Manuel Jose Betancur Montoya was born on May of 1976, in EL Carmen De Viboral, Antioquia, Colombia. He is the third son of Jose Ramon Betancur and Alba Luz Montoya.
He went to the public schools in his hometown, his family was poor and they could not afford to pay for private education. Manuel never knew what it was to be hungry but he considers himself in some ways a Colombian version of Tom Sawyer, running around his town and playing with his friends. When he was a kid, his older brother’s clothes and shoes were passed down to him, wearing pants with patches in the knees and holes in the shoes. He lived in a rustic house with concrete and soil floors, he had to clean the house and worked as well in his father’s business with his three brothers.
When he was a teenager, at fifteen, he became the first Colombian teenager to earn a black belt in two different martial arts. His passion for martial arts started young and still remains. In 2008 Sensei Iwata in Japan elected 25 people from around the world to go to practice with him the Katana, Samurai Sword, and Manuel was there.
In 1994 Manuel was accepted into the most prestigious and difficult academy in Colombia. 35 people were accepted at the Colombian Navy academy of Colombia by 1998 from those 35 people; just 13 graduated and Manuel was one of them becoming a second lieutenant and a civil engineer.
In 1999 he was promoted to commander of 400 soldiers of the Colombian Military Forces and also a commander in the Special Forces platoon. He lived and fought the Colombian war until he realized that war was not for him and so he decided to leave his dear Colombia and immigrate to the United States.
In 2000 Manuel arrived in Miami with nothing but 2 pants, 2 shirts, one pair of shoes, $900 dollars in his pocket and a million dream. Without knowing English, he got a scholarship to study at King College in Bristol, TN. By fall of 2001, Manuel started college and also started working as a dishwasher at the school, by the spring of 2004 he graduated Magna cum Lade majoring in modern languages and working as an international broker for a company in Bristol Tn.
He was a part of Americorp during his college years where he worked with farm workers. It was during that time when he learned about the reality of the immigrants of this country. He knew he had to do something so he started fighting for immigrants rights. After he graduated, he left his job as a broker and started working full time with the immigrants in Virginia as an ESL teacher and taking them from the farms to the hospitals and local clinics when needed.
Year 2005 he decided to move from Virginia to NC . As he settled into North Carolina he was notified that there was a deportation order for him made by the USA immigration system. His attorney in Virginia did not notify Immigration about Manuel’s move. Two years and twenty thousand dollars was what it took to fix that situation. In 2008, Manuel went to federal court in Washington DC. The judge asked Manuel to tell his personal history, after the judge heard his history he said “I want to thank you for everything that you have done for this country, you are an example for many Americans to follow and I am ordering the immigration system to make you an American Citizen.” By December of 2008, Manuel became an American citizen in Charlotte, NC.
In 2011 he bought 50 percent of Las Delicias bakery, the bakery sold to almost 100 stores and restaurants in NC and Virginia, was recognized by the critics as the “best place to get desserts in 2014 in Charlotte” according to Creative loafing It also named as one of the “50 places that you must visit in Charlotte” according to Charlotte magazine, as well as“one place to get an international desserts and bread” by the Charlotte Observer. Las Delicias Bakery’s cakes and desserts were sold in several Harris Teeter of the Queen University during that time.
Manuel has always believed in the American dream, he says “the American dream is still there, it is a little harder to find now than before but it’s still attainable. Although the American dream is important for him, the real source of Manolo’s happiness in his life is his son Emanuel Gael and his daughter Julia Sofia.
In 2018 he bought the other 50% of Las Delicias Bakery from his business partner and decided to start a new chapter with his bakery by renaming it Manolo’s Bakery.
Manuel in the last few years has been nominated and received different awards in the community.
- He is the winner of: Hispanic Achievement and Business Leadership Awards as entrepreneur of the year (2013).
- Winner of the Spirit award by The Latin American Chamber of Commerce (2014).
- Winner of the business of the year by La Noticia newspaper (2015).
Also, in the same year he was appointed by the mayor of Charlotte to be part of The Business Advisory Committee of the Queen City and become the president of the Hispanic Americans Democrats of Mecklenburg County and by 2017 he became the Hispanic American President for the NC State.
In 2016 was selected by SBA to take the Emerging Leaders Training. In 2018 he was elected by Stanford University to take the Scaling Up training for Latinos CEO’s where he was awarded with first place in his video and presentation.
- Recently he was awarded with the 2019 Cesar Chavez Liderazgo Award , Mayor’s International Community Award, and was nominated for the North Carolina Small Business Award.
2020 has been a trying year for all small business owners. Manuel’s business was chosen to partner with World Central Kitchen allowing families of low income/resources to have hot meals for their family. The bakery was a filming location for Netflix’s Immigration Nation. Manuel was featured in an episode of Al Jazeera’s People and Power which aired in over 100 countries and will be featured in a Dutch Documentary about immigrant business owners during Trump’s presidency.
In the year 2021, the Marquis Who’s Who publications board awarded Manolo as recipient of Who’s Who in America. Manolo will be accepting “The Community Activator Award,” this Thursday May 27, 2021 on behalf of Manolo’s Bakery by Carolina Small Business Development Fund.
Entrepreneur and community activist in Charlotte, NC. US
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