Born in Cuenca, Ecuador, Pablo Ortega has lived in the United States since the age of 9. He has been in the residential construction trade since 2003. At the age of 13, Pablo began learning the construction business by observing and absorbing any and all information passed along by other workers, contractors and homeowners. By the age of 15, he began doing side projects for family members and friends.
Ortega joined Fresh Co Home, which started, in 2009, as an exterior painting company as the Director of Operations, in early 2013. Currently, he is currently responsible for marketing, labor and business development. During ts first 2 years, the company experienced growth and expanded from a 2 person operation to a company with 5 employees and 2 owners.
Additionally, Ortega, an entrepreneur, is one of six national winners who recently won $30,000 as part of a national competition, sponsored by Comcast Business, for an app he developed. It will enable home buyers to effectively track work being implemented by contractors.
I recently spoke with Ortega about his entrepreneurial experiences, winning a major competition and plans for supporting his latest venture with the winnings.
Lee: You came to the U.S. At the age of 9 and started in the construction business at 13. At what point did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Ortega: At age 17, I began to pick up clients through passing. I realized at that age that I could find my own work and set a higher standard of quality than I currently saw amongst other contractors. When I turned 18, I started my first LLC, Clarus Home Improvement, and I provided simple home repairs and small home renovations.
Lee: What has the experience been like–becoming an entrepreneur in new surroundings? And what were some of the challenges you had to overcome initially?
Ortega: It has been a very enlightening experience. I learn new things every day that help me not only at a business level but also at a personal level. My transition from a teenager to a business man came very quick and I found it very easy to adjust. I had a lot of fun dealing with clients, creating opportunities for myself and solving problems.
My young age was one of the biggest challenges I faced during my first few years. I was very young and looked even younger. My clients would be hesitant to employ me to do their repairs. It was then that I developed a system to prove my expertise. I first created a relationship with my clients, educated them on their project to prove my knowledge and then was very persistent till I would close. My biggest challenge turned into one of my most valuable learning experiences.
Lee: Now, you are major shareholder in Fresh Co. What drove your decision to do so and what is the mission of the company.
Ortega: I had a vision. When I began working with Fresh Co I was helping my old friend by filling in for lack of employees. I quickly realized that Fresh Co was hardly scratching the surface in their line of work. I worked hard to provide the clients of Fresh Co more renovation options that went along with skillset. We started by fixing more exterior problems on homes and moved into some indoor work as well. In late 2013 I took over most of the business operations and started a new brand for Fresh Co. It was then that I became major shareholder and started providing more renovation options. The painting still went on during the summers but we started to focus on full remodels. I saw this as an opportunity to create an honest company. We now put a lot of our focus on our customer service which is what separates us from most of our competition. Our mission is to be timely by constantly staying on schedule and to keep constant communication with our clients. Our communication and availability truly gives us an advantage over other construction companies.
Lee: Your latest venture is an app focused on improving communication between consumers and home builders. Please describe it and how did you come up with this concept?
Ortega: The app I am developing helps contractors stay organized. It provides them a place to enter all of their business information in an organized manner. It gives them access to employee schedules, ongoing jobs, to-do lists, important documents and much more. They will also create individual folders for clients. Clients will have access to these folders. In this folders there is information about their jobs such as scheduling of progress, budget on the project, photos on problems being fixed in real time and a messaging system that will keep contractors and clients on the same page at all times. There is still a lot work to be done in the developing and the usability which I am working on day and night.
I came up with this idea when I was 18. I saw so many jobs go sour during my early years in the construction industry. There was always a lack of communication between client and contractor, papers were always lost, and schedules were non-existent. Once apps started to become bigger it hit me. There was a simpler way to connect people and to do business and I was going to create it.
Lee: And your concept won $30,000 as part of a national contest. How will these resources be used to support your business?
Ortega: The winnings are going towards market research and development. Building a functional app is not easy, or cheap. There are a lot of people involved and the winnings will help with all costs and payments involved.
Lee: Finally, when will your concept launch in-market?
Ortega: The plan is to have a basic version launched to the public by the beginning of 2016.
Lee: Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who may have an idea?
Ortega: If you have an idea that you are truly passionate about don’t wait. There is no better time than now. You must realize that time is your most valuable asset it is the one thing you will most definitely never get back throughout your life. Set achievable goals, write these goals down and hold yourself ruthlessly accountable until you meet them. Plan ahead and don’t be afraid to fail. Look at any fail as a lesson learned, build off of it and become a better entrepreneur and most importantly a better person.