A Navy combat veteran who owns a Barrio Logan manufacturing firm has been named the state’s Small Business Person of the Year.
A service-disabled veteran, Luis y Prado and his wife Rachel sold everything they owned to start their business and provide training and jobs for other veterans.
He said he faced “some extremely challenging situations” while establishing his business, from obtaining financing to finding the right properties and equipment to help the firm grow. He cited the “turbulent seas” of the pandemic as well.
The SBA honored entrepreneurs and businesses in a nationwide event Thursday, during a virtual summit that celebrated the theme “Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship.”
The celebration coincides with National Small Business Week, which falls during the first week of May.
Luis y Prado also is a client of the San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network. Despite gross sales in the millions of dollars, he said, “VetPowered wouldn’t be in business without the SBA” and partners like the SBDC.
To ease the transition from military service, the family started the nonprofit Workshops for Warriors, which prepares veterans for advanced manufacturing careers.
After they opened VetPowered in 2009, they secured SBA loans to purchase their first manufacturing facility in Barrio Logan.
When the pandemic hit, Vetpowered sought the SBDC and SBA’s help. The business was able to obtain an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, along with two Paycheck Protection Program loans to subsidize payroll and keep staff at work without decreasing hours or pay.
Luis y Prado also refinanced business debt and purchased space for a training center, corporate office and other facilities. The couple now owns 145,000 square feet of property spanning five city blocks in Barrio Logan.
“VetPowered’s investment in the Barrio Logan community will continue to make a positive impact for years to come,” said Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego. “From creating jobs for both local community members and veterans to providing a service high in demand, I extend enthusiastic congratulations to Hernán and the entire VetPowered team on this exciting achievement.”
Luis y Prado supports veteran and community needs as well. He has purchased three properties in 18 months — an apartment building to house evicted employees and workshop attendees as well as a restaurant, which he turned into a commissary for feeding employees, attendees and neighborhood residents.
“It is my sincerest hope that others will see our work as an example of the great things that are possible when a community works together,” Luis y Prado said. “We are forever grateful to the SBA and SDBC, and will let this award be a testament to our continued work here in Barrio Logan in support of rebuilding America’s manufacturing force with veterans.”
Daniel Fitzgerald, director of the regional SBDC network, said local SBDC staff and contracting specialists who worked with Luis y Prado “are bursting with pride for Hernán.” Mike Sovacool, deputy district director of the SBA San Diego District Office, added that “he’s set a superb example to others in the business world, and outside of it, to follow.”
Entrepreneurs can search online to find a SBDC business adviser, who will works with small business owners one-on-one and for free. They also may call (619) 482-6391.