BlueCloudUSA Spotlight

Spring 2018 North County Elevate My Business Challenge Alumni

 

Fall 2018 Founders Bootcamp 3rd Place Winner

 

Company Website: www.bluecloudusa.com

 

Company Bio: BlueCloud is a San Diego-based telecommunications company providing fully customized Voice over IP phone systems and services to small and medium-sized businesses nationwide. BlueCloud handles all of your business communication needs, including voice, texting, and virtual faxing, making it simple for you to connect and scale your business. BlueCloud will also help you lower your monthly communication bill and has no monthly contracts. BlueCloud provides world class customer support and puts the customer experience at the forefront, making their expert support team available to you at all times.

 

BlueCloud was founded five years ago by husband and wife team, Meir Singer and Miriam Stein. Meir graduated from Touro University in New York City with a degree in Business Development & Management and started working in Telecom immediately after graduating. He has been in the telecom industry for over 10 years. He started off managing customers and providing technical support and then moved into a sales and management position at a large publicly traded telecom company. Meir became an expert in the telecom space and understood the industry and where it needed to improve.

Miriam has a background in Mathematics & Finance and Business Marketing and always dreamed of starting her own company. In fact, she started many businesses as a young kid and eventually used those earnings after graduating from University of California-San Diego to relocate and start her professional career in New York City.

 

Both Meir and Miriam established early on in their marriage that one day they would like to build a successful business from the ground up. It was just about identifying a need and finding something they both loved and cared about. They realized that there was something missing in the telecom market. Customer experience, on-boarding, and satisfaction was not a priority for corporate telecom companies. This frustrated Meir and Miriam to the point that it led them to open up their own telecom company in 2014. Their goal was to provide the best customer service for their business customers and to be the last telecom provider a business ever needs. BlueCloud is set on delivering the best experience for their customers and they make all business decisions with the customer in mind. Between Meir and Miriam’s combined background and talents, BlueCloud successfully launched and has been growing rapidly ever since.

The name BlueCloud originated from the fact that their services are all cloud based, along with their love for the color blue. BlueCloud addresses key business communication issues and provides robust solutions. BlueCloud’s customers want a voice solution that works, one that is scalable, flexible, and has exceptional customer support. This means businesses want the ability to expand their services in the future with ease. The business customers that reach out to BlueCloud want someone else to take care of everything telecom related so that they have more time to focus on their business. Convenience is the major competitive advantage that BlueCloud has over other players in the market. BlueCloud offers onsite installations, training and offers handholding level support so businesses don’t have to worry about their telecom needs at all.

Since they started in 2014, BlueCloud has doubled their revenues every year. The growth trajectory of BlueCloud has been a major accomplishment for them. After joining the Elevate My Business Challenge and the Founders Bootcamp, BlueCloud was able to develop a roadmap with processes. Some of the challenges that Meir and Miriam have faced has been dealing with personnel changes. The right people were not joining the team, so they had many tough decisions to let people go once they realized they weren’t the best fit. It was extremely difficult for Meir and Miriam to fire some people, and they wouldn’t wish that for anybody, but it was the best thing to do for the health of the business. They did not have all the tools to analyze if they had had A-players on their team. Through trial and error, BlueCloud has been able to make the right hires and to notice red flags much quicker than in the past. Miriam and Meir like to learn from their mistakes and own up to them, but not repeat them. They found key takeaways from bad-hiring choices and regrouped when making the right hiring decisions. They now have a team of all A-list players and are seeing the benefits of having such a strong team in place.

Originally the idea to join the Elevate My Business Challenge for Meir and Miriam was to work on their proven business model by learning how to scale. They felt limited in their knowledge of how to grow a small business. A lot of the processes that BlueCloud has in place today is based on the knowledge gained from the Elevate My Business Challenge and Founders Bootcamp. Since participating in both programs, Meir and Miriam have seen tremendous growth by adding more employees, adding new recurring revenue streams, increasing margins and much more. Moving forward, they both feel extremely prepared to take BlueCloud to new heights. Mostly in part to the fact that they know every element of their business, while having all of their processes streamlined and organized. They have an overall strategic plan with goals in place and the tools to accomplish them at their disposal.

The mission right now is to expand across Southern California. As entrepreneurs, Meir and Miriam have realized that the key to growth is to seek out mentors and strategic partners. Both programs assisted BlueCloud in gaining confidence, understanding tools, and utilizing different resources. Meir and Miriam believe that both programs are necessary for small businesses, because both offer something different. The Challenge program really taught them how to think bigger and identify goals, while also giving them a playbook of how to achieve those goals. The Bootcamp offers actual tactics each week of how to use these different tools to their advantage to accomplish their overall goals.

