Empowering People
& Revitalizing the Community

A Moment with our WBA Graduate- Michelle Martinez

Posted on 10/28/2020 by Ray Lamboy in LAEDA News

Michelle Martinez Hernandez is the owner of Totan Contracting, which offers home improvement and roofing services to clients in the tri-state area. She is also a graduate of LAEDA’s Women’s Business Academy. We had a chance to sit down with Michelle to ask about her experience with entrepreneurship and LAEDA WBC’s training program.

1)    LAEDA: Entrepreneurship is a very challenging path to take with many different possible directions. What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Honestly, it’s because I was just getting to the point in all my jobs where I would do outstanding, and I decided, well I can do this for myself and I can work hard for my own benefit. I want to put out the best I have for my own company, I finally have the experience and skills that I can apply to this business. The main reason is my mother and grandmother, they always instilled that in us. They would always preach that whenever you can, you should have your own business. Ever since I remember, my grandmother has had a business and still has a business. She’s always been cooking and catering, and still does it to this day.

2)    LAEDA: Why did you choose your industry?

Well, the industry kind of chose me. It started with my aunt, she had her own construction business, her and her husband did home remodeling. I didn’t think I was going to open a business myself, but then I found a partner that has the experience with home improvement. The industry has allowed me a lot of flexibility when it comes to spending time with family and having a source of income. I’m looking for ways to expand on what we already know. We do home improvement and we are also partnering with my sister that does flipping homes.

3) LAEDA: Tell me about your experience while attending EDTP. What have the major takeaways been from the program? Have you had any “Ah-ha!” moments? How did the program help you?

At LAEDA, I was excited because I was happy to see all of the different industries together, and it incorporated a lot of women. I’ve been to a lot of business programs that were dominated by men but it was refreshing to see women that are going into fields that women don’t usually work in. The structure was a major takeaway. After hearing the question, who did ready, shoot, aim, she learned she started first backgrounds and without the structure. It was also nice having the accountability partners, including staff, counselors, and other classmates that pushed me to do more, kept me on track (making sure things were turned in), remained flexible when scheduling, and encouraged me.  It was nice to have those people who are celebrating even the small accomplishments with you.

I’m the doer so I didn’t always think about the structure and the systems. The more the business was growing, the more I couldn’t manage it effectively. The program gave me structure and confidence because there is a supportive family of other students and instructors, and I can always come back to them for assistance. I felt that every question was answered as the program progressed.

4) LAEDA: Tell me about your journey on the road to business start-up. What have been some of the challenges, successes, failures, etc.?

At first it was just taking the leap of faith. I wasn't sure because I hadn't done it before but I knew I had the skill set. The most challenging at first was funding to get equipment because it was expensive, so we borrowed equipment. After doing those jobs, our customers referred people to us so we didn’t need to pay for marketing. The word of mouth worked for us. We didn't have all the tools readily available so we had to work on that. Then we had to make sure we were legally compliant in this industry, which is why I came to LAEDA.

5) LAEDA: Could you tell me a little about where your business is today?

Today we have been able to work with 3 big investors and been able to land more commercial projects, which was the goal when we first started. I now have my sister as a business partner since she is flipping properties. This means we now have had to hire employees. It started with me and my husband and now we have 5 employees so our business has really grown in the last 2 yrs.

6) LAEDA: Do you have any advice for future (or existing) entrepreneurs?

Don’t hesitate… Don’t stay in analysis paralysis. It’s about networking and believing in yourself. Don’t let people tell you that you cannot do it. You have to be okay with failing but then learning from it. I have been there but I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t fail and learn from that failure.

Congratulations to Michelle Martinez Hernandez for completing WBA and recommitting to her journey on the path of entrepreneurship Totan Contracting is based in Northeast Philadelphia and offers roofing and home improvement services. To get in touch with Michelle Martinez Hernandez, you can email her at totancontracting@gmail.com or call 267-819-9940. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday 7am-6pm.

The Women's Business Academy is a free, nine-week business skills training course offered in Camden, NJ in the Winter each year. Qualified entrepreneurs receive 72+ hours of training from industry professionals, business planning, and one year of technical assistance. Apply online at www.laedawbc.com.