Jerry Azarkman arrived in Los Angeles from Israel at the age of 24 with only $20 in his pocket. But what Jerry lacked in money, he made up for in grit and determination.
He spoke no English or Spanish, so he couldn’t get a steady job. Instead, he invested in Pong video game units and began selling them door-to-door. His first sale was the turning point: Using Hebrew and hand gestures, he sold a unit to a Salvadoran woman who spoke only Spanish. She spread the word and gained him six additional sales.
It was an epiphany.
He recognized that the first-generation immigrant community was an underserved market, and Curacao was born as a door-to-door sales company catering to the Hispanic community. With his credo, “Exceed the customer’s expectations and you can have a customer for life,” Jerry began to add more products.
Curacao grew through word of mouth, and soon he hired other door-to-door sales staff and extended credit to people who were often unable to access traditional financing. Curacao has evolved in many directions since those humble beginnings: a chain of 11 brick-and-mortar department stores featuring bilingual sales staff, credit cards (often the customers’ first), and export to customers’ home countries.
From that first $20, Jerry has grown Curacao into a multimillion-dollar business and a household name in the Hispanic community.
In 2014, Jerry Azarkman was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® 2014 award in Greater Los Angeles. The award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.
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