2020 Top Florida Latino Lideres Award Recipient
Marilyn Santiago is THE TOP 2020 Latina Mover N’ Shaker
Marilyn Santiago is a very close friend of mine for well over 25 years, she is one of my oldest and dearest friends… having met Marilyn on the first days i started my career in promoting events in Chicago. Marilyn was and continues to be to me a source of inspiration not only to me but to our community – she is hard working, resourceful and a grate connector! Marilyn has been a big part of our Magazine and has helped us to recognized dozens of Florida Hispanic lideres…. She is a blessing, Thank you! – Jolie
Latin Times Magazine: Where are you and your family from? What is your Hispanic heritage? Marilyn Santiago: I was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico. They call it “La Perla del Sur” for its majesty, beauty, and powerful presence on the island. There’s a famous saying, loved by all people from Ponce and hated by the rest of Puerto Ricans from other cities, “Ponce is Ponce and the rest is parking”.
My Hispanic heritage can be summarized as the following excerpt from Facebook: My blood is a mosaic. It tastes like Taíno yuca, pumps with Spanish passion and dances pf Africa. I am an American. I speak my own type of Spanish, stained with streaks of English. I speak loudly, so you can hear my pride. I speak in song, because I am a celebration. I am an American. I work hard for what I have, because nothing in my history has been handed down to me for free. I move with confidence, because where I come from, the best version of you is your true self. I love with passion, because its the only way were taught how. I am 100% Puerto Rican and I am an American.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it Marilyn Santiago: I have two companies. The first one, founded in April 2006 is Sunshine Integrated Solutions LLC, a lifestyle marketing consulting company, specializing in entertainment solutions; talent marketing, event promotions/sponsorships, and brand development for the US Hispanic market. Media placement on a variety of platforms from digital, outdoor, radio, online, and print. I also provide consulting services to radio stations, providing them assistance in programming, affiliations, promotions, and sales, with effectiveness in re-structuring radio stations of different formats (including music, news, and sports) The fun part is Media and artistic talent development, production/sponsorship, brand integration, commercial endorsements, and PR. I got into the industry after working on radio in different capacities, I saw the opportunities and went for it.
The second company, I co-own it with the love of my life, Steven Russell, AKA “Papi” Creative Architectural Resin Products, Inc. CARP designs, manufactures and installs beautiful resin-based architectural trims and accents like faux wood beams, panels, brackets and many other products made from a hi-density polymer resin materials that assimilate the look and texture of natural materials. CARP has become a powerhouse in the architectural elements niche, showing impressive growth and poised for great success. We won the prestigious “Startup of the Year” award by The Horizon Foundation and the Economic Development of Southwest Florida’s Lee County and that’s pretty awesome!!!
Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition Marilyn Santiago: Our commitment to quality and excellent customer service. Sounds common, but when we started CARP, we noticed the frustration of our clients, builders, developers, and construction companies, as our competitors were not going the extra mile and were not sticking to their commitments. We came to not only customize them the products that they had drawn in their blueprints, but also the fact that we adhere to their schedules. We arrive at the jobsite when we confirmed we will. Adhering to schedules is utterly important in the construction industry because many trades depend on others
We pride ourselves on bening on time all the time. We aim to meet flexible schedules
Latin Times Magazine: During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it Marilyn Santiago: Well Steven and I got diagnosed with Covid-19 back in June, two days after closing on the purchase of our home in Fort Myers. As we were sick, I was at 75% and Steven at 50% (although he would say he was at 25% lol), it was really hard to handle the transition and move as normal people do. We couldn’t hire a moving company because nobody wanted to be near us. We couldn’t hire anybody to help us out of fear of infecting them. So we had to extend the lease of the condo we were living in so we could pack and get everything as ready as possible. Little by little I had to pack everything and take things one box at a time and store them in the new house. It sounds quite simple. It is, but when you have covid and your body doesn’t want to do anything but rest, you have a fever and feel like you know what, it makes things ten times more unbearable.
At work, we did not go to the factory for about a month, to make sure that our employees were fine. Like usually, everybody works on their own specific area and avoided contact at all cost. Besides the employee from whom we got it, everybody else was fine, thank God. But it was a challenge. Sales dropped and it has taken us a little while to go back to normal. We are now, and glad to be alive!!!
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related) Marilyn Santiago: For so many reasons (including covid) we must say this milestone is our biggest accomplishment!!! It’s our fifth anniversary! Five years ago, On October 15, 2015, Creative Architectural Resin Products (CARP), opened its doors in Fort Myers, Florida to serve a much-needed niche of architectural elements made out of resin to the vibrant construction industry in Southwest Florida.
Since its inception in 2015, with no employees, one old used pump, no molds, no clients, a homemade press and a ton of ideas, CARP became our dream come true. CARP came to fill a gap of quality products, much needed reliability and professional service while becoming the happy medium between foam and wood or stone products.
Backed by a strong branding and public relations strategy, CARP quickly positioned itself as a key player in the so competitive construction arena. Now in its fifth year as a proud manufacturing facility, CARP has become a leader in the architectural composites industry. Our meticulously branded acronym CARP, became the synonym of reliable, responsible and budget conscious products. Been recognized as Lee County’s & Horizon Foundation’s 2019 Startup of the Year solidified our position and empowered us to continue with our commitment to help create a positive impact in SWFL.
In addition, being invited to be part of the Board of Trustees at Hodges University was the icing on the cake.
Latin Times Magazine: What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you? Marilyn Santiago: I want to make sure that I leave a legacy of empowerment. Those who really know me can attest that It is in my nature to help others. From helping a friend make his resume to help a lady with the process of becoming a minority business owner. I want to help the Invisibles, the ones without a voice. I want the needs of our Hispanic community to be heard and get the leaders to do something about it. I want to help survivors of domestic violence, to help women to take their careers to the next level. There are so many causes and what is next to me is to make more time to help others. We have been blessed to be able to successfully growing the company to a comfortable position. I don’t want to be here just to make money. It is good to have some, but I refuse to compromise my time and my memories to just work nonstop to make money and live with more material things that I need. Don’t get me wrong, I like good things and I work hard to get them, but that’s not all. I want to make sure that I leave this world better than when I got here.
Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer? Marilyn Santiago: Educate yourself. I’m not saying go and enroll in an university (which is always a good idea though), but to remain inquisitive, research and learn about the topics and issues that you feel passionate about.
Latin Times Magazine: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share? Marilyn Santiago: I hope that during this important political season, we as Latinos make time to learn about the candidates, the platforms, the issues, and their plans. Both on local and national levels. Not just vote because our parents and ancestors were traditionally part of a party, but vote, because you know who you’re voting for.
Latin Times Magazine: What is YOUR comida Latina favorita? Marilyn Santiago: I will never say no to a good mofongo con carne frita, but overall my favorite comida Latina is the Peruvian cuisine. The fusion of indigenous and oriental flavors I’m proud to say that have escalated to the top of the world gastronomy and I love all of it!