Originally from the South of Spain, Fernando Tirado, Founder of SURI-USA, and several other companies, is on a mission to bring affordable and rapidly-deployed mobile shelter solutions to those in need. From portable hotels at festival sites to natural disaster, military and medical applications, these flexible and modular units can be assembled by two people with a screwdriver in one hour. Tirado shared the story behind his incredible journey and how his latest venture is disrupting and redefining the temporary housing and shelter industry.
"I started my career working for a company in the maritime shipping industry," Tirado said. "The company was China Shipping, which now belongs to COSCO. I was primarily handling import and export traffic. Among many other things, I learned all about logistics, commerce, technology and shipping. I took care of ships at various ports all over the world. From there, I worked in Dubai as a fuel trader in the marine gas and oil industry. We procured and delivered fuel to ships worldwide. At some point, I had a realization that I didn't want to work for someone else any longer."
As Tirado shared, that realization led to the formation of Black Bull Group, a company that also supplies fuel and provides logistics support to ships throughout the world. With the Spanish Navy as his first client, Tirado quickly expanded the business to include offices in Spain, Egypt, The United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Miami – the latter of which brought him to Florida in late 2018. During his journey, Tirado also established Ictineo Investments, a consulting firm and business incubator; Galeon, a business intelligence consulting firm; Love Martin Swim, a brand of swimwear; The TM Company, a platform to develop different business units and SURI-USA, Tirado's newest adventure.
"I founded SURI-USA in May 2019," Tirado said. "I got to know the manufacturer, who was one of the suppliers we used for a client of Black Bull Group. The company was providing shelters to armies in Europe. I saw an opportunity to expand the concept beyond just military. I had a conversation with the supplier and they agreed to allow me to be the exclusive distributor in the United States."
Manufactured in Spain, the SURI housing units and shelters offer many benefits, including, hygrothermal comfort, natural lighting and solar panels, mosquito protection, rainwater collection, fillable walls and materials that are recyclable, reusable or biodegradable. Sold in one-person units, SURI's flexibility allows you to build whatever type of shelter you need. Combining four units creates a space for four adults at a price tag of only $15,000.
“I set up a showroom to display the units and allow customers to see them in person,” Tirado said. “I’m currently working on distribution agreements with different companies throughout the United States. I’m also working with companies like Airbnb, and their hosts, to set up units for their guests to stay in. For now, the business model is business to business, but I’m starting to get a lot of inquiries directly from individuals.”
Tirado explained that the market for modular unit housing shelters is vast. From opportunities to provide research vessels for federally funded arctic programs to temporary hotels for national festivals and concerts, the applications are endless. For this reason, Tirado is extremely optimistic about the future of SURI-USA.
“Within five years, our growth will be exponential,” he said. “SURI units are faster and cheaper than other options. Expansion of the brand is my number one priority. On the personal side, I really want to get involved in the Miami Entrepreneurial Community. I’ve joined the Miami Angels and I’m always looking for people to invest with. Whether it’s a new entrepreneur or a more established one, if they don’t have the income and/or resources, I’m happy to mentor them, give them some guidance or connect them with capital.”
Tirado continued, “I share a passion with other entrepreneurs. I love brainstorming sessions and trying different ideas, concepts, and potential future businesses. At the end of the day, I love being around people with crazy ideas.”
What advice does Tirado have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Don’t be shy or afraid to share your ideas and dreams with someone else,” he said. “However, if you truly believe in your idea, don't listen to others that are negative. A lot of people will say no. Listen to your inner voice. Also get a mentor and someone to give you good advice. In the end, it’s worth it to be the owner of your time and your life.”