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Seeing What is not There Yet

Ricardo Ortizcazarin, CLA alumnus and entrepreneur
November 5, 2015

Ricardo Ortizcazarin

Ricardo Ortizcazarin
Ricardo Ortizcazarin

Ricardo Ortizcazarin’s future began to unfold on a December morning when he was 12 years old. Riding in a truck with his father in his native Mexico City, the young Ricardo raved about a movie in which he had seen snow for the first time. When his father told him there was snow in the United States and described American shopping malls and superhighways, Ricardo felt butterflies in his stomach.

The company: Cazarin Interactive
The Mission: Customized internet marketing  

“What do you have to do to live there?” he asked.

“You have to be very smart,” his father teased. “They only take smart people.”

At that moment, Ricardo knew he would live in the United States someday. It wasn’t only that he was smart. It was also about the butterflies, which he later regarded as a premonition. He would learn to rely on such intuitive inner signals to shape both his entrepreneurial career and his life.

His premonition—and his first real-life snow—materialized in high school with the opportunity to be a foreign-exchange student in the Twin Cities. Here, one of his teachers instilled such a passion for electronics that he decided to make this his career. So when he returned to Minnesota for an undergraduate degree, his goal was a major in computer science and management information systems. Although the University didn’t offer that degree, he was able to design his own through the College of Liberal Arts and graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in individualized studies. As it turns out, this was a definite plus.

“My software and math classes were natural to me,” says Ricardo. “However, my advisor insisted on selecting art, photography, music, sculpture, accounting, and writing classes as well. So when I graduated, I had a broad education, and this wide range of classes helps me almost every day as I deal with different industries. My ability to appreciate good design and sound ideas, and to understand business as well as software, is due to my broad college education.”

His persistent passion for electronics propelled Ricardo through the first 12 years of a software design career. But it was his intuitive marketing savvy that forged his decision to start his own company. By 1997, “I realized that all companies were going to need websites,” he says. When his skeptical boss didn’t agree, Ricardo decided to set out on his own: Cazarin Interactive was born.

The company’s beginnings were humble: Ricardo and a two-person staff created Web sites in what he calls his home basement’s “bat cave.” Its growth has been profound: Today, Cazarin flourishes as a digital marketing company with a 19-person staff headquartered in an actual office suite in Maple Grove, Minnesota. The company still does website design but has expanded to multimedia marketing, offering both strategic and tactical solutions to its clients.

Ricardo loves to recount the stories—both satisfying and formidable—that chronicle those years between the modest startup and the flourishing business. He remembers the potential but skeptical client who said he could meet for only a hurried 30 minutes, but became so enthused about the company’s services that he stretched the meeting to two hours, offered a tour of his plant, and signed up for marketing help.

He’s proud of how he helped another company increase its leads from 10 a month to 70 a day and become solvent enough to begin to rehire some of its laid-off workers.

And he remembers the financially troubled time in 2010 when he was ready, he says, to “throw in the towel.” Instead, as a deeply spiritual and internally-driven man who knew butterflies when he felt them and signs when he saw them—he believed that an unexpected opportunity to buy another company was an answer to prayer. He made the risky decision to buy—and then turned the company around.

Today, Cazarin is thriving. You could say there’s a multisensory reason for that. The company’s logo, for example, is a stylized eye, a symbol of vision, of seeing what is not yet there. For Ricardo, it’s also been about listening to that inner voice—and feeling the butterflies.

What he says:
"My advice is to get to know yourself.  If you have a job you are passionate about, it's not work.  What keeps me going is that I love what I'm doing, which is helping companies.  I work 50-60 hours a week, but it doesn't feel like work.  It is an enjoyable thing I do."

"If the passion is there, you can absolutely open a business. You just have to plan and research carefully; I wouldn't want to become a realtor today.  But if you want to make a good widget, it's possible."

"I love developing my employees and providing a great work environment. My reward is when I am able to set up and live values of high quality of life for my staff and create an environment where people want to come to work."