From startups to growing companies, our mission at the SBDC is to help business dreams become a reality. Following are small business owners in southwest Minnesota that the SBDC had the opportunity to assist in achieving their dreams.
E & H Piping
In the United States, immigrants are almost twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as those individuals born in the Country. Sergio Espinoza is one of these immigrant entrepreneurs. At age 18, he fled his native country of Guatemala to escape a dictatorship government and the Guatemalan Civil War. He worked various construction jobs and saved money with hopes of owning his own business someday.
Early in 2012, Sergio Espinosa came to the Southwest SBDC with $25,000 in hard earned cash seeking assistance with starting a business.
E & H Piping, LLC was formed. Just six years later, the gross revenues of the business are well above seven figures and climbing.
E & H Piping, Inc. which is named for Sergio’s children, currently employs 12 fulltime staff and eight part-time employees. The Company is in the repair, maintenance and demolition business, often providing service for ethanol plants.
The business has a service area of within a 250-mile radius of Lyon County, Minnesota. Occasionally the business will accept more distant jobs. Most of the employees are Hispanic and are paid between $20 to $30 per hour.
“I tell employees that if they have the desire to work hard, they are welcome and we will work well together,” Espinoza said. “I don't need any scientists to work with me, I just need people with the will to work.”
He reached out for assistance from the Small Business Development Center hosted and located at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. He needed help with business start-up questions, such as determining what kind of insurance was needed and finding training for required certifications.
Espinosa first met with Liz Struve, Regional SBDC Director. He was then referred to Ruth Ann Karty, SBDC Professional Business Consultant. “I contacted the SBDC for small business advice,” Espinoza said. “Ruth Ann counseled me and provided me with information on what to do and what not to do with the business — from where to find training for the business to payroll and bookkeeping needs.”
Barriers to starting a business for Espinoza were discrimination and language issues. While he has overcome those barriers with his vendors and customers, he still deals with those same issues on a routine basis.
Espinoza said customer service is his highest priority. He prefers to complete projects on time or ahead of time. Ninety percent of his business is from satisfied customers making referrals to his company.
Hard work and a little help has paid off for Espinoza. “Nothing has been free and easy for me,” he said. “The only limits we have are those that we set ourselves. When I first started my business, it was very hard and challenging with very little money. People laughed at me and my business idea — they are no longer laughing — they are now working for me.”