Almost 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. This rate increases to 30% after the first two years. Resiliency is one of the critical characteristics of any successful business owner. Luckily, Gloria Fonseca has resiliency in spades.
Her entrance into entrepreneurship began with a career pivot. She resigned from her job in social services and moved on to another institution. That didn't pan out as planned, and she found herself at a crossroads.
One Sunday during church, a message about nurturing one's vines spoke to her, and she decided to team up with her husband, who was doing small construction jobs. She had big dreams of obtaining contracts with FEMA and government agencies. Today, Fonsis specializes in commercial painting, cabinetry, and vinyl flooring installation.
Throughout her life, Gloria has relied on education to see her through. A survivor of domestic violence, Gloria was forced to leave her home country of Colombia when her daughter's father was killed. She says, "I used to live well in Colombia and worked in the government. I came here, and I had nothing."
She began by learning English and studying. Her determination to start over taught her to remove barriers. "You recreate and reinvent yourself to survive. I was given the opportunity to get a job in the social work field. I had administrative knowledge, and as a survivor, I knew exactly how to help those suffering."
Years spent in social services laid the groundwork for Gloria to venture into the construction industry. Education and the welfare of her employees remain at the heart of Fonsis. Gloria is living proof that education and knowledge are potent catalysts for progress. These factors not only facilitated Fonsis's growth and realization of government contracts, but also set the company apart in a crowded industry.
Anyone who has dealt with construction companies knows the struggle of finding someone reliable who also does high-quality work. Fonsis has crafted a reputation for meticulousness and customer satisfaction, underpinned by a steadfast commitment to integrity, teamwork, and education.
A resolute "no-one-left-behind" policy underscores Gloria's approach and is the cornerstone of her business success. Some of their employees lack transportation, prompting Fonsis to orchestrate a carpool system to ensure no team member is left behind. Her employees are empowered through knowledge and training. Gloria arranges for paint and equipment suppliers to conduct in-depth demonstrations, ensuring her team is well-versed in product usage, proper techniques, and equipment handling. Gloria says, "I can be the best seller, but a business is not just me. We need many team players to score like in soccer. I don't want one Messi. I want 10 Messi's. We all have the potential to be Messi and for everyone to win."
Building Fonsis's reputation demanded time and persistence. Gloria fought to win projects from building management companies and government contracting opportunities. She went door to door, visiting buildings up and down Biscayne Boulevard until they began doing projects for residents. She eventually won a job to paint the interior of a 40-floor building.
Gloria embarked on a path of education to grasp the intricacies of obtaining government contracts. She enrolled in Florida International University's Project Management Cohort, received guidance from the SBA T.H.R.I.V.E. Program, and the Miami-Dade College's Turner School of Construction Management to navigate bidding processes and RFQs. Fonsis hired an in-house engineer, who provided invaluable support, bolstering Gloria’s confidence in interpreting plans and submitting competitive bids.
Gloria and her husband, Luis Carlos, are deeply committed to making Fonsis a welcoming and nurturing workplace. Her husband shoulders the demanding role of on-site employee management, tackling challenges and working tirelessly under the blistering Miami sun. Meanwhile, Gloria focuses on accumulating knowledge from county committees and programs and tapping into local resources for her team and her own development.
At a personal level, Gloria extends opportunities to individuals overlooked by many other businesses. She recruits employees from women's shelters, giving them a chance for a fresh start. Gloria emphasizes, "Anyone who comes to the company has a before and after and grows. Become an example that you can grow as a business and help others. Combine your strengths with the country's resources, and wonderful things happen in the community."
The resources Gloria harnessed played a pivotal role in the growth of Fonsis. STRIVE305, and the SBDC provided vital assistance in understanding financial projections and dissecting the intricate financial aspects of her business. The SBDC assisted Fonsis in determining the cost of goods sold. Knowing this information gave Fonsis an understanding of how to price by the foot, set monetary goals, and establish a yearly budget, with variance spreadsheets to track income and expenses to meet their budget goals. The SBDC also helped Gloria identify the percentage of overhead, which helped in successful quoting. Fonsis continues to foster the chain of knowledge-sharing by participating in a business incubator with neighboring enterprises in their office building, promoting a culture of resource-sharing and mutual support.
Fonsis engages with local committees and initiatives like the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce. As a passionate advocate for small businesses, Gloria has gleaned valuable insights from much larger corporations on their growth strategies. In her view, the key to expansion lies in actively contributing to solutions, comprehending how the system works, and being a vocal advocate for the needs of small businesses.
In the future, Fonsis hopes to win Federal contracts. Additionally, they aim to collaborate with local organizations to establish apprenticeship programs, particularly for shelter individuals. Gloria and her team plan to go the extra mile by rallying other companies to participate.
Gloria Fonseca's journey, marked by resilience, education, and a whole lot of heart, showcases the kind of success story that inspires Miami-Dade's vibrant business landscape. In the business world, sometimes it's not about how big you are but about how much heart and determination you bring to the table. Fonsis is proof that every business can make an impact.
Learn more about Fonsis here.
Small business resources mentioned:
Written by Emily De Armas
Photo provided by Fonsis