From her home office to the world
Lucia Valdez going beyond the normal business paradigm
Lucia Valdez was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico on December 27, 1965. She is the fourth of Federico Valdez and Magda Sepulveda’s seven children. The daughter of immigrants, Lucia worked in labor fields in Oregon and North Dakota to raise money to help her parents pay for her education. Overcoming adversity through her hard work culminated in her being the first child of her family to graduate from a university.
Lucia takes pride in being able to achieve this and wants to pursue as much education as she can. By age 20 she already held a diploma in Business Administration from Universidad Autonoma de Coahuila and certification in Technical Engineering Drawing from CECATI-9. Pursuing her dream of being a teacher led her from one job to another that allowed her to accumulate knowledge and experience working in the field of importing and exporting through working in prestigious machine parts corporations. The turn of the economy left her an unemployed mother of three after the company she had worked in for almost ten years was sold. This was when she saw an opportunity to stay at home with her youngest son while still providing for her family. She declined various job opportunities that were offered to her because they would have taken time away from raising her children. With much support of her children and past clients in the industry Lucia decided to open her own machine parts business. OMA Industries LLC, lovingly named after her children, opened its doors on January 1st, 2007. In the beginning Lucia’s company was only a home office supported by a business website made by her teenage son. However, she took full advantage of the website to give a serious virtual presence to her fledgling business in the international market. Today, OMA Industries LLC is a 100% sales export corporation lead by Lucia Valdez with help from her husband Raed Elbelbissi.The company is a North American specialty provider for M.R.O. parts, with a great variety of solutions on replacement parts for machinery, systems and equipment, ensuring that customer’s machines will keep on running. OMA Industries provides products, including bearings, electrical/mechanical, power transmission, fluid power, motion control and materials handling components to a broad spectrum of industrial markets domestically and abroad. The company has reached half a million dollars in yearly sales by exporting to many countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and Luxemburg.
What methods have you employed in your business to benefit the most from exporting? Between 2009 and 2012 OMA Industries has increased its sales through exporting to $470,000. This is largely because of creative marketing done by contacting the Chamber of Commerce in Kuwait and Palestine as well as through the use of services offered by us.export.gov in the Mexican Colombian embassy. In order to ensure effective solutions to export related problems so that the best possible product is delivered to the customer OMA Industries visit customers twice a year to work on solutions meetings, implementing the Kaizen system of continuous improvement in the work place and the 5s System in Lean manufacturing to prevent issues. For the customer, OMA Industries provides 24/7 open communication to address any issue they may have quickly and effectively. They also serve the exporting community by volunteering assistance to other small businesses entering the export market. Companies such as Unika medical services and Zerhin were encouraged by OMA Industries to not depend on one market but to look beyond their borders and find potential clients. Locally, OMA Industries volunteers by mentoring entrepreneurs at events held by the Women’s Business Center. They help promote the entrepreneurial spirit by sharing their vision and experience.
What were some of the challenges faced by you and your business? The business faced many challenges the most daunting of which was acquiring startup capital. Banks were unwilling to provide credit to start the business. Lucia Valdez took matters into her own hands and sold her car to raise the money to create her enterprise. The business as it stands now is the product of sacrifice and tenacity on her part.
What does the future hold for OMA Industries? Future plans for the business include keeping up with the growth that the business has experienced by expanding the market and employing more staff. The biggest goal for the company is to create an opportunity to export to the Middle East and Latin America. Growth in clientele will be enabled by a switch to a location owned by Lucia Valdez rather than a rental office. A permanent location with more staff will ensure that OMA Industries continues to grow each year and with the right support and continued good management will be a company with no limitations.
Finding the BLISS in life
Follow your dreams and keep moving forward.
Ergo Mediq and True Life Home Health.
