There were many years that I barely avoided damaging flooding and then Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters totaled my car in the middle of the night. After that night, my community and I faced an immense number of challenges to recover and rebuild what we once had. For example, being placed on a waitlist for a rental car for weeks with no public transportation available, or being forced to tow your and sell for parts because your insurance plan did not cover flood damage. Additionally, my downstairs neighbor made her living off her beautiful canvas paintings and could not save them all while her condo was filled with floodwaters. The experience inspired me to design a solution to guard against the economic and emotional costs of flooding. Coincidently, it was my final week at my job, and so I decided to dedicate my engineering expertise, time, and savings to create the Temporary Protective Enclosure to protect valuable possessions and vehicles from flood damage. Learning about other well-known bootstrapping entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely, led me to seek out partnerships with an international testing firm and large volume manufacture despite my "limited" resources. After a year in development, I prepared my first shipment to Houston so that I could debut ClimaGuard in my city. However, shortly after Chinese New Year, many exports were halted due to COVID-19 and because my products were not deemed essential, I had to wait for the port to allow my shipment to leave. During this time, my original fulfillment company in Houston decided to close their business in Texas and only operate in California. Despite these challenges, I had faith that all would work out and it did. I contracted with a local fulfillment company In Sugarland who believed in our vision and eventually received half of my shipment at the end of June. Even though this is only the beginning, I must say the journey was well worth it knowing that we now offer a solution for our to protect communities all across the country this hurricane season.
So many obstacles but they were all learning lessons and growing pains. In general, I push forward and creatively think of solutions or seek support from my network. For example, I knew it was best to ship my inventory after the holidays to avoid peak freight costs. I explained to my fulfillment partner in Texas about sourcing a temporary warehouse prior to my shipping date, and since he understood that I was just starting ClimaGuard the owner of the fulfillment company introduced me to his partner overseas who owned multiple warehouses and offered me free space until I was ready to ship. My manufacturing facility offered the same, and what was first a challenge, turned into options due to the relationships I made along this entrepreneurial journey.
I truly believe that no entrepreneur’s journey is a smooth road. They are all filled with bumps and mishaps you could not expect initially. As a formally educated and experienced engineer, I had to learn the essentials in business and do so quickly so that I could provide a service that my community (and many others) desperately needed. Thankfully, I was accepted to an accelerator specifically for underrepresented (female and people of color) founders, DivInc, based in Austin, TX. With DivInc’s guidance, I built the foundation of my business as it is today. COVID had an immense impact on my business due to the delay of my shipment from China, the closure of my original fulfillment company, and finally only receiving half of the units that I had hoped to sell this hurricane season. In a short amount of time, ClimaGuard has dealt with its fair share of bumps in the road, but I know that the team I have built will be able to withstand any of the storms that may blow our way in order to serve communities all across the country.
Once you decide on the business you want to pursue, seek counsel from individuals who are in that market, and individuals who started in the same position as you and now run their own business. People are more accessible than you think, especially now when connecting virtually is typical. After you form these new relationships, do not forget that you are the captain of your ship. Your creative thought is what will differentiate your business.