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For Bolivar Jimenez, the owner of L & P Gates Co., Inc., a full service metal fabrication company, offering valued service and quality workmanship to his customers is what success is ultimately about. L & P Gates was established in 1991 by two brothers, Bolivar and Manuel Jimenez, who learned all about the manufacturing of custom iron gates and railings by working at their uncle’s shop in Jersey City, New Jersey before launching their own business. L & P designs, manufactures and installs wrought iron fencing, automatic gates, metal stairs, ornamental fencing and gates, railings and structural steel.
The Jimenez brothers recognized the opportunity that Hartford presented for a business like theirs when delivering and installing in the area. Once they established a location in the city, they focused on marketing and advertising and were able to build name recognition and a solid customer base.
When the recession hit and building came to a halt in the mid-2000s, the owners recognized that they had to change their business model in order to survive. Bolivar joined the Connecticut Minority Construction Council and began to network extensively with other contractors who encouraged him to investigate federal and state contracting opportunities.
When Bolivar became the sole owner of the business, he decided to focus on government contracting and ultimately won a coveted contract working on the Connecticut Convention Center which opened to the public in 2005, an award-winning venue owned by the state of Connecticut. This opportunity has given Bolivar the confidence to continue networking and led him to compete for larger projects.
As the company grew, Bolivar sought bank financing and began working with Kevin Kickery at Farmington Bank who provided L & P with a $150,000 SBAExpress loan to purchase the materials needed for new state contracts for Goodwin College and M D Fox Elementary School in Hartford.
L & P Gates is an excellent example of a successful minority-owned company that employs 13 full-time staff including family members and most importantly Bolivar’s wife, Evelyn, who is the bookkeeper. Bolivar and Evelyn’s sons, Ismael and Joel, have joined the family business which ensures that L & P Gates will continue to operate for years to come.
Cheryl Silva began a day care business out of her home in 1993, caring for six children, as she saw firsthand the difficulties of systems where parents earn too much income for assistance but not enough to place children in affordable pre and after school programs.
Because of her love of caring for children, she and her husband decided that this was something they would spend their lives building. In 1995 Cheryl and Manny Silva opened their first day care center, Silva’s Youth of Today, in East Hartford, CT, with 35 children, caring for infants less than one year old to children up to age five.
In 1998 they opened a second location, adjacent to 801 Silver Lane, which allowed them to accommodate a total of 100 pre and after school children. In 2000 they expanded their first location at 775 Silver Lane so the total number of enrolled children increased to 161 children with 24 staff members.
In 2002 the Silvas were looking to move to a larger building due to increasing demand for affordable daycare. The community perception was that Silva’s was a superior choice for parents because of the center’s involvement in state-assisted payment programs and because the center was named an accredited center by the National Association Early Childhood Youth Council. This status made it clear that they needed to resolve inefficiencies caused by operating two side by side centers and that they needed to consolidate into one site.
During this difficult time, the Silvas sought help at the SBA office in Hartford and also sought SCORE counseling to re-work their business plan. They also spoke with former SBA district director, Greta Johansson who connected them with a lending partner. Silva’s found a suitable location at 656 Silver Lane, East Hartford (down the street from where they already were housed) which had previously housed a Frank’s Nursery business. They purchased this real estate and made upgrades using an SBA 504 loan they received in 2002 from the New England Certified Development Corporation to buy and improve the building at 656 Silver Lane. In 2008 New Alliance Bank (now, First Niagara Bank) financed a further expansion of the building, which was accomplished by SBA Certified Development Company working hand in hand with First Niagara Bank to allow for the most recent expansion.
This loan allowed the Silvas to not only expand but to increase enrollment to a maximum capacity of 237 children - 170 preschool children during the day and 67 after school children. The state of Connecticut has worked with Silvas to expand the number of readiness program slots available to them. The Silvas are now in great financial shape and they are living their dream, providing excellent and affordable child care for low income parents. They are now investing in staff to boost retention rates and are also focusing on continuing education in order to be in compliance for continued accreditation. They currently look after 350 kids and continue to obtain local grants for playgrounds, music rooms and lavatories.
“If you hear, ‘No,’ just keep going until you hear, ‘Yes,’” June Gold says.
Gold followed her own tenacious advice as president of GraphLogic, Inc., a Branford, Conn., high-tech software and program developer.
She was turned down for a $500,000 loan by a bank after her husband and company co-founder, Steve, suddenly passed away in July 2008. She looked elsewhere, but bank rejection continued.
The problem? GraphLogic didn’t produce “a product you could drop on your foot,” she said. “We weren’t a widget-maker, so they just didn’t get it.” Gold and her husband started the company with an SBA loan years before.
Despite contracts from two large pharmaceutical companies, Gold couldn’t get a loan to help her company while waiting for insurance to pay off the original loan. Gold still needed money to hire skilled staff and continue marketing her products.
Then she chanced upon a workshop at Gateway Community College in New Haven, where one of the directors told her to contact the Christopher Earle at the New Alliance Bank.
“As soon as we met, I knew,” Gold said. “They found a way to make it happen.”
GraphLogic finished 2008 with $1.2 million in sales.
With her $400,000 SBA 7(a) loan on May 19, Gold hired a seasoned sales person, and is expanding operations.