Learn about Florida Entrepreneur Gloria Martinez and Edmerson Vasquez:
Gloria Martinez and Edmerson Vasquez, husband and wife and CEO and Founder, respectively, launched Neo Broadband in 2013 to provide consultation services, distribution, re-manufacturing, and installation of cable television system and broadband electronic equipment to cable operators. Martinez and Vasquez shared the story behind their journey and how, through a combination of traditional values and modern ingenuity, they've grown from a home-based business into an industry leader.
"I grew up in the Dominican Republic," said Martinez. "My background is in Architecture and Interior Design. Edmerson and I met while both working for a company similar to Neo Broadband. I spent 10 years on the marketing side. Edmerson, who was born in New York, but grew up between Boston and the Dominican Republic, eventually became CEO of that company. We ultimately decided to start Neo Broadband because the company we worked for was going out of business."
Vazquez shared that when word got out that the business was shutting down, he received calls from people in the industry wanting him to come work with them. Vazquez, however, was ready to go off on his own. "Even when you're CEO, you still have to report to a Board," he said. "That can sometimes make it difficult to create your own culture. Plus, it's always been a dream of mine to have my own company."
Growing From Startup to Second-Stage
From its origins as a home-based business, with borrowed warehouse space and shipping and receiving conducted from a spare bedroom, Neo Broadband slowly expanded to a 5,000 sq ft space to 10,000 to today, where two separate facilities totaling 30,000 sq ft house a team of 35 employees. Neo Broadband's customers are mostly cable operators that provide cable TV and internet services to their customers. Neo Broadbrand provides new, used and re-manufactured equipment including, digital and analog converter boxes, modems, headend equipment and line equipment. They have offices in Paraguay, Panama, Costa Rica, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Miami, FL.
According to Vasquez, this wide footprint is part of their overall strategy and what helps to set them apart from the competition. "We have so many locations throughout Latin America because our clients need it," he said. "By listening to them and meeting with them in person, we're able to find solutions to their problems. Our business comes from creating relationships and that can only be done in person."
Martinez added, "It's important that we have a global reach. Our strategic locations enable us to bring real solutions to our clients and to meet with them face-to-face. We understand their needs and we work with them to solve their issues. It's not just selling. At the end of the day, it's really a complete experience for our clients. We're very transparent with our pricing and our team members receive excellent training. We're also willing to work with small Multiple-System Operator (MSOs). We don't care about the size of the operation."
Martinez and Vasquez shared that, when it came to early challenges and growing pains, getting access to capital, managing cash flow and not knowing about all the resources available to help new businesses, were at the top of the list. Another challenge was learning the cultural differences and intricacies of working with various foreign governments. Fortunately, Martinez and her team developed a marketing strategy for, not only overcoming various obstacles, but also for driving growth and establishing Neo Broadband as a market leader.
"It's a small niche industry," Martinez said. "We know our competitors and we certainly know our customers. We start by identifying all the cable operators in a given country. Then we identify the users and determine if they need someone local or international. Once we get to know them, we start to target them. We'll do a combination of trade shows, email marketing, flyers and other traditional forms of marketing. For us, it really comes down to knowing the market. Technology changes fast and that forces us to stay ahead of it and to constantly innovate."
Vasquez added, "We want to grow organically. That's pretty much what we've done for the past five or six years. As you grow, you add more departments, which requires additional structure to be able to control the growth. We make sure supervisors are well trained and that they understand what we're trying to accomplish and that we understand their needs as well."
Vasquez and Martinez describe the culture of Neo Broadband as very family-oriented and as one that gives back to the community. "We support Autism Speaks, Miami Foster Kids, Miami Rescue Mission and St. Jude's Children's Hospital," Martinez said. "Also, each staff member becomes an ambassador of an organization they support. We then support them with donations towards that charity. We'll also do activities and fundraisers for those organizations." Vasquez added, "You'd do anything for your own child. We want everyone in our company to feel that way. Even if we change one life, our mission is accomplished. Miami Rescue Mission told us how many of the individuals going through their program are unable to get jobs, so we hired about 10 of them. Supporting the local community is very important to us. We also support green initiatives through Ocean Cleanup and will help people that want to properly dispose of used electronic equipment such as computers, routers and cell phones."
According to Vasquez and Martinez, operating in Florida, and in particular, Miami-Dade County, is very beneficial for their business. They have easy access to major international airports and are only a short flight away to several Latin American countries where they do business. They're also surrounded by organizations, such as the South Florida Manufacturers Association, that are always willing to help. Local colleges and universities, including Miami-Dade College and Nova Southeastern University, also supply a good stream of talent.
What it Means to be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
"It's really important for us," Martinez said. "We're extremely proud. We work hard and for others to see what we're doing is great. Being selected out of the other companies validates our dream. When we get an award, we show the employees. They earned it as well. It's something we all accomplished together. I think part of the reason we received this recognition is because our customer complaints are lower than industry standards and because of our impressive growth." Vasquez added, "When you come to work and you put in long hard hours, it's nice to know that someone is watching you and validating what you're doing. It's important to everyone in the company to feel like this is their company. I tell my people that they're the founders too. Without their help, we wouldn't be able to accomplish everything we do for the community and the business."
Looking ahead, Vasquez and Martinez are focused on expanding their operations overseas. As they expand into new markets, they're not interested in competing on price. They believe that by having a local presence and local inventory, they're in a better position to differentiate themselves and strengthen their market share through superior customer service and by building authentic relationships. They also realize the potential of growing their domestic operations. Currently, only 20% of their sales are in the United States. Long term goals include implementing a marketing strategy to make more of their goods and services available to the residents of Florida and the rest of the U.S.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
"If you start looking at the numbers and statistics, you'll never start your own business," Vasquez said. "You just have to put your head down and do it. When we started the business, we maxed out credit cards and, at one point, didn't know how to pay for our house, but we got through it. Stop talking about it and get up and do it. It comes down to long hours and work hard. Also, in the beginning, expect to wear many hats. I remember talking to clients on the phone and they'd ask to speak with the Production Manager. At the time, that was me. Gloria and I used to do everything in the beginning. You have to love what you do too."
Martinez added, "It doesn't matter how hard you work. You need to satisfy yourself and, like Edmerson said, you have to love what you do. You also have to work harder than the rest and shine above your competitors. Whatever you do, do it the right way, be consistent, work harder than everyone else and love what you do. Also, help your community and give back when you can."
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