Sonia Anciso is a business owner in the Edinburg- McAllen area and has been in business since early 2005. She owns Ergo Mediq and True Life Home Health. Sonia feels a sense of pride f
When did you decided to start your business?or her accomplishments as a business owner and is very fond of the assistance and support she has received from The Women’s Business Center (WBC). She feels that the WBC has been crucial in the development of her entrepreneurial career and encourages other women business owners to take advantage of the services provided by the organization. “They helped me with my business plan – from the bottom –up and it’s free of charge.” Sonia Anciso
I decided to start my own business on the early part of 2004. I realized that I had the determination, the drive to succeed. On the same note, I realized what a wonderful community the Valley is, with its ever expanding windows of opportunity. My determinations lead me to the business world in partnering with some business people in running a pharmacy. This experience mentored me sufficient to develop a concept of my own business. Soon after, I approached The Women’s Business Center and they guided me every step of the way. Thus, Ergo Mediq (ergonomic furniture) was born and I, myself reborn as a Businesswoman.
How was the design process of your business?I will say it was very educational and pleasant. In the beginning I had no idea where to start –you know you have this dream but don’t know how to put it together. With the help of the business counselors at the WBC they provided me with a step by step approach where someone literally took me by the hand and helped me not just with the business plan but also with everything I needed for my business things like financing, marketing, management, certification, networking, research etc. For example, I didn’t know that people could start a business with only a 10% down, or that I could receive training to learn how to acquire a HUB certification. It’s amazing the variety of specialized workshops that the WBC offers and for the most part at no-charge or minimal cost. Acquiring the HUB certification provided me with the opportunity to sell to such entities as the County, to the Texas Department of Transportation and to UTPA.
Has the recent downturn in the economy affected your business and if so what’s been your strategy? When the economy slowed down, no one was interested in buying “ergonomic furniture”; however I knew it was time to diversify and I went from focusing on medical equipment to patient care. Thank goodness that I have been paying attention to the economy early on and have gotten my Medicare and Medicaid license knowing that I will needed in the near future. This forward thinking really helped my business to stay afloat. It seems like it all comes together at some point.
What challenges do you see with ErgoMedics? Like many businesses, I think my challenge in the beginning was to get the name of the business established and recognized. Once I did that everything was so much easier because of the trust that has been developed with those you are doing business with and if you love what you do …. It’s a very satisfying experience!
I would like to suggest to other women business owners to never doubt their ability to succeed, to be committed and never quit. Yes, there are times when you really feel it is a challenge, when you get nervous – but if it’s something you love doing – eventually you’ll do great! I also never try to compare myself with others – I am grateful for what God has given me. I know I have been blessed with wonderful Family and Friends who have that extra help when it was most needed.
What advice will you give to other women who would like to start their own business? I would like to encourage them to go and ask for “help” if you want to start or would like to expand your business. Go to the Women’s Business Center and they’ll take you by the hand at all times. I think that if you want the help bad enough, then you’ll get it. If you don’t want it bad enough, then you won’t get it. If the latter is the case, you probably didn’t deserve to be in business to begin with. I think that anyone that would like to be in business needs to have that burning desire inside them to keep them moving forward and to never quit. Are you that person? If so, what are you waiting for?
What do you think are some areas where assistance is needed in the business community? I think Finance and Management are at the top. For example, accounting is one area that business owners will always need help with especially learning how to understand and interpret financial statements. I think that there are a lot of professionals that are very good at what they do but they are not good business owners. For example, a doctor might be very good at being a doctor however when it comes to business they might need some help because that’s not their expertise. We can never learn enough about the administrative side – that’s why it is a good thing to learn as much as we can. And, when in doubt, always hire the experts (out sourcing).
I love my job and what I do! ‘Just work hard – if you work hard – you can accomplish just about anything!’
Balance is the Key
Ever since she was in high school, Lucia Valdez knew that she was destined to be a business woman. Exactly in what capacity, she didn’t know – all she knew was that becoming a “woman entrepreneur” was her calling and that she would prepare herself for it.
