The first week of May is National Small Business Week, and among the top entrepreneurs recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is Hernán Luis y Prado, founder and CEO of San Diego business VetPowered.
Prado, a client of the San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, was named SBA California’s “Small Business Person of the Year.”
“On behalf of my family and the entire VetPowered team, I’m honored to be named California’s ‘Small Business Person of the Year’ in the extremely competitive state of California,” Prado shared. “The SBDC and SBA have proven to be our battle-tested partners in our quest to overcome some extremely challenging situations — from obtaining critical financing to purchasing properties and equipment required for us to grow; and helping us navigate the turbulent seas of the ever-shifting pandemic. Gross sales hit the millions, but VetPowered wouldn’t be in business without the SBA and its resource partners like the SBDC.”
A service-disabled veteran, Prado and his wife Rachel sold everything they owned to start the advanced manufacturing business VetPowered as well as provide advanced manufacturing training and jobs to veterans.
“Our North San Diego SBDC team and government contracting specialists who worked closely with him are bursting with pride for Hernán,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, director of the regional SBDC network. “Prado paired their expert guidance and no-cost assistance with hard work and a mission — the very ingredients SBDC provides for our community’s business success.”
To lessen the challenging transition from military service to finding a fair wage-paying career, the Prados started the nonprofit “Workshops for Warriors,” which prepares veterans and wounded warriors for advanced manufacturing careers.
VetPowered secured 504 and 7(a) SBA loans to purchase their first manufacturing facility in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood. Sales and credit grew, and they were able to secure a private loan. They later earned 8(a) certification, which helped them increase their sales significantly.
When the pandemic hit, Vetpowered rallied and started pivoting with the SBDC and SBA’s help. The business was able to obtain an EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan), which allowed the purchase of equipment needed to maintain operations and a competitive edge. They also obtained two PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) draws with forgiveness, allowing them to maintain as well as grow operations by subsidizing payroll to keep all staff members throughout the pandemic without decreasing hours or pay. Prado was also able refinance business debt and purchase space for a training center, corporate office, and other facilities. They now own 145,000 sq. ft. of property spanning five city blocks in Barrio Logan, a HUBZone.
“VetPowered’s investment in the Barrio Logan community will continue to make a positive impact for years to come,” said Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA 51st District). From creating jobs for both local community members and veterans to providing a service high in demand, I extend enthusiastic congratulations to Hernán and the entire VetPowered team on this exciting achievement. Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, and I’m proud to celebrate Hernán’s success and entrepreneurship in my district. I thank Hernán for his continued leadership and commitment to our veterans and community.”
Prado kept all employees and hired two new ones. He transitioned training events online and redesigned the website for selling products and services. VetPowered also created a new division manufacturing and selling VetPowered branded parts online. He also purchased three properties in 18 months; these included an apartment building to house evicted employees and workshop attendees as well as a restaurant, which he turned into a commissary for feeding employees, attendees and neighborhood residents.
“In 100 years,” Prado said, “I hope that Americans would look back and see that VetPowered and San Diego were the birthplace of America’s green manufacturing renaissance where we ushered in a new era of advanced manufacturing that was socially and environmentally responsible and sustainable.
“It is my sincerest hope that others will see our work as an example of the great things that are possible when a community works together. We are forever grateful to the SBA and SDBC, and will let this award be a testament to our continued work here in Barrio Logan in support of rebuilding America’s manufacturing force with veterans.”
Find out more about the company at vetpowered.com. The SBA’s winning entrepreneurs and businesses were honored in a nationwide event today, May 5 as well — and were in the running for national titles — during the week’s virtual summit with the theme, “Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship.”
“Prado is a noble veteran and a visionary as well as an award-winning leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist,” said Mike Sovacool, deputy district director of the SBA San Diego District Office. “He’s set a superb example to others in the business world, and outside of it, to follow. I trust he will continue to contribute greatly to the vibrant, growing small business community in San Diego, Imperial and beyond.
“Hernán fully recognized and utilized the opportunities provided by the Small Business Administration. His close ties to the SBDC, their skilled and client-focused mentoring — resulting in his 8(a) and HUBZone certifications as well as pursuit of government contracting opportunities — the navigation through the SBA loan programs and follow-on partnering with the local lending community to access capital, and his seeking applicable COVID funding which enabled VetPowered to weather the storm during the pandemic; these are all indicative of his astute and consistent partnership with the SBA, the SBA’s resource partners, associated lenders, and related government services. He is highly deserving of this recognition and exemplifies the benefits of applying support systems available to all small businesses.”
The SBDC exists to help small businesses at no charge. Entrepreneurs can reach out to find a business advisor, who works with small business owners one-on-one and for free. Visit SDIVSBDC.org/advising to access an advisor or call (619) 482-6391 if needed. The SBDC website also has other information available such as no-cost or discounted business resources and tools as well as live and on-demand training.