As a female business owner in the male dominated industry of construction, Jessica is not one to shy away from a challenge.
“When I told my former supervisor I was going to start a business, he told me I had three things working against me- that I am a woman, I’m young and I’m Latina,” said Jessica, a native of Mexico. “I said, wait and see; I’m going to make those things work for me instead of against me.”
Before starting an environmental consulting business for the construction industry, Jessica was a project manager for a local construction company. But she was laid off during the Great Recession and for many months searched fruitlessly for work.
Going from a professional with a comfortable income to unemployed on an extremely tight budget was incredibly trying for Jessica. It was in the midst of her financial struggles that Jessica approached Mi Casa with an idea to launch a business.
Armed with seven years of experience in the construction industry and certifications as an inspector and storm water specialist, Jessica hoped the challenges and rewards of starting her own business would outweigh the risks and sacrifice.
“You have to be willing to give up who you are in order to be who you want to be,” said Jessica.
At the Mi Casa Women’s Business Center, Jessica found the educational resources she needed to prepare for a successful business launch. She completed Mi Casa’s 13-week Business Success training course and later went on to enroll in Mi Casa’s next-level entrepreneurial training program, Business Breakthrough, where she developed a strategic plan to grow her operations.
“At Mi Casa I learned about all the components of a business: structure, marketing, operations, finance,” said Jessica. “Mi Casa also pushed me to forecast my financials, establish pricing, and make a plan for future growth.”
Jessica established her business, Environmental Consulting Services, LLC (ECS), in 2011. And she has continued to turn to Mi Casa for ongoing consulting support, help obtaining business certifications, and advice on how best to manage her growing operations.
“Mi Casa has helped me form a big picture plan for my business and then map out the small steps needed to achieve growth,” said Jessica. “I learned about the hiring process and how to get a website, as well as how to determine what growth made financial sense for my business.”
It hasn’t been easy for Jessica. Though the owner of her company, she is often assumed to be the secretary by male peers. Yet Jessica has persisted and fought to be respected and regarded as a competent woman-owned business.
Through Mi Casa, Jessica received high-quality business training and individual consulting support to obtain certifications, loans and develop a strategy to compete in an industry dominated by men and large companies.
“Mi Casa helped me become a confident business woman,” Jessica said. “They provided me with the learning and networking, and I worked as hard as I could to take advantage of those opportunities. Now I have a seat at the table with the big construction companies.”
With five employees, ECS has seven to ten contractors. In 2013, ECS had a gross revenue net of $51,460 and a profit of $18,603. Jessica expects ECS to grow 50% in 2014 due to an increase in inspection services. She plans to hire two to three storm water compliance and erosion control inspectors within six months.
Jessica was recently chosen to participate in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s selective Emerging Small Business program, which will equip her with the knowledge needed to grow ECS through expanding its federal contracts.
When asked what advice she has for other small business owners, Jessica’s answer reveals her robust ambition, “Persistence is key. I have always believed that I can compete with anyone in my industry by doing a great job at a competitive price. And guess what? I am!”