Today, Lucia is the proprietor of OMA Industries, a wholesaler of industrial parts and fixtures for the maquiladora industry. She started the business back in 2005 when after working for a similar business for five years was told that she along with her coworkers would be getting laid-off. Lucia explains that even though she got offered a similar position with another company, she decided to go off on her own.
She says she made this decision only after consulting with her family. “I spoke with my kids and together we decided that I should go off on my own and start my own business,” says Lucia. “I enjoy what I do(selling industrial parts) but at the same time, I wanted to be close to my kids as they grew up. Today, I enjoy the best of both worlds – I have managed to grow my business while working from home and spending quality time with my family.”
“Balance is the key,” says Lucia who is a big practitioner of Feng Shui – the ancient Chinese practice of configuring home or work environments to promote health, happiness, and prosperity. “When your home-life is in order, you tend to be a happier and more productive employee. The same goes for business owners.”
Lucia goes on to explain that she has gained an even deeper appreciation for this philosophy now that her youngest son is getting ready to graduate from high school and that she knows that she has been there for him all along.
“It’s hard to believe, but without a doubt, I find that prosperity comes to me so much easier now that I lead a more balanced-life. I really don’t know why – all I know is that it simply does.”
When asked for advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs, Lucia says that one has to remain positive all the times, especially during difficult times as many businesses are currently going through. “You have to believe that bad times will pass,” says Lucia.
Lucia goes on to share an interesting technique that has assisted her in the past: “When hard times hit or when you find yourself doubting your abilities, try to see yourself through the eyes of someone who holds you in high esteem. This someone could be a family member, a good friend, or a trusted colleague.”
Lucia explains that this simple exercise serves to change your perspective and will assist you in gaining a better appreciation of yourself.
Lucia also explains how businesses should seek out and take advantage of the services that are available to them – services such as those offered by the Women’s Business Center (WBC).
“I was a little intimidated at first, since I didn’t know anyone at the WBC or what they could do for me, but now that I’ve had the chance to work with them, I’ve gained respect for organizations such as this. In my case, they’ve provided me with the tools that I need to start growing my business. I especially enjoy their networking events, which have allowed me the opportunity to meet other similar-minded individuals.”
In looking to the future, Lucia explains that she sees herself leading a well-balanced life while at the same time growing her business. “If you lead a good life, the personal success will follow; balance is the key,” she said.
Nails Entrepreneur Succeeds through Persistence
It took seven years for Gina Shupe to realize her dream.
Gina came to McAllen with her two children looking for the American dream and a better life for her children. She was alone with two kids and didn’t speak a word of English in a country foreign to her. But that didn’t stop her.
She enrolled in cosmetology school and after several months of study earned her cosmetology license. She took classes to learn English. After she graduated she began working as a nail technician. For five years she worked for several different nail salons, building up her clients and experience in the industry.
She got the idea to start her own nail salon from several of her clients who told her she should open her own business. With her husband’s help and encouragement they starting working on the idea, looking into places for rent, beauty supplies, and the equipment they would need. Together they met Nancy Cuellar, a business counselor with the Women’s Business Center. Nancy helped them prepare the loan package, preparing the financial projections and the business plan required for financing.
With the loan package in hand, they applied at two banks but were denied because of their credit. While she was disappointed, Gina was not to be deterred from her dream.
“When you want something you can get it if you don’t give up,” said Gina. Nancy advised them to work on their credit.
A year later, after building their credit, they went back to Nancy, who revised their loan package. This time they were approved for a Small Business Administration Express loan. The Shupe’s saved up cash and used it as equity for the business. Their equity injection and loan proceeds were used to buy signage, equipment, furniture and supplies, and working capital.
“Nancy helped a lot,” Gina said. “She was always there when I needed something. She gave me good advice.” Gina also credits her husband, Lane, for the support and encouragement he gave her during the process. “My husband was a huge help. I couldn’t have done it without him,” commented Gina.
Gina’s persistence and determination paid off in July 2005 when she opened the doors of Nails by Gina in McAllen. The nail salon offers manicures, pedicures, waxing, nail repair and other services. They do pink and white solar nails, acrylic nails, and custom nail designs.
