In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at ATAX Accounting and Financial Services and founder Rafael Alvarez. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, he later attended the City University of New York (CUNY). In 1986, he opened his first office in Washington Heights.
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“I started with $200, two computers and a fax machine,” said Alvarez. “I received an $18,000 loan from many friends and opened the first office.”
In his first tax season, the company completed 300 tax returns, according to Alvarez. Despite having a strong opening, he wasn’t exactly sure what to do once the season was over.
“I had to figure out how to survive after the first season,” Alvarez said. “We decided to start additional [financial] services at the office.”
Later, Alvarez decided to get involved in politics in his neighborhood.
“It helped me learn the entire community…block by block, apartment by apartment,” he said. “It helped greatly, and by 2005, we prepared 10,000 personal tax returns and 500 corporate returns.”
In 2007, Alvarez took a friend’s advice and began the franchise business, focusing on the Hispanic community.
“No major franchise competitor was focusing on the Hispanic community,” he said.
In the first year, the company had 10 franchise locations in the New York Metro area, growing to around 30 by its third year, according to Alvarez. Today, the company has grown to 40 locations. This coming year, Alvarez said the company plans to open about 20 new locations, and bring the total number to 200-250 within the next three to five years.
In the future, Alvarez said he envisions ATAX “becoming the champion of helping small business owners.”
Due to his commitment to diversity and helping the Hispanic franchise community, Alvarez received the International Franchise Association’s Ronald E. Harrison Award in late 2014.
“The award was the pinnacle of my career,” Alvarez said. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done. Hispanics are missing out on the opportunities that franchising brings. I want to continue promoting the power and benefits that franchising brings to Latinos.”