Some words of wisdom from Miriam and Meir for other small business owners are that you have to treat your business like your child. It is extremely important to always look for improvements in your company even if you are doing well. Find ways to expand and make more partnerships. When BlueCloud first joined the EMBC, they already had achieved impressive growth, but they knew that there was more to gain and more to learn. Meir and Miriam’s gratitude towards LIFT is very touching for our company. Being able to assist small businesses in the community like BlueCloud has been a rewarding experience. We won’t be surprised when BlueCloud expands across the California region. If you are a small business owner and you want to improve your Telecom communications, then please go to www.bluecloudusa.com.

 

DuFresne Solutions Group Spotlight

Winter 2019 Austin EMBC 1st Place Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/329695948/ab295afe8f

 

Company Bio: The DuFresne Solutions Group specializes in developing mid-level leaders and managers to meet and exceed company goals. We affectionately describe mid-level leaders or managers as the “Squeeze Suite.” Mid-levels drive C-suite initiatives, manage direct reports, and work with peers making this pressure-filled role complex, fast-paced, and constantly changing.

In 2013 Jenny DuFresne opened up her own small business – DuFresne Solutions Group – to tackle the issues of leadership training across various industries. Jenny has a background in running well-operated businesses. She founded and led a multi-million dollar organization, but her next goal was to help shape and influence leaders. People who are moving into leadership roles want to learn how to become more effective and how to improve their leadership style by connecting with their subordinates. This is an ongoing need that Jenny felt that she was equipped to solve, especially because of her 10-years of leadership training in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Leadership is a complex set of internal and external behaviors. The DuFresne Solutions Group supports clients to get quick wins that lead to greater leader and team confidence. Jenny and her team work with mid-level and executive leadership teams of mid-market companies. Services include: understanding leadership style and impact; identifying how to form and grow great teams; the 7 building blocks to develop a thriving company culture; and communication strategies that motivate and get things done.

Jenny is very proud of one of the organizations her company supported – a large school district of over 400 staff members. The DuFresne Solutions Group supported leaders’ building the systems and behaviors to create a strong, results-focused culture. This work allowed leaders to feel much more confident with their leadership styles. Another significant result was an increase in student achievement and organizational culture. Creating clear structures and systems helped establish a company culture that team members can get behind. This was a big win for Jenny and her company because it reaffirmed her belief that she could help organizations no matter how large they were.

However, it wasn’t easy to get to this point. Companies don’t think about leadership because it isn’t a top of mind problem. Leadership training is usually the easiest thing to cut out from a budget or the last thing to consider. Companies don’t see the immediate return on investment when they put an emphasis on leadership training. When companies contact Jenny, it is usually because there are significant internal struggles to include staff attrition, decreased profits and productivity, or customer attrition due to a lack of leadership. In order to solve this, it is necessary to have a big focus on training, and by doing so it will be easier to prevent these issues. Companies lose momentum and market share when employees or managers leave. Jenny has realized educating companies on the value of leadership development is a key business strategy for the growth and service of the DuFresne Solutions Group. She has established an e-learning program as a mechanism to provide educational content and value.

Jenny was able to establish this program from all that she learned from the Austin EMBC. Part of why she joined was to be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs. Utilizing all of the tools and resources helped Jenny continue her development, which is critical for her company’s growth. The opportunity to learn from experienced entrepreneurs is an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. Taking all of the content from the program allowed Jenny to build her story of how to articulate her business. This process helped Jenny tell what she has done and what she is looking to accomplish. Since winning the competition, Jenny has added more contractors to her team that will help her with the contracts she has secured.

One of Jenny’s goals in the next five years is to be able to have a full-time team. She would love to influence and train anywhere from 3,000 – 5,000 leaders face-to-face while also giving back by conducting leadership training in Africa. These are admirable goals that Jenny has given herself, and right now she is on track to reaching them. She was able to get this far because of her ability to get clear on what she was trying to do. It can be easy to be a jack of all trades within your company, but this can distract you from your main focus. Jenny emphasizes that this is crucial, because we often suffer from this idea that everybody needs us when in reality they don’t. Having this clarity of who you are serving and why you are doing it is super significant. Another piece of advice that Jenny wants to share is that you have to be consistent with what you are doing, while also knowing when it is time to pivot.

Generally, an unspoken topic about entrepreneurship is that it can be very lonely. It is important to have people around you that encourage you not to give up. It is very easy when you don’t see results or progress to get down on yourself. Entrepreneurial depression is not discussed enough, because for many entrepreneurs they were the all-stars of their corporate jobs or past endeavors, and then they seem to get little to no traction when starting their own business. One’s self esteem can suffer. This is an important message that Jenny wanted entrepreneurs to know.

We thank Jenny for having the courage to speak about this, and we are proud of all that she has accomplished in a short time period. Please take some time and go to seekleadership.com to see how your organization can utilize effective leadership training.

