The Brothers That Just Do Gutters[/caption]
About 99,000 oil and gas workers across Texas have lost their jobs since oil prices began to decline in 2014, according to data collected from economist Karr Ingham’s monthly Texas Petro Index report. That number accounts for one-third of the industry’s workforce statewide.
One of those 99,000 workers was Cy-Fair resident Randy Garrett, who worked in finance most of his career. When he was released from his accounting position at Burckhardt Compression, a compressor manufacturing company, he started thinking about buying a franchise.
In September, Garrett officially opened the first Cy-Fair location of The Brothers That Just Do Gutters, a New York-based company.
“Between waking up and going to sleep, I’m always thinking about what to do next and how I can do it better,” he said. “You’re tired, but you don’t think about not wanting to do it anymore. At this point, it would be really hard to go back.”
Garrett is not the only one. From Linda Bankerd, who launched The Entrepreneur’s Source after her time in the industry, to Michael Vandiver, who just opened Sub Zero Ice Cream in Towne Lake, new entrepreneurs throughout Cy-Fair have taken the plunge over the past two years.
Energy to entrepreneurship
Hundreds of Houston residents have found an entrepreneurial spirit after leaving the energy industry. Roberta Skebo, deputy director of Lone Star College’s Small Business Development Center, said entrepreneurship is a common path people choose when industries face slumps.
“We’ve seen some people at our location who were along the Energy Corridor or were with foreign companies and now want to stay here and are looking at opportunities to start a company or buy a franchise,” Skebo said.
Bankerd left the oil and gas industry this summer and became a franchise and career transition coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source, a company that helped in her own transition.
“If you really understand entrepreneurship, everything required of the business you’re going into and the business model, you should probably start your own business,” Bankerd said. “If you’re not so sure and you want to start with a proven business model with training and support, then franchising is a good model.”
“Every community needs to have a strong small-business environment to help the economy of the community,” she said. “We are becoming accustomed to shopping local and keeping our dollars in our community, and the growth of business only helps that more.”
In recent years, Martone said she has seen an influx of retail, dining and service industry businesses.
She said a generational gap is apparent when established professionals must compete with millennials in the business world. Older workers must leave their comfort zones to try new things, she said.
“People that have a passion for a type of service or industry are now using ‘their story’ as part of their marketing and selling their product,” she said. “I love to hear when people have this passion versus [are] just out to make a lot of money.”
Former oil field workers Jeff Handojo, Brandon Moss and Bryce Baker turned a hobby into a career when they opened 11 Below Brewing near Willowbrook last year.
Although the brewery opened in spring 2015, the partners had been discussing the idea since 2011, enticed by the thrill of starting something new. After years of looking at various business plans, they were able to take the plunge just before the energy market crashed.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a lot of work,” Handojo said. “Having guys that were used to working outdoors and doing really hard labor translated well. Plus, we get to talk about beer all the time.”
Handojo said the 11 Below team puts in the same amount or more time into their company as they did in their former positions. Moving from a struggling, competitive industry to the brewery market—which is thriving in Houston—was a refreshing start.
“You wake up every day—regardless of how physically tired you are—there’s a smile on your face because you’re working for yourself,” Handojo said.
Daniel Marroquin said he worked in the oil and gas industry for more than 30 years. Semi-retired from designing, he took his love for working outdoors and started his own fence restoration business.
With the support of his family, Marroquin started researching equipment providers, took a certification course, bought the proper insurance and applied to be on business vendor listings circulated by property management companies.
Daniel & Son Fence Restoration has been working to clean and stain fences, patios and decks since May.
“I love doing this type of business because most of the customers before we come along had no idea what their fence would look like,” Marroquin said. “A lot of them figured they had to replace their fence.”
Marroquin said his background in oil and gas has helped in his new venture. Customer relations, project assessment, time management and sketching designs are just a few of the skills that transferred.
Marroquin encourages those feeling unfulfilled in their current position to follow a path they are passionate about. However, he warned against jumping into a business without doing the research.
“Do something you enjoy, work hard and have the courage to take a financial risk,” he said. “Stay ahead of the competition to provide the best services for the customers.”
Programs, such as Houston Business Development and Accion Texas Inc., offer loan services for entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the SBDC provides free consultation services.
According to officials, the SBDC has helped start 45 new businesses, created 271 jobs and obtained about $34 million in capital in the past year.
After years of working for Baker Hughes, Bankerd was laid off in June and decided she was no longer cut out for corporate America. She began researching franchise options and quickly became overwhelmed.
She ended up seeking assistance from The Entrepreneur’s Source. The enterprise has access to about 200 franchises and funding specific to those companies, she said. Because franchisers pay for her services, Bankerd’s clients receive this assistance for free.
Bankerd said her career coach learned about her strengths and goals before presenting options that catered to her. She decided to open her own branch of The Entrepreneur’s Source in September.
“I’m passionate about getting everyone to understand there’s a lot of different options,” she said. “If I would have known all the options, I would have gone into business for myself sooner.”