Miami-based Lunacon Engineering Group has something in common with widely-successful businesses like Harley Davidson, Apple Computer, and Disney.
Like these ubiquitous companies, owner and President Patricia Bonilla started Lunacon Engineering in her garage.
“I was the head of the city of Fort Lauderdale’s Construction Management division and I decided to take a leap-of-faith and start my own business,” said owner Patricia Bonilla.
Lunacon engineering was formed in 2007 at the depths of a national financial crisis. Bonilla’s vision for her company was to deliver a broad range of construction management and general contracting services. The company’s overarching mission would be built on the principles of hard work, building trust and dedication to getting the job done on time and on budget. This would ultimately translate to small business success. Personal faith also guided Bonilla and her partner in creating the company.
“From my time working in local government, there was a perception that small business contractors underperformed and the quality of their work was pretty low,” said Bonilla. “Making ‘quality’ as the core premise and bringing that to all of our services was the main driver of Lunacon.”
Selecting the company name with her partner Emilio Criado also involved careful thought.
“The company name is composed of two parts: ‘luna,’ which is the Spanish word for ‘moon’, and ‘con,’ the Spanish word for ‘construction’. Lunacon has a personal meaning. We wanted God to be part of the creation and life of the company. We decided to represent our beliefs and faith with the Moon, representing God's power,” said Bonilla.
The two partners went to work and sought an edge in the competitive, south Florida engineering market. Through counseling and attending workshops at the University of Central Florida Small Business Development Center, Lunacon learned the importance of certifying their business and how to grow through government contracting.
Lunacon Engineering sought as many certifications as it qualified for. It received designation as a woman-owned and Hispanic-owned business. The company also earned itself several international certifications that reflect the use of standardized practices and procedures. In 2010, Lunacon Engineering joined the SBA 8(a) business development program.
“Our favorite sales pitch was ‘no job is too small for us, no job is too far for us.’ Eventually after knocking on many doors and speaking with many contracting agents, we were awarded our first federal contract and from then on, we’ve been blessed with repeat business and sustained growth,” said Bonilla.
Their first federal government contract was a two-year Air Force Simplified Acquisition of a Base Engineering Requirements (SABER) contract at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The project consisted of renovations of one of Cape Canaveral’s most historical hangers which included lead and asbestos abatement, electrical and plumbing modifications, as well as interior finishes including paint, drywall and floor restoration.
“We opened a satellite office at the base but were outgrowing the garage office. In September 2011, we opened our first real headquarters building in Palmetto Bay,” said Bonilla.
With the successful completion of their first federal contract, Lunacon received more contracts over the next four years. Some of the new clients included the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What started with three employees in 2009 had grown to 42 employees by the end of 2013. Lunacon actively pursues new engineering projects in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi.
“We had a challenge during this time. While we didn’t need financing, the volume of work exceeded what our company financials allowed. We used the SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee program and secured the bonding needed for contracting,” said Bonilla.
Lunacon’s success extends beyond their professional portfolio. The company actively participates as a sustaining member of the Society of American Military Engineers; the Community Small Business Enterprise (CSBE) Association and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).
“Patricia is a driven person who is completely focused on being successful. She doesn’t let minor details distract her,” said SBA South Florida Business Development Specialist Frank Velasco. “She was part of a panel discussion where she discussed her experience of becoming an 8(a) program contractor which certainly inspired other small business owners to consider joining.”
Lunacon’s success and Bonilla’s leadership was recognized as her being chosen as the 2014 SBA State of Florida and South Florida District Minority-Owned Small Business Person of the Year.
Perhaps a bigger testament of Lunacon success is continued growth. In May 2014, Lunacon was offered its most recent federal contract, a U.S. post office expansion project valued at $1.4 million in Snapper Creek, Fla.