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The Business of Engineering
Orlando, FLA. - Sarah Blake, President, Elipsis Engineering & Consulting, recently won the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) State of Florida Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year. Blake attended George Mason University, and was interviewing with one of Orlando’s largest employers after graduating in 2002 but she accepted a position with a large engineering firm because the interview process was so lengthy.
Armed with a business degree and a drive to succeed, Blake rapidly climbed the ranks at the company. Blake was promoted to project manager, over contracts worth several million dollars within a year of being employed. Blake felt that she reached her career growth potential after 5 years at the large engineering firm and accepted a position at a smaller engineering firm as the service operations manager responsible for the day to day business operations as well as project/contract management and oversight. In 2009, Blake found herself like many others in the industry, unemployed.
The business started during an economic downturn, but Blake was able to utilize a stimulus package for construction engineering inspection, engineering, and materials testing to get started. She certified her company as woman-owned and disadvantaged through the Florida Department of transportation. The company’s first contract was a Department of Transportation (State and Federal) projects. Blake had previous experience working on Department of Transportation contracts and her firm responded to an advertisement for this Stimulus contract and was ranked 1st place out of 6 firms that submitted.
Blake has been able to grow the company from 2 employees and $175,000 in revenue to just under 40 employees and over $4 million in revenue, within a few years. Blake secured a Certified Development Company (CDC)/504 loan. The CDC/504 Loan Program provides financing for major fixed assets, such as equipment or real estate. The company more than doubled its space to a 7,000 square feet building.
Although the company has experienced strong growth, Blake faced some challenges along the way. The largest hurdle was that perhaps Blake was a young female entrepreneur, in a field dominated by older men. She was determined to make her business work, and persevered through the challenges by building a great team. A big part of her growth team was an Advisory Board that was assigned to her through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Central Florida.
Blake says that at the onset, she had very limited resources like most start-ups often do. The advice she received from the SBDC Advisory Board not only helped her grow her business, but the advice was also free. Blake was partnered with several advisors such as an attorney, Human Resources Director, Business Development Manager, Financial Advisor and CPA, who gave her counseling. The feedback was at times not what she wanted to hear, but ultimately it helped her plan for success.
The SBDC Network is one of SBA’s premier resource partners. The two groups work together to support entrepreneurs start and grow a business. The SBDC promotes and encourages the creation and growth of small business by providing sound business advice through professional no-cost counseling, seminars, technical assistance and education for business owners and entrepreneurs in one-on-one or group training environments throughout the state. For more information or to find a nearby SBDC, please visit www.floridasbdc.org.
Blake credits her overall success to a strong work ethic, a focus on service to clients, and a belief that he employees are the company’s greatest asset. Elipsis Engineering and Consulting has been featured as a one of the Orlando Business Journal’s top places to work. Blake provides many benefits to her employees including health, dental, disability, and company-matched retirement plan. Additionally, she hosts annual parties for her staff and their family members. She also celebrates each worker’s birthday and work anniversary with a personal greeting card with a gift card. Blake places a priority on creating long-term and stable work environment.
Both Blake and her employees also believe in giving back to the community. Blake serves on the Central Florida Construction Career Days committee, where over 2,000 students each year gather to learn about different career opportunities in the construction and engineering industries. In addition, Elipsis gives back to local churches and partners with CPI Haiti sponsoring four children. Employees are also paid to volunteer in the community, during times when the project loads are low.
Sarah Blake, President, Elipsis Engineering and Consulting, can be reached at 530 S. Main Street, Winter Garden, FL, 34787 or through phone at (407) 982-7275. The company’s website is http://www.elipsisec.com.