A Navy combat veteran who owns a Barrio Logan manufacturing business has been named the state’s Small Business Owner of the Year.
Hernán Luis y Prado, founder and CEO of VetPowered, received the honor by the California sector of the Small Business Administration.
Prado, a service-disabled veteran, and his wife Rachel sold everything they owned to start their business and provide training and jobs for other veterans.
He said he faced “some extremely challenging situations” while setting up his business, from obtaining financing to finding the right properties and equipment to help the company grow. He also cited the “troubled seas” of the pandemic.
The SBA honored entrepreneurs and businesses at a national event Thursday during a virtual summit that celebrated the theme “Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship.”
The celebration coincides with National Small Business Week, which falls during the first week of May.
Prado is also a client of the San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network. Despite gross sales in the millions of dollars, he said, “VetPowered wouldn’t be in business without the SBA” and partners like the SBDC.
To ease the transition from military service, the Prados started Workshops for Warriors, a nonprofit organization that prepares veterans for advanced manufacturing careers.
After opening VetPowered in 2009, they obtained loans from the SBA to purchase their first manufacturing facility in Barrio Logan.
When the pandemic hit, Vetpowered sought help from the SBDC and SBA. The business was able to obtain an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, along with two Paycheck Protection Program loans to subsidize payroll and keep staff on the job without decreasing hours or pay.
Prado also refinanced business debt and purchased space for a training center, corporate office and other facilities. The couple now own 145,000 square feet of property spanning five city blocks in Barrio Logan.
“VetPowered’s investment in the Barrio Logan community will continue to have a positive impact for years to come,” said Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego. “From creating jobs for both members of the local community and veterans to providing a service in high demand, I enthusiastically congratulate Hernan and the entire VetPowered team on this exciting achievement.”
Prado also supports the needs of veterans and the community. He has purchased three properties in 18 months: an apartment building to house displaced employees and workshop attendees, as well as a restaurant, which he converted into a commissary to feed employees, attendees and neighborhood residents.
“It is my sincerest hope that others see our work as an example of the great things that are possible when a community works together,” said Prado. “We will be eternally grateful to the SBA and SDBC, and let this award be a testament to our continued work here in Barrio Logan in support of rebuilding America’s manufacturing force with veterans.”
Daniel Fitzgerald, director of the SBDC regional network, said the local SBDC staff and contracting specialists who worked with Prado “are filled with pride for Hernán.” Mike Sovacool, deputy district director for the SBA’s San Diego District Office, added, “He has set an excellent example for others in the business world and beyond to follow.”
Entrepreneurs can search online to find an SBDC business advisor, who will work with small business owners one-on-one and for free. They can also call (619) 482-6391.