One year on, the future looks bright for Diamond Builders of Willmar, Minn.
WILLMAR — When her husband Carlos wanted to start his own business, Delores Valdovinos was beside him all the way to create Diamond Builders.
A year later, the company has used Carlos’s strong reputation and drive to build a company that keeps two crews of workers busy doing site preparation for grain bins.
There’s talk of adding a third crew sometime soon.
For now, most of their work is outside west central Minnesota, but most of the 20-plus employees are from Willmar.
“We started because Carlos wanted to have the experience of doing something on his own,” Delores, 33, company vice president, said in a recent interview.
Carlos, 36, and his workers work 10 days at a job site and then are home for four days before leaving again.
When Carlos asked his former employer Gateway Building Systems for advice about starting his own business, “they didn’t want to see him go,” Delores said.
So the company gave him advice about starting on his own and then offered to hire him as a subcontractor.
“He didn’t know anything about business, where to start, anything like that,” Delores said.
“Carlos thinks big, and he’s very driven; once he sets his mind on something he’s got to try it out.”
They turned to the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center for advice. WAM-BC receives grants to work with people ready to start a business if they meet income and asset guidelines, which the Valdovinos family did. People who don’t meet those guidelines may be eligible to seek advice for a fee that is lower than market rates.
Delores was a stay-at-home mom a year ago. The business’ name is the English translation of their daughter’s middle name.
Now, she’s the office manager and the vice president of a corporation with as many of 22 employees, depending on contracts and the seasons.
“It changes all the time,” she said. “Some people don’t like cold or heat; it’s outside 100 percent of the time.” The work also involves heights, which makes some people leave.
The company has worked in four states -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. While Diamond Builders worked at first for Carlos’ former employer near Fargo, his 15-year reputation as a worker and foreman has led to other jobs.
They would like more jobs in the Willmar area, she said, but that may take some time.
Jeff Madsen, a business consultant working with WAM-BC, said the company has come a long way in the past year. Delores knows the business because she worked on a crew with Carlos in the past, and she handles the business’s payroll and finances using Quickbooks software.
Delores said she had no business training before, and “I learned everything here with Jeff and Robert (Valdez, WAM-BC director).”
Madsen said he trained her on the Quickbooks, but she has moved beyond his training to the point where she can answer questions for him.
Along with handling payroll and other finances, she has developed an employee manual and safety policies. She’s working on other company policies and on developing a broader set of benefits. The young company’s benefits are limited right now, but employees did receive Christmas bonuses last year.
Her experience working in the industry has helped her in the office, she said. She speaks with Carlos every day, she said, and “if he told me this stuff and I never worked there, it would be harder.”
The successful business has helped WAM-BC meet its job creation goals, Madsen said. Diamond Builders was also one of the center’s first business loan recipients. The loan was paid off early, in just six months.
The business currently leases office space in WAM-BC’s building. She started doing the company’s work at home, but it became too much, Delores said. “I needed to balance my time.”
For WAM-BC, Diamond Builders is “the model we want to project, taking the ball and building their business,” Madsen said. “Those two are amazing, giving back to their employees and giving people opportunities.”
One of the company’s hurdles has been finding welders and millwrights to do the exacting work of building the supporting structure, catwalks, augers and underground pits for the grain bins, Delores said.
Right now, 13 of the employees are welders. The company sometimes trains its own welders, because they can be so hard to find. The work is exacting, too.
“It’s something you have to have an eye for, and experience,” Delores said.
The company’s growth has come fast, but not as fast as its president would like, Delores said.
“Carlos has a big dream,” she said. “We’re not going to get there tomorrow; we’ve got to go with it day by day and figure it out.”
The Valdovinos family has no plans to leave the Willmar area, regardless of where their company finds work.
“I’ve been here since I was in kindergarten, so this is our home,” Delores said, and it’s where they met and got married. “We had an opportunity to move to Fargo, but it’s not the place for us; we’re staying in Willmar no matter what.”