Updated: Jan 17
At the Western Women's Business Center, we love to celebrate the success of our hard-working, spirited clients. Part of that celebration of success is sharing the entrepreneurial stories of our clients, like this one about Elia Nunez, who started R&E Asphalt and Concrete with her husband.
Here's her story:
Tell me a little about you and your husband
Our business started in 2015 when my husband, Ramon Garcia, came and told me he didn’t want to work for a company anymore. We took all our savings and put it into our business. My husband asked his cousin to work with us since my husband was knowledgeable in asphalt work and his cousin was very experienced in concrete work. We decided to name the company R&E Asphalt and Concrete LLC. We began by letting our family and friends know about our business. Soon after, we were hired as subcontractors for an asphalt company in WNC. This was the beginning of our business. The company we worked for allowed us to use their machinery, which allowed us to save money to buy our own.
In between the work at the company, we completed some residential driveways, sidewalks, and curbs on the weekends. When COVID-19 hit, our man hours were cut, so unfortunately, we had to lay off some employees temporarily. It was very difficult for us to stay afloat because we still needed to continue paying our bills. Our business was unprepared for a pandemic, so this was a very difficult time for us. Thankfully, we had the opportunity to work with a general contractor that could give us more work. We decided to start working with them and cut into our savings to hire two more people to keep up with the work. Even though we were without work during the pandemic for only a couple of weeks, we still felt the effects months after. Currently, we have about six full-time employees.
What was your dream job as a child?
Ever since I was little, I dreamed of becoming a nurse. In Mexico, I was able to become a nurse but was only able to work for about two years before I immigrated to the USA in hopes of a better future for my kids and I.
What products/services do you offer?
We offer asphalt and concrete services. Some of our work includes driveways, sidewalks, patches, curbs, storm boxes, concrete pads, and more.
What obstacles have you encountered as a small business owner?
We have faced many obstacles in the past seven years as business owners. To begin with, we lacked capital when we initiated the business and during COVID-19. We could not find much information available to Spanish-speaking business owners. In 2019, I had a ruptured brain aneurysm that slowed the business down, since I oversaw office tasks like invoices, bookkeeping, and other admin tasks. My husband spent most of his time in the hospital with me, which also slowed down our work. As small business owners, my family and I depend on the business day-to-day to keep us with a roof over our heads and food on our tables. I was able to recuperate 95% after about three months and continued pushing the business forward.
In March 2021, my husband developed a mysterious illness. After three months of visiting numerous gastroenterologists and oncologists, he was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. He then had to undergo a pancreaticoduodenectomy. An extensive recovery followed the procedure. My husband could not work for about four months, which also put our business behind. His cousin helped us keep the business moving forward. We felt very desperate during this time because the business is our only source of income. Thanks to the support of our family and friends, we were kept afloat. Both times were very scary for my family because they were life-threatening situations. This has allowed us to have a more positive mindset and thank God for allowing us to work another day. These three events put our business at a huge risk, but we overcame it with the help of my family and supportive friends.
What do you like about being a small business owner?
Being a business owner allows us to control our schedule and not have our schedule control us. We can turn roads, driveways, and walking paths into a better landscape. There is beauty in our work, and we are very proud of how far we have come.
How has the WWBC served you as an entrepreneur?
The WWBC has served us in ways we could never imagine. The WWBC introduced us to the Digital Learning Academy, where my husband and I have learned so many new skills like putting our business on Google, how to manage QuickBooks, and how to be more prepared for a pandemic. The WWBC also helped us by giving us a relief grant. This grant helped us with a down payment to buy a track hoe. Buying this piece of equipment will save us hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars in owning rather than renting. We used to have to rent a track hoe every time we had a job that required excavating. We won’t have to turn jobs away anymore due to the high rental cost. Thank you, WWBC, for the incredible support you have given R&E Asphalt and Concrete over the years.
What do you want people to know about your business? That if we can do it, anyone can do it. Never think that because you don’t have a high amount of savings to invest in your business that you can’t do it. Work daily to keep your dream alive and allow it to come true. As two immigrants who came to the US with nothing and no knowledge of the English language, we became successful business owners who gave back to the community that gave to us when we needed it the most.