Wepa Commercial Cleaning Spotlight

Fall 2018 South Bay EMBC 3rd Place Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/310168690/603c9b9b4c

 

Company Bio: Wepa Commercial Cleaning based out of San Diego, California was established in 2015 and has obtained the following certifications: SDVOSB, DVBE, MBE, SB (Micro) and SDB. As a reliable and dedicated Military Veteran I run my company in the same fashion and standards as the U.S. Armed Forces—nothing short of excellence. My organization skills—combined with my ability to move efficiently to complete duties on or ahead of schedule—prepares me to make a strong contribution to your team as a possible vendor. At Wepa Commercial Cleaning we strive to exceed expectations through our dedicated personnel, innovation, and a commitment to customer satisfaction.

Francisco Rivera, the founder of Wepa Commercial Cleaning, actually fell into owning his own business. At the time, Francisco was working at Monster Energy as the Trade Development Manager of Sales and Marketing, while also pursuing his MBA. His wife told him about an opportunity to purchase a franchise of a janitorial company. Francisco thought this was intriguing to do as a side job. While operating the franchise for a year and a half, Francisco was able to get a better understanding of how the model worked. He finally came to the realization that the franchise owner was taking too much then what they were putting in. So he decided to work as a consultant for marketing where he would find accounts for other franchise owners. After about a year he was bought out, and he stumbled into the SBA to see how he could open his own business.

One thing led to another and Wepa was born. While absorbing all of the knowledge he had learned while owning the franchise, Francisco was able to implement better processes using his format. Wepa developed a competitive advantage that benefits their clients by having the highest military standard for cleaning. Francisco managed to bring in clientele like the DMV, the State building, private companies, schools, and even gyms. One thing that Francisco noticed is that other janitorial companies do not conduct weekly and random inspections, so he added this benefit for their customers. Francisco prides himself on having open and honest communication where the clients feel comfortable enough to confide in them.

Towards the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey, Francisco was invited by the SBDC to dinner at the Marriott in downtown where there were 49 tables with about 10 people per table. They were awarding entrepreneur of the year, small business of the year, woman of the year, and many other awards. Francisco was placed with his wife on table 49, and this struck a chord with him. He swore to his wife that next year he would be in the front and win an award. Sure enough, the very next year he won the small business of the year award. Not only that, this year Francisco was nominated for entrepreneur of the year (the results will come out this December). This really put Wepa on the map.

On the flip side, they faced their fair share of issues along the way. At the beginning, Wepa only had a few accounts they were working with. Once they started landing state contracts they were a little tight with their cash flow. So this forced them to go after a small business loan from ACCION. Being able to navigate with larger accounts was a huge jump, and it was difficult to make payroll since it took more money to cover the orders. They had to dip into their savings account to make sure people were paid, but nevertheless they were able to overcome this stressful obstacle.

Francisco joined the South Bay EMBC to challenge himself and see what he needed to do to reach the next level. When he joined the cohort, he was able to connect with other entrepreneurs where everyone collaborated to solve the pressing issues facing their companies. This network led to a healthy dialogue and camaraderie with other entrpreneurs, which Francisco found to be very useful. The biggest takeaway that he got from the Challenge was the importance of making connections with fellow entrepreneurs. By taking in multiple perspectives, he was able to utilize information from others that was eyeopening for him. Every year Wepa has seen increased revenue growth, and since joining the EMBC revenue increased from $105,000 to $200,000. Francisco also had to expand his team to support his growth so he hired 5 more employees.

Even though Francisco has experienced so much success in a short amount of time, he still has the humility to get his hands dirty. His approach of leading by example has taken Francisco to expand beyond his current market. In the next 5 years, Francisco looks to possibly exit, if the numbers are right, so he may go on to his next project. Until then he looks foward to becoming the number one janitorial company in all of San Diego. That is quite a large goal, but he never backs down from a challenge. Francisco states that the EMBC is a must for all business owners no matter how much you think you know. The network that the EMBC provides helps small business owners collaborate and work together on a common goal. Not only that, but they can all utilize each other’s resources to help soften the everyday burdens that arise with owning a company.

Francisco was asked while being a keynote speaker how he could leave being a military police officer for 15 years to transition into the janitorial space. This was ironic for him because when he was younger and left Puerto Rico for New York all his family and him would do was clean. Everything came full circle. Life is full of surprises and this is why Francisco says that there is no reason to not take any chances when the opportunity is there for the taking. The passion and the drive is the most important thing for an entrepreneur. The money will always come as long as the passion is there. With that being said, Wepa Commercial Cleaning has exceeded all expectations and they are ready for their next challenge. If you want to check out Francisco and Wepa Commercial Cleaning go to wepacommercialcleaning.com.