Israel “Izzy” Battres owns multi-million-dollar construction company Battres Construction in the heart of Orange County, California. But it did not come easily for him—he learned how to work hard at a young age, and it paid off.
Eight years ago, his reputation and impeccable work ethic opened doors for him to star on the HGTV reality show Flip or Flop. He has worked alongside Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead for eight seasons and is ramping up for more. Battres is set to appear on the network’s new show, Christina on the Coast, premiering this month.
HISPANIC Network Magazine caught up with Izzy to talk about his journey from day laborer to HGTV star, as well as his secret to success.
HISPANIC Network Magazine (HNM): You run a very successful construction company. Where did you get your work ethic?
Izzy Battres (IB): As children, we were taught to be contributors to our household. My dad would take us to work and assign us two small tasks. When I was 9, I was a paper boy for the Orange County Register. I would wake up Sunday mornings at 4 am to deliver to my customers. I was even entrusted to pick up monthly subscription fees—it taught me sales and what I know now is accounts payable. I realized quickly that I was only getting a portion of the fees so it gave me the idea to make my own money, I started a second job that was more of a side hustle.
HNM: At the age of 9, you were working two jobs! Tell us more about that.
IB: My grandmother used to pick lemons from her tree and have me sell them for 25 cents; she would then give me a small cut. After I was done working for her, I would go pick my own lemons off the same tree. But instead of selling them for a quarter, I decided to make lemonade and sell it for 50 cents a cup. I would sell it to people playing soccer at the park by my house.
HNM: So, you were an entrepreneur from a very young age. Let’s fast-forward to the start of your business. How did it come to be?
IB: I have two brothers, and we all followed my dad into the construction trades. If my current boss had no work for me, I would stand in front of Home Depot looking for day labor. We never had a problem with working hard, but sometimes there wasn’t enough work to go around. I decided to start a business so I would be more in control of the workflow. Instead of working on someone else’s construction site, I decided to bid for my own jobs.
HNM: Ten years later, you are now on television and own three companies. How would you say you became so successful?
IB: I believe we as Latinos have a natural instinct to survive. It develops at a very young age when we begin to understand that nothing will be handed to us. I learned very young that whatever I earned was to be used to help my family and community. Today, I employ 43 local families—I have a responsibility to make a difference for others.
HNM: Can you expand on what you call an “instinct to survive?”
IB: Latinos are very hard workers; they are innovative and passionate about what they do and have a stellar work ethic. But even then, they have to stay on the cutting edge. Eight out of ten workers are going to stay average, but I look for the 20 percent who are fighting to survive and have the “eye of the tiger,” as I call it. I employ anybody who has that motivation. Whether they are purple or polka dot, race does not matter to me, but that survival instinct does.
HNM: How does your ability to speak English and Spanish help you as a business owner?
IB: In my geographical area, 80 percent of the construction workforce is Spanish speaking. It can be a barrier, so I try and help them by speaking Spanish on the job sites. I will also make it a point to speak Spanish to my work crew when we are filming the TV show. I always want to put out a positive image and help keep Latinos on the map.
HNM: What advice would you give a young Latino entrepreneur who is starting his own business?
IB: I would tell them to never let the environment dictate your success. People will read into your mentality about life, and that creates a culture in your business. So, you need to stay away from toxic people and conduct business with gentleness and humility. Don’t be arrogant or prideful, because people will read into that.
Author: Mitzi Magos