Contributed by Erika Archie
of the USDA
Yolanda Diaz, President of Mirador Enterprises, had always aspired to become an entrepreneur, but patiently waited for the right opportunity. She learned the ins and outs of developing a small business and competing for federal contracts by attending various free training courses offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 2002, Yolanda opened her facility maintenance and management business with her two employees, Hector Martinez and Pete Diaz. Hector still works for Mirador today and is the VP of Operations.
“As a single mother I was nervous, but I decided to take the plunge anyway. I was inspired by my brother’s success with his business, and when I heard about the Fort Bliss expansion I knew it was time to open a business of my own,” said Diaz.
In the start-up phase of the business, Yolanda generated just enough income to pay her two employees. She continued to work full time as a regional accounting manager for a local gas company. Eventually Yolanda decided that she needed to quit her job and pursue the business full time so that she could acquire more opportunities with Fort Bliss.
“You have to keep an open mind and be willing to take on new projects. We started out providing facility maintenance and small construction services, but I never turned down an opportunity to do something different,” said Diaz. “It was that diversification that saved our business in difficult times. When the recession started, the construction side of our business started to suffer, but we were able to stay in business with our facility support and professional services.”
Yolanda attributes her success to utilizing the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, a nine-year program designed to assist socially and economically disadvantaged businesses in obtaining federal contracts. She also participated in the Mentor Protégé program, which pairs 8(a) businesses with successful firms to receive technical and management assistance in competing for federal contracts. Mentors can also enter into joint venture agreements and can compete together for contracts. Mirador obtained two Mentor Protégé Agreements, one in 2010 with Miratek Corporation to enhance their facilities management skillset, and one with the Native American Services Corporation (NASCO) to further their construction and design build capabilities.
“I couldn’t have done this without the SBA,” said Diaz. “I was involved in many of the trainings and programs that the SBA has to offer. At some point the 8(a) program will wean you off 8(a) contracts, but they will prepare you to compete on your own. I wouldn’t have known to prepare for that if it wasn’t for our local SBA office. We have been able to sustain ourselves even after graduating from the 8(a) program because of the valuable information and support that we received from the SBA.”
When Mirador Enterprises entered the 8(a) program in 2006, it was comprised of just three employees. Mirador has recently graduated from the 8(a) program and now has 76 employees and sales have increased by 760%.
Yolanda also attributes her success to her loyal employees, mentors, family and especially valued customers.
“It takes village. You cannot do this on your own. Mirador would have never been successful it if wasn’t for the SBA, the Hispanic Chamber, the Greater Chamber, the Contract Opportunities Center, the 8(a) Government and Contractors association, team partners, family support, and our loyal employees who are the heartbeat of our organization,” said Diaz. “We’ve been blessed with good employees, great customers, good business partners, and great small business advocates within our community.”