On the Job Learning

Ignacio R. Veloz earned his stripes on the sales floor of the family supermarket, where he worked his way up from bagger to general manager before leaving to start a company on the brink of global expansion

Ignacio R. Veloz Arroyo (left) and his father, Ignacio T. Veloz Camejo (right).

Ignacio R. Veloz knows the value of hard work. The Puerto Rican businessman will take over as chairman of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) this year. Veloz has come a long way to land the high-profile position. Many years ago, he was working menial tasks in his father’s grocery store. He grew up in the supermarket starting as a bagger and then working every other job in the business. He was a stock boy, a clerk, and a manager. Finally, he ran the entire operation as general manager.

While the work was tiring and the hours long, Veloz credits the time he logged at the grocery store with forming in him an appreciation for hard work and dedication. “My father taught me the value of employment, and the importance of honest work,” he says. Some fathers would make their son the general manager on day one. Veloz, who had to work his way to the top of the family business, doesn’t blame his father. “It was wise of him,” he says. “I saw every step in a successful business and worked with every person from the bottom to the top. In doing so, I came to understand what motivates employees and how management can equip them with the resources needed to succeed.”

Veloz graduated from the family business to become one of the most respected leaders and entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico. The values he learned in the family supermarket are what led to his election as chairman of the USHCC. Chair-emeritus Nina Vaca said that Veloz and future chairman Raymond Arroyo are “two exemplary leaders from our community [who will] guide the USHCC into a new era … They represent the very best from two critical constituencies of the USHCC—the business owner and the corporate executive.”

The owner she speaks of is Veloz. Today, he’s the president of Inmobiliaria Nuestro Servicio Inc., also known as IN Services, Inc. IN Services administrates and maintains condos and commercial properties in Puerto Rico. Veloz started the company after studying business and technology and running a similar operation.

IN Services started in 2004, when Veloz decided to venture out on his own once again. “One of the lessons that I learned early on in my career was the advantage in working for yourself and being an owner instead of an employee or partner,” he says. The company has grown from a microbusiness to a medium business in a decade. Veloz and his team provide management, maintenance, landscaping, administrative, training, and construction services in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and surrounding metropolitan areas.

Consejos de Papá

“My father taught me that we are not born leaders—you become a leader through what you do. The people around you, your family and your friends, those people help you become a leader, too. My family put this on my back and taught this to me, and I would never have been successful without this being passed down to me. You also need passion. Parents—never stop your kids from achieving their goals and dreams. Find a way to help them. Encourage them every day.”
Ignacio R. Veloz

With 10 years of experience in Puerto Rico, Veloz has his sights set on international expansion to Panama, the United States mainland, and other areas. To do so, he’ll rely on the same characteristics he used to start the business: persistence, passion, and patience. “Those qualities really matter, and you need all three to get a business running,” he says. A businessman also needs those qualities to expand.

The qualities Veloz highlights share equal importance, but patience played a major role in his success. He served on the board of directors for the USHCC starting in 2007 and became a regional chair the following year. He’s also the president of the United Retailers Association of Puerto Rico, the largest Hispanic chamber of commerce in the USHCC network, with more than 8,000 local members. Those networks inspired Veloz to expand quickly, but he dedicated himself to 18 months of research instead of jumping at the chance right away. “I wanted to be prepared and do things the right way,” he says of his decision to delay expansion. “I lined up all administrative, management, and accounting duties so I can delegate as needed.” The move will allow Veloz to keep his Puerto Rican operations up and running while he physically departs to personally export services to new locations.

Veloz’s work with the United Retailers Association has broken new ground. He helped create the only nonprofit corporation with all the requirements to promote a group health-insurance plan for small-business owners, and he also sent a delegation of 28 owners to Panama, where they created $10 million in new business deals and partnerships. Other groups visit rural communities and meet with city officials to host seminars and provide training and resources. Veloz also sat on a subcommittee known as the Américo Badillo Foundation, which advocates for entrepreneurs who leave work without the funds to retire.

Veloz is drawn to service. That comes from his deep appreciation for small business, learned and nurtured in the family supermarket. “I love the small business and the small business owner,” he says. “I live for my kids, my family, and my business, and I love to help others do the same.”