When the billboard and outdoor sign company that Sandra Peña- Fernandez was working for went out of business in 2010, she knew that it was time for her to strike out on her own. She had been a manager in the industry for 11 years and learned the ins and outs of how to run a sign company. “When the company closed, I had gained a lot of knowledge and experience in over a decade and I knew I didn’t want to continue being an employee,” says Sandra.
So, she set out with her savings, and found a partner in a close friend from within the sign industry, and they started Red Hook Sign and Electric Corp. together in Brooklyn, NY. Through the ups and downs of owning a business, Sandra couldn’t be happier as her own boss. When asked what the best part is of being an entrepreneur, she replies, “knowing that the most minuscule or grand investment is for the future of your own business or project.” It’s that type of thinking that led her to search for unique ways to set her business up for success.
Sandra knew that her business could benefit from obtaining a Minority or Women Owned Enterprise (M/WBE) certification from the city of New York so she searched online for resources that could help her with the process. In 2017, she connected with the Next Street-operated Queens Business Solutions Center (QBSC), one of a handful of resource centers for entrepreneurs and small business owners funded by NYC Small Business Services. Sandra attended an M/WBE workshop where she met Paula Liberos, a QBSC account manager. Paula helped Sandra navigate the certification process, getting Red Hook Sign and Electric Corp. the certification in a matter months.
”I walked into the center for a simple certification…a year and a half later I own my commercial property. Although this was a plan and vision, I know it wouldn’t have happened without the guidance of Paula and QBSC.Sandra Peña- FernandezOwner, Red Hook Sign and Electric Corp.
Some time after they first worked together, Paula reached back out to Sandra to see if QBSC could continue to help Red Hook Sign and Electric Corp. grow. At the time, Sandra was exploring how she could purchase the property that she was renting in Brooklyn. Starting in December of 2017, Paula worked with Sandra and a team of attorneys, CPAs, and other professionals to help the company apply for an SBA 504C mortgage loan. One year later in December of 2018, Red Hook closed on a $2,793,000 Commercial Real Estate Loan from the New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC).
“The challenge that the business owner faced while working on the financial deal was identifying the right lender and we were able to do that with NYBDC,” said Paula. According to Sandra, “it was a bumpy road to gain access to this capital, but it was all worth it when we closed.” Getting the deal across the finish line and taking a big leap forward for the independence and success of her company are examples of what Sandra believes to be the fruits of entrepreneurship. “The best advice I can give to any business owner is don’t give up. I promise that there is always a solution, just like there is always a brand-new day.”