Cesar Rolon’s brain never stops—literally. While most of us are sleeping, the founder of Chicago’s Imagen Marketing Consultants is wrapping up a 17- hour day. While settling into bed, Rolon’s mind is buzzing with new endeavors, possibilities, and marketing campaigns. The quick-witted, fast-talking entrepreneur is very passionate about marketing to multifaceted, multicultural America.
Rolon honed his skills in radio sales, but quickly felt his potential was being stifled, so he set off with a partner to form a boutique Hispanic agency called Armas Marketing that enabled him to later branch off on his own and create Imagen Marketing Consultants. Imagen’s successful bilingual magazine was just the start of the agency’s growing empire and lasting impression on the Chicago cityscape. Here, Rolon recounts some of his most successful campaigns to date.
1. Business Accelerator Program
Three years ago, Imagen Marketing Consultants partnered up with American Family Insurance to form the Business Accelerator Program, a national online program that provides educational opportunities to small businesses via online webinars and an online coaching forum. The series addresses topics critical to small businesses, such as marketing, sales, finance, and social networking. The idea is that small-business owners learn how to generate more business, increase their profitability, and better manage their businesses. “This free program can be life changing for a small-business owner,” Rolon says. The six-month program originally started in three cities, but can now be found in 27 markets.
2. Dream Room Giveaway
The premise of the Dream Room Giveaway, an initiative Rolon and his team developed with IKEA and American Family Insurance, is simple: to make a deserving family’s life a little brighter. People were able to nominate community members who were affecting change in their neighborhoods and working to make their communities a better place. Those who won were given a $5,000 IKEA gift card and a free room makeover. This particular initiative led to a fulfilling moment for Rolon.
“One family kept getting nominated over and over again by different community members, but we couldn’t track the family down,” Rolon says. “Eventually, we found them. They were living in a shelter, so American Family Insurance doubled the prize and gave them $10,000 to create their ultimate living environment. It was amazing to help this family so desperately in need.”
3. Walgreens Sales Initiative
“The sales initiative with Walgreens was one of our most untraditional campaigns; it drove a return on investment and attracted a wide range of new Hispanic consumers,” Rolon says. Imagen Marketing Consultants identified a number of Hispanic-owned products being sold at Walgreens and developed a back-to-school promotion around them. For food products, experts attended the event, teaching Latino parents how to properly read food labels and cook healthy, well-balanced meals for their families. Cosmetologists were also present, performing back-to-school makeovers on young Latinas, allowing them to have a professional portrait taken afterwards. According to Rolon, the event was successful because it was educational and empowering, not to mention fun.
4. Latino Fashion Week
Latino Fashion Week is perhaps Rolon’s biggest—and proudest—achievement and it was sparked by a less-than inspiring incident. A business association event enabled local businesses to purchase a fashionable dress form made by one of the many budding young designers working in Chicago. Rolon agreed to make a purchase under one condition: he wanted a garment made by a Latino designer. The association came back to him, saying they couldn’t find a Latino designer. After this shocking revelation, Rolon decided to do some research by visiting local boutiques and asking whether they supported local Latino designers. Many said no, but one in particular is seared in Rolon’s memory. “I walked into this boutique and asked the girl at the register if they supported Latino designers. She turned around and asked her manager, who said, ‘Hell no.’ Not only was her response a shock, but the fact that they couldn’t find me a single Latino designer at any of the four fashion schools in Chicago was completely unacceptable,” Rolon says.
When Rolon cofounded (along with Chicago entrepreneur Arabel Alva Rosales) Latino Fashion Week 2007, he had trouble simply finding sponsors for the event, which is the only Latino fashion week in the country. Now, it’s a hugely popular, star-studded event that launches careers.