“I’m so blessed to have been given the opportunity by this wonderful country to enter as an immigrant and build my life here,” says Cuban-born entrepreneur Ileana Thomas, the founding CEO of Medical Services Corporation (MSC), an Orlando-based company that provides medical “house calls” to tourists.
Thomas had arrived in Miami at age 4, alongside her mother and two siblings. The Cuban government, then under control of the Communist party, initially wouldn’t let her father accompany them, but he joined them two months later, enrolled at the University of Florida, and started his own import/export company. His entrepreneurial spirit must have extended to Thomas; when she graduated from college, she started her own boutique travel agency to serve tourists from Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina who were visiting Disney World. In working with travelers, she recognized a hole in the market, and in 2002 she started MSC to cater to the medical needs of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking tourists. “I had built virtual relationships throughout the years with the travel agents from these countries, and they said to me, ‘The medical side of Latin American tourism has not been touched,’” she recalls.
I’m such a big believer that this country was formed by immigrants. It gave me the opportunity to build a business and create jobs for other people.
Thomas started the company with less than $10,000. Today it generates about $500,000 in annual revenue and contracts with 20 independent healthcare professionals, who make in-person visits to tourists in their U.S. vacation homes and hotel rooms. Thomas is an active member of the Orlando chapter of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund, which n 2014 named her a Success Story Honoree. She attributes much of her entrepreneurial success to her immigrant roots. “Latin Americans feel more comfortable with people that speak their language,” she says.
MCS has now expanded to Miami and New York and plans to launch a virtual office in Los Angeles and, perhaps, in Atlanta. In addition, Thomas wants to start a real estate business. “I love business,” Thomas says. “I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and that’s why I’m so glad that I have been given this opportunity. I’m such a big believer that this country was formed by immigrants. It gave me the opportunity to build a business and create jobs for other people.” Thomas believes that, overall, immigrants help the United States economy — and given a chance, as she was, can build new companies and create jobs.