Million Dollar Dreams

Noël Cuellar – Primera Plastics Inc.

The story of a $20 million business–started by a man who had labored as a migrant worker and been placed in a special education program because of language difficulties–is testimony to the tenacity, vision, and passion of entrepreneur Noël Cuellar, President and CEO of Primera Plastics, a plastic injection-modeling supplier based in Zeeland.

Cuellar’s success is especially notable in a business environment where Hispanic entrepreneurs are in a definite minority. In 2007, the U.S. Census reported that only 1.1 percent of the 817,000 firms in Michigan were Hispanic-owned (about 4.4 percent of Michigan residents are Hispanic, according to the 2010 census).

During his company’s startup in 1994, Cuellar had difficulty getting a loan. “Many banks and investors seemed to doubt my ability to succeed,” he recalls, even though he had a letter of intent to do business with a large firm. “Being certified as a minority-owned business means that you have to prove yourself to the business community.”

Cuellar’s story is more about over performing than overcoming. He sees the work ethic of the Hispanic community as its strongest asset. “West Michigan business leaders need to understand the passion that Hispanic entrepreneurs have,” he says. “We simply don’t know how to quit. Given opportunities, we won’t disappoint.”

In addition to a strong work ethic, Cuellar says that entrepreneurs, whether minority owned or not, need to develop their understanding of the financial realities of business. “In 18 years of business, I’ve learned you must continuously seek knowledge, whether for personal or business growth,” he says.

As Primera Plastics navigates the waters of West Michigan’s business community, Cuellar and his team are showing other minority-owned businesses the keys to entrepreneurial success in the area.

Check out Primera Plastics online at

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