Once a week he takes one of my 3 daughters for ice cream or for eating sushi, he spends a lot of time with them, Natalia loves him very much. He is very respectful; he is a friend. He makes my life easier; he is a great partner. Obviously, sometimes we have fights but look at us we have been together for 2 years. All relationships have a timeline, but for now, he is with me and I am very happy, he is a party boy, he loves to go out, he loves to be with me, and this is something that was missing in my life.

My daughters bring me some much joy, they are the best legacy I am going to have. I have 3 future CEO´s, If I can teach them 10% of what I know they will have 30% for the next generations of the world. I let my daughters be free. I teach them how to use their skills; how do they develop their skills? MAKING MISTAKES. I need my daughters to make their own mistakes and show how the companies work.

There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid, industries dominated for only men, etc., have you experimented with the glass ceiling? if yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?

Being an entrepreneur is being an entrepreneur, it has nothing to do with gender, I do not like to put women in the role of victim. From a very young age, I started to be an entrepreneur, when I grew up, I worked as a commercial and legal director in a human resources company like the one I have today and they were 3 owners, all handsome, successful, millionaires with a large company, I was 25 years old, I had a year and a half that I had finished my master’s degree and had lived in Europe. And I really wanted to stay with them at meals, I had lunch with them from 3 to 5 daily in fancy restaurants and everyone told me: Why do you stand up at 5 or when the first whiskey arrives? Because I am a woman. I missed the fun part, but at that time or when the first whiskey came in, no business closed, that is the truth. I learned that Mexico worked like this, I had a good relationship with them and with their wives. But long lunches don´t get you anywhere. Today at 40, I sit anywhere and I’m a respectable businesswoman because I didn’t get drunk with anyone. Today men and women respect me very much, but I gave that respect to myself.

So, I did not victimize myself, what I did was get back to work from 5 pm to 10 pm, what happened? I learned from the business and I started my own and it is very successful. Others are still working in the same place with the same people, for the same company. I wanted more, of course, I was afraid to start, and I went through many things, I was very young, and I came from a very macho world, but I have never felt attacked or felt racism in the United States where I live now, yes, I represent the rights of women and migrants, but I have never felt attacked and when they try to do so I move on. I’m not that person they say I am and that happens to me in business when I sit with a shark, I go with what I bring, and I know. I play a lot with appearance; success is to be complete, and I work on my personal image you have to look for an appearance that represents what you want to be but not losing what you are. 

What tips can you give to young girls especially the Latinas, who want to like you?

Find what you want to be, my father taught me, serve as a waitress, work in Zara folding clothes, and learn what is the best version of you. This way you will be elegant and classic for a job interview if you can fold clothes, you will learn how to be organized and being a waitress will teach you how to be in service.

Despite your position in the business world, you are a very down to earth and approachable person, even, you respond to most of the comments of your followers and make jokes on Instagram, you take pictures with your fans, how do you avoid being conceited?

I always remember where I come from so, I am not going to forget where I am going to. That is why I go home with my mom to Mexico; I visit my friends from childhood. I taught my daughters to be humble and see the other side.  For example, my daughter Carmina will start working this summer.

I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you really are (personally), and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Carmina and what´s not?

Carmina loves to go to red carpets and be fashionable but also, Carmina likes to eat Doritos in her bed watching Netflix which I never did before Covid 19. I love to go to fancy restaurants wearing a super nice dress, be the face of Chopard and drink Champagne, hang out with Eva Longoria and Leonardo DiCaprio, I like that Carmina. But also, I like to go to San Miguel de Allende and walk in the streets and being in contact with nature and eat some tamales. Everybody wants to have the opportunity to play roles in their lives, you need to take the risk to play roles sometimes I have long hair, then I have shorter hair, I am not afraid of changes.  I do not go out if I am not well dressed, you always must be the best version of yourself.

Who is the woman you admire the most and why?

My mom is a fighter, she taught me not to be afraid and to start over and over. Also, I admire Michelle Obama, I went to give a speech in the White House, President Obama was there with her, a member of the team of the president asked me if I was afraid of giving the speech in front of the president, I responded no, I am nervous because of Michelle.  She has a way to say things so transparent and honest. She is a great strategist. She is not afraid of saying what she thinks and face the consequences and I admire her for that

Name: Carmina Zamorano

Sector: Human Resources

Company: Integra consultores

Designation: CEO & Founder

Country: Mexico/ The USA

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