Meeting a Need
South Texas Martial Arts & Fitness Center
It’s been about 15 years since Rick Martinez was first introduced to the field of mix martial arts (MMA). Right from the start, the sport got a hold of him and he knew that this was something he wanted to be involved with – in one way or another. Today, Mr. Martinez is a licensed pro-fighter with a black belt in I.S.K.A. Kickboxing. He also operates his own MMA fitness center in McAllen called South Texas Martial Arts & Fitness Center (STMA).
“Ever since I started competing (in the martial arts), I knew that there was a need for this type of fitness center,” said Martinez. “I’m just glad that I can offer this type of service for the people here in our community.”
Indeed, STMA offers the traditional mix martial arts – such as ju-jitsu, kickboxing, karate, muey-thai, tae kwon do, and wrestling. As a complement, it also offers more traditional fitness programs such as aerobics, cardio kickboxing, power pump, and female self-defense.
“What’s unique about STMA, especially here in the Rio Grande Valley, is that we not only offer traditional mix martial arts training – as most facilities of this type do – but we also offer a variety of other more common fitness training exercises. In so doing, STMA seeks to set itself apart as a training facility that caters to all members of the family and that also promotes good health, discipline, education, and family values – and all under one roof.”
Martinez goes on to say that while his enthusiasm for the sport has always been there, he did encounter some challenges in opening his fitness center. Specifically, he points to the lack of credit (capital) as one of his major barriers – especially during this past year or so – when the capital markets nearly dried off.
“No matter how great your plan or vision for a business might be, if banks are not lending, well – that makes it really tough on anyone wanting to open their business,” he says.
Not one to easily give up, Martinez eventually found some investors willing to back his idea and the rest as they say is history.
When asked about lessons learned in his efforts to opening his own business, Martinez wisely advises to “be prepared and well organized.”
“Most people jump right in, without doing any or little homework, especially when it comes to developing a working budget or signing contracts. People really need to know what they’re really getting involved in. Then, and only then, are they really ready to get started,” he says.
You have to believe that you will succeed
USA Fence Company.
Such is the philosophy of Juan Carlos Briones, owner of USA Fence Company. According to. Briones, that’s what has helped him overcome so many of the challenges he has faced since starting his fence business.
Originally from Durango, Mexico, Briones came to the U.S. with the hope of having an easier life for him and his family. In 1996 he started as an Administrative Assistant for a local fence company, managing to work there for three years while learning the ins-and-outs of the business.
Soon after, however, he decided to go off on his own and start his own fence company. Such a move wasn’t the smartest thing to do, Briones, readily admits, especially given his limited English, capital, and lack of credit.
Nonetheless, Briones felt that it was the right thing to do. In 1999, despite having no sales experience whatsoever, he went ahead and opened USA Fence, a company that he managed with the help of his father and brother.
As with most start-up businesses, however, USA Fence had its fair-share of ups-and-downs. One painful lesson that Briones recalls is when he learned the difference between being profitable and having cash flow to meet your daily operations. He recalls of having finished a ‘big job’ for one of the major retailers in the Valley but finding out that they would not pay him until 60 days later – this, despite the fact that he still had to pay his employees and suppliers. This of course left an enduring impression on Briones and made him realize that managing your cash flow is just as important – if not more important – than being profitable.
Today, Briones admits that the road to business ownership has indeed been a difficult one to travel, but that it has been equally rewarding. He encourages business owners to do their homework before getting started, especially when it comes to developing a working budget and learning about the different taxing entities. Furthermore, he encourages people to take advantage of services such as the Women’s Business Center just like he did and to network as much as you can – as this will translate into future sales.
Briones concludes by stating that in order to succeed as a business owner, 1) you have to love what you do, 2) you have to ‘know’ that you will succeed, and 3) you have to be patient. He further states that whatever challenges you face as a business owner, you have to realize that they’re taking place for a reason. In his case, he admits, all the challenges that he once confronted have served to make him a more patient, understanding and grateful individual.
