Ezequiel Flores (BUS ’00) approached the late Sue Gin (DHL ’09), a DePaul trustee, at a women’s event for the Economic Club of Chicago that had fewer than 10 men in the audience. “I didn’t care,” he remembers. “I just knew I had to meet her.” From that day on, Gin became a mentor to Flores, and in 2010, they became business partners in airport concessions.
As CEO of Flying Retail, Flores operates one of the largest specialty retail portfolios at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which includes Brighton, Brooks Brothers and Brookstone, as well as Green Market and America’s Dog as part of his food and beverage portfolio. He also oversees operations of all existing concessions at the airport and is looking to expand into additional airports. “It’s a journey,” he says. “I really enjoy it, but besides that, there is a deep sense of responsibility that pushes me to excel.”
Growing up on the Southwest Side of Chicago, Flores was a first-generation college student. The Spanish bilingual professional preparation program at DePaul led him to an internship with EY in Mérida, Mexico. After graduation, Flores joined Arthur Andersen and, later, Sara Lee Corp., where he oversaw projects in 14 countries before leaving to pursue personal ventures. “I was done doing deals for somebody else. I was going to give entrepreneurship a shot. I wanted to try to do something for myself,” explains Flores, who to date has been involved with more than $5 billion in real estate-related and corporate-business transactions.
Flores was co-chair of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Economic Development Transition Committee and currently serves on the Illinois State Board of Investment, the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council Inc., and the government relations committee of the International Council of Shopping Centers. Flores is passionate about immigration reform, inspired by his father’s efforts to support his family. “There are a lot of people in the shadows who need people to speak up for them because they can’t speak up for themselves,” asserts Flores, who acts as their voice through his work on the steering committee of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition. “The best way I could serve our community is by being successful in business, because there aren’t enough minority businesses that scale. My goal is to lead by example.”
“I’m getting a master’s in ministry from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. The people I study with probably find little value in what I do in business. To them, it’s about higher meaning in life. That ethic is what keeps me centered in business.”