It takes an unparalleled drive to become a successful entrepreneur, particularly in a world where there seem to be countless new start-ups a day. Once you take those thin odds and compound them by the exponential factor of being a BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) individual from South Brooklyn, you begin to gather an idea of what Cesar R Hernandez had to overcome.
Hernandez is the founder and CEO of Omni Public, a public-affairs firm that has represented some big names in tech and politics. That intersection of business and politics goes deeper than one would initially think. In a discussion with California Business Journal, Hernandez highlighted how market-acceptance is contingent upon the community and the best way to garner that is through state and local governments. He told them, “If you start with the community in mind, and you’re sensitive to the laws, that will allow you to properly engage.”
It is that business mentality that has allowed Omni Public to successfully work with everyone from Tesla Motors, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Ford Motors and 2019 Startup of the Year, Bird Rides. Hernandez has a history of working in government, he had worked for the City Council, of Tampa, Florida and handled government relations for the regional governments and transit agencies, and was on the board of directors for New Leaders Council, Tampa Bay prior to starting Omni Public. Those past experiences allow him to proudly testify, “I’m an expert in government procurement and how private companies can interact legally with the government.”
Hernandez’s involvement in government seems almost pre-destined given his family background. A first-generation American, Hernandez was raised in pre-gentrification Brooklyn by a single mother and his grandmother. In their small, one-bedroom apartment, they would tell Hernandez and his younger sister the history of his lineage. They told him the story of how his great grandfather was forced to flee the “the jungles of Guatemala” and ultimately his family moved “to the Brooklyn jungle.”
Hernandez’s grandmother was the third in a long line of political activists. His great-great-grandfather was a political activist that fought to protect the rights of Indigenous Guatemalans. That fight was a brutal one that ultimately left Hernandez’s great-grandfather orphaned and enslaved. With the knowledge of her grandfather’s political involvement and the ramifications her father suffered through, Hernandez’s grandmother picked up the torch. She became heavily involved in Guatemalan politics but was ultimately forced to come to the United States as a political refugee after the democratically-elected party she was a member of was overthrown.
It seems only natural that Hernandez gravitated towards politics after listening to those stories as he grew up. The fact that he left politics to pursue the entrepreneurial endeavor that would become Omni Public is perhaps a testament to the appreciation for his cultural heritage that his grandmother stressed along with the family history.
He grew up hearing stories of the technologies his Central American ancestors pioneered and he held on to those stories as a reminder of what determination could achieve. He shared some of those stories in an interview with Entrepreneur, “The Incas had roads four-times longer than any Roman road, an engineering marvel at the time. The Aztec capital numbered one million people. The Mayans had a very sophisticated calendar and the Caribbean Taino’s engaged in the first revolts against indigenous and African slavery. Today, their ancestors are still some of the brightest engineers, mathematicians, and social justice leaders in America.”
It was with those stories in his heart that Hernandez found the courage to quit his government job and launch his own public-affairs firm. Using the work ethic that seems to be a part of his DNA, he began on his journey with Omni Public. It is important to note that Hernandez is not only a hard-worker but a student of life. With each chapter in his young life, he gleaned lessons that would contribute to Omni Public’s success.
Hernandez overcame the hardships involved with being a BIPOC individual in South Brooklyn, being falsely arrested six times before the age of 21, and experiencing police brutality first hand. It was that experience where he learned how to keep pushing forward in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. It was in his family’s one-bedroom apartment where he learned about what can be achieved from confidence and inspired ideas as well as where he learned the importance of politics. It was in the political arena where he learned all of the facets that go into successfully integrating new technologies into society.
He is now dedicated to building diverse entrepreneurial ecosystems through the work of his clients and advising support organizations like tech accelerator Tampa Bay Wave, the Latin Chamber of Commerce and Synapse Florida.
And it was all of that which led to his success with Omni Public.