Mother Entrepreneur Constructing a Bright Future
A south Florida mother of three made it her goal to outshine the competition—on a national level
Patricia Bonilla knows that while aspiring female entrepreneurs have a host of innovative ideas, they often lack the tools needed to grow a profitable business.
That’s why she entered the Make Mine a Million $ Business sponsored by American Express’ small-business division and a nonprofit that supports women entrepreneurs. In late February, she found out that she was a selected as one of the winners.
“I had an awesome time because I touched people in the process, which filled me up immensely. But more than anything I confirmed how divinely guided I am,” she says.
Make Mine a Million $ Business was created to inspire women entrepreneurs to hit their revenue goals. Once goals are reached, the entrepreneurs receive a personalized business assessment, revenue tracking tools, help with networking, sales, marketing and promotional opportunities. At the end, the goal is to win the grand prize of $100,000 cash for the business.
A mother of three from a construction family in the Dominican Republic, Bonilla came to the U.S. at age 23, and found her way into the civil engineering field. She got her first job in Fort Lauderdale in the city’s Department of Construction. “But my heart was always waiting for the moment to start my own company. My desire was very strong—building a future is an act of faith,” she says.
The typical solution—to seek employment with a company—didn’t feel like a fit for Bonilla.
“My children really were my priority. I wanted the ability to pick them up from school, attend events, and, if possible, be home when they came home from school,” she says.
Bonilla, 41, took some construction courses at Florida International University before venturing into private business. Together with her husband, Emilio Criado, she now runs a successful Palmetto Bay-based business, Lunacon Construction Group, where she is the president and CEO.
Bonilla got her first contract two days after starting her business, a job administering construction for a $23 million USDA facility at the Miami airport.
Still, although she has had some very good fortune, Bonilla acknowledges the road to success has sometimes been bumpy and that juggling work in a predominantly male environment hasn’t been without challenges.
“I know it’s not easy to win bids for the federal government contracts. It requires an investment of time and effort,” she says. “My partners said ‘Don’t bother trying,’ but I consider myself a visionary... These are times of planting seeds. This will get us exposure. In the future will come the time to harvest that.”
Building a business from the ground up has been rewarding for Bonilla. Not only has she seen her business grow, she has watched her clients expand their operations. From a personal standpoint, the rewards have been worth the effort.
“It’s my way of saying, Si, se puede,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you are a woman with three kids in an industry dominated by men and in the midst of a recession. The possibility is always there.”
Nevertheless, being a business owner hasn’t always been easy. “I don’t think it’s for everyone. You have to be structured and disciplined and flexible and open-minded,” Bonilla says. “It also helps to have a support system. I’ve had a lot of support.”
Her success in the Make Mine a Million $ Business competition has given her new confidence. “The experience was great. I keep being stretched,” she says. The toughest challenge was delivering a three-minute elevator pitch containing enough factual information about her background and credentials, with the company’s present situation and potential future growth.
“Because of the American Express contest, I hope to extend a line of credit to solidify my company’s growth,” Bonilla says.
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I am inspired by Patricia's story, determination to build a successful business over time.Now it has started bearing fruits... I wish her all the success and be an example to women entrepreneurs!