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Cuban Immigrant Builds a Company With Little More Than Enthusiasm

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When an immigrant wants to start a company, his commercial ideas are generally limited to the field he knows best. This lack of knowledge about various US industries and markets is an advantage because he focuses on what he understands well. Maintaining that simple approach to business is a recipe for success. Yin Alvarez discovered this upon emigrating to the US from Cuba. He started an enterprise that involves what he enjoys and is familiar to him.

Alvarez fled the Cuban gymnastics team in 1992 with his teammate and future wife Maria Gonzalez and her infant son. Initially after arriving in the US, Alvarez worked as a coach at a gym owned by someone else. From this he learned a little about operating a business.

Since Maria was also a former gymnast, the two partners decided to deploy their expertise by opening Universal Gymnastics in Miami. Alvarez realized his dream of working in gymnastics and having his own business, an impossible goal if he had remained in Cuba. The new company was launched in 1995. Alvarez admits today that he was a little nervous when he first opened his gymnastics enterprise.

The greatest risk that Alvarez conquered was finding a location. His first base of operations was only 5,000 square feet. Although he thought it was very small and a little rundown, he rented it anyway and made some mostly cosmetic improvements that attracted customers to the new business. Universal Gymnastics moved to its current 18,000 square foot facility in 2004. The building is large enough to accommodate the company’s growth to over 300 students.

The organization Alvarez started has thrived in its first 17 years despite his lack of business background and limited time in Miami at the time he opened. By doing what he loves, he survived the setback of South Florida economic problems that began when the housing market burst in 2008. Alvarez retained gymnastics students by talking with parents about the talent of their children and making fee arrangements based upon payment ability. The strategy worked and company income is rising again.

Alvarez is quick to credit his team of coaches, including Maria, who heads the girls’ gymnastics team. He travels to national tournaments with his students of all ages. Through it all, Alvarez is happy that he’s a business owner because he chose work he genuinely enjoys.