A good service at a good price
Quik Auto Service
Although, currently located in Rio Grande City, the business first opened its doors as a full-service automotive repair shop in Weslaco, Texas in 1989. Slowly but surely, the business started to grow and Estrada soon found himself spending a great deal of time away from home. Since he still lived in Rio Grande City, he would have to commute an hour-and-a-half each way just to get to work, this in addition to the 10 to 12 hours he would to spend at the shop.
After about four years of working around this hectic schedule, Estrada consulted with his wife, Marta, and together made the decision to sell their location in Weslaco and re-opened the business in Rio Grande City. The business did great up until 1999, when hard-times hit the area, forcing Quik Auto Service to close its doors.
Although, Estrada, was devastated by the closure, he knew that owning and operating his own repair shop was really what he wanted to do. Plus, he knew that there was a need for this type of service in the local community. After about eight years of thinking about it, he again consulted with his wife, and together made the decision to give it another shot.
It was at this time that Estrada visited with the Women’s Business Center (WBC), who in turn, assisted him in applying for a micro-loan with Accion Texas. Today, the business is once again doing great and Estrada has recruited his son, Rogie, to assist with the day-to-day operations.
Asked about what sets his business apart from others Estrada said, “I’m very big on communicating with clients and on selling yourself to the client. That way, clients know exactly what to expect.
Estrada’s to other business owners or potential entrepreneurs: “Don’t be shy when it comes time to charging (an appropriate amount) for your service. People usually get what they pay for.”
Ready for a Challenge
Businesswoman Monica Oliveira is one of those individuals who is always ready to take on the next challenge. After spending 12 years working in the medical field industry she took the ultimate risk of entering the world of entrepreneurship. In May, 2001, she launched MediQuip, a medical supply and medical equipment company in McAllen, Texas. “I wanted a change,” she said.
She went to the Women’s Business Center for help. The Women’s Business Center helped her prepare the business plan and loan package to secure the $80,000 SBA guaranteed loan to start the business. “I had no idea how to do a business plan,” she said. ”I don’t think I could have done it on my own.”
Oliveira, who is originally from Rio Grande City, was able to get her business started with the help of the U.S. Small Business Administration loan. She recalls working countless hours in the beginning and doing a bit of everything.
“I was out marketing, delivery, and taking orders. Plus, at the end of the day, I would have to make sure that all the paperwork was done just to get ahead for the following day.”
Oliveira managed to get through all the heartaches and headaches in the beginning and six years later she is happy to say that profits have increased year after year. Now with a staff of eight and over 200 clients, MediQuip has added to its selection of medical equipment and pays close attention to the quality of service they provide their customers.
“Taking care of their customers is our number one concern,” Oliveira stated. “We understand that they have a choice on where to get their medical equipment by choosing MediQuip, that is a compliment and we value that.”
In 2004, she launched MediQuip Mobility adjacent to her already existing location at 3037 W. Alberta. MediQuip Mobility specializes in power chairs and custom chairs built to suit disabled patients. “We are able to customize each chair to fit our client’s special needs,” Oliveira said. “There are very few people in the Valley that are able to do this. There are national vendors that can offer this service, but not with the personalized attention and turnaround that we offer.”
Oliveira said that cusOliveria tom chairs are very important for her customers, especially those who are children.
She recalls installing a color coded control pad for a three-year-old patient. The difficulties involved in maneuvering a joystick for a three-year-old were resolved with a color pad that allowed him to tap on a particular color to move forward and one to move back.
Oliveira says that with continuous advancements in technology, she is able to offer her patients even more of a variety of medical equipment to improve their quality of life.
“Helping my customers feel more comfortable, whether is it through a wider seat or adding some color to the chair that they are bound to, means a lot to me,” she said.
Oliveira hopes to see her business continue to evolve. “I’m always looking out for the next great opportunity,” she said.