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Fernando Carranza

A Veteran Entrepreneur Gets a Fresh Start in the United States

By Ernesto Lechner
For Argentina-born Fernando Carranza, becoming a businessman in the United States was a matter of love. At 58, he married an Argentinean psychiatrist with an established practice in Los Angeles and moved to the United States with her. At the age most men are considering retirement, Carranza found himself in a new land, contemplating a new direction in his career.

In reality, Carranza had nothing to worry about. His extensive experience in business helped him get to work as soon as he stepped foot in Los Angeles. An enthusiastic, immaculately dressed man, Carranza talked with Saludos Hispanos about the many aspects of starting a new business life in another country.

Saludos Hispanos: I understand you have been a businessman for most of your life.
Fernando Carranza: Yes, in high school, I was already doing what we call a Bachillerato Comercial (studies focusing on business and finance.) By the time I was in my senior year, I had to attend classes at night because I was already working. I worked at a real-estate company that was owned by my family, and...I became an auctioneer. This company covered a broad spectrum of financial dealings. We dealt with real estate (and) were also traders in the stock market. As far as college goes, I studied economics, but I never finished my degree. I was already too involved in the real world to be able to finish school.

By the time I was 21, I had become a stock trader and belonged to a series of related organizations: an auctioneer association, the chamber of stock traders, the directory of stock market value, etc.
Saludos Hispanos : Did you always stay with your family's company, or did you spread your wings and work on your own?
Carranza: As the years went by, I opened a factory that produced bricks. Now, a brick factory in Argentina is strictly associated with real estate...Over there, you still build a house with bricks. The factory was pretty advanced for its time, and we manufactured about one million bricks a month.
Saludos Hispanos: How did you become the owner of the factory?
Carranza: I became the owner of the factory as a result of how the original proprietors of the place financed the whole operation. Through the years, I bought more and more of the company's stock, until the factory became all mine. Owning a factory had its share of difficulties. To begin with, the market in Argentina is small. You have a little over 30 million people occupying a vast extension of land. Because of the weight of bricks, it is not the kind of product you can manufacture in one place and then transport it somewhere else. If you try to do that, the transportation costs are going to absorb whatever profit you have. From the start, I knew the market was going to be local. My factory was well placed. It was in Arroyo Seco, south of Rosario (where I was born)...north of Buenos Aires.
Saludos Hispanos: Why did you come to the United States?
Carranza: I decided to move here basically because I met the woman who became my wife. Before meeting her, I lived alone in Rosario and was almost retired. I have two daughters from a previous marriage, but they live in Buenos Aires and I got to see them only about once a month. I needed a compañera, and found one in my wife...We started a relationship that made me want to spend the rest of my life with her. The only way to do that was for me to move here because she has an established career in Los Angeles.
Saludos Hispanos: What are you doing these days?
Carranza: Although my goal is to devote myself full-time to real estate, I started...buying and selling cars...I either take a customer to the auctions and help them pick a car, or I myself, buy a car at my own risk, and try to make a profit selling it later on.
Saludos Hispanos: Can buying and selling cars on a small scale become a profitable enterprise?
Carranza: There's always the possibility of making good money, but it is dependent on the organization...and the initial investment...If you want to make serious money, you can't escape having to make a significant investment. I would say that every business is a good business. The key is how you handle it.
Saludos Hispanos: What is your strategy for attracting customers?
Carranza: I meet most of my customers through referrals. Some are introduced to me through friends of acquaintances and the large Argentinean community of Los Angeles. I have placed an ad in the Argentinean Directory, which has helped a lot.
Saludos Hispanos: And your plans for the future?
Carranza: My goal is to establish an office where I can assist the huge Latino population of this city with their real-estate needs. I am already working with a real-estate office and learning about how things are done in this country in terms of legislation, different types of loans and all that. I hope to get my real-estate license very soon and establish my own business. I will be happy to have something on a small scale at this point in my life, working strictly through referrals and doing a good job at it. There's a lot of satisfaction in doing real estate. It is a clear, honest, and transparent business. There are no traps in it. You help somebody buy their own house at a reasonable interest rate. As the years go by, you see them paying off their debt, changing the house and improving the value of the property. If the transaction is smooth, the person won't forget that he bought his house from you. He'll come back when he wants to sell it, or even when his kids grow up and are ready to buy their own house.
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