STATEWIDE PROGRAM MATCHES SAVINGS OF SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
When Mateo Sixto and Anel Hernandez decided to start iWrap, a small business offering custom graphics and wrapping services for vehicles, they knew they needed to learn some basic skills. So they invested their time in learning about accounting, bookkeeping, cash flow and marketing.
As the business grew, the couple also knew they needed to invest in another area: buying equipment that would allow them to provide faster turnaround and more efficient service. What they were less certain of, however, was where they would find the money to make the purchase.
Then they learned about Individual Development Accounts, a program that provides matched savings to help business owners save money to purchase equipment and other assets that can mark the difference between a business flourishing or stalling out.
“It was a game-changer,” Hernandez says.
IWrap owners Mateo Sixto, pictured, and Anel Hernandez say using a matched-savings account to purchase a vinyl printer and an LED lighting system for a work area were a “game-changer“ for the Hillsboro-based business. ~ PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ
OWNERS: Anel Hernandez and Mateo Sixto
ADDRESS: 2061 N.E. Aloclek Drive, Suite 904, Hillsboro, OR 97124
A PASSION AND A PLAN
Located in the Tanasbourne area of Hillsboro, iWrap provides a range of services from window and wall wraps to banners and decals. But its specialty is creating and installing custom graphics and wraps on cars, trailers, trucks and even motorcycles. The work, which entails both coming up with designs for customers and providing careful installation, has been a long-time passion for Sixto. He first became interested in creating banners and decals about 15 years ago, when he started working in a sign shop.
Eventually, he was given a chance to learn how to design, provide and install wraps.
“He loved it,” Hernandez says. “He knew it was what he wanted to do.”
Sixto eventually began working at PDX Wraps in Sherwood, where he focused on honing his wrapping skills. As he gained more experience and confidence, he and Hernandez began talking about starting their own business. They decided that if they were going to take the leap, they needed to make sure they would succeed so that they could continue to take care of their three children, now ages 10, 13 and 14.
“We knew a lot about wrapping, but nothing about running a business,” Hernandez says.
They began looking around for a program that would help them start to grow a solid foundation of business skills. Their search led them to Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). Based in Portland with Oregon satellite offices in Beaverton, Gresham and Clackamas, and a Southwest Washington location in Vancouver, MESO provides technical assistance, business education and access to affordable capital to help Black, Indigenous and other People of Color, women and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
With MESO’s support, Sixto and Hernandez opened iWrap as a home-based business, even as Sixto continue to work at PDX Wraps to bring in a steady income. As they nurtured the new business, the couple received support from Sixto’s employer. When PDX Wraps had more work than it could handle, it referred customers to iWrap. Little by little, the small business began to build its own customer base.
Anel Hernandez and Mateo Sixto are the owners of iWrap, a Hillsboro-based small business that specializes in the design and installation of custom car, window and wall wraps PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ
SPACE TO GROW
Eventually, the couple felt ready to rely on iWrap for their sole income, with Sixto handling design, printing and installation work and Hernandez handing the business end. They had moved the business out of their home and into leased office space, but they hadn’t felt at the time that they were making enough revenue to also lease warehouse space that would allow them to do indoor installations. So they continued to focus on a mobile service, doing installations outdoors when the weather was good and finding indoor space wherever they could when the weather turned inclement.
That’s when they realized that having their own warehouse area would allow them to provide faster, higher-quality service for their growing customer base. The couple looked in several parts of the Portland metro area, including Beaverton, but everything was too expensive. Then they found the space in the Cornelius Pass Business Park along Northeast Aloclek Avenue on the edge of Hillsboro.
In addition to a main space to house their business operations and two large printers, the warehouse space had enough room to accommodate vehicles being wrapped.
Mateo Sixto works on a custom installation for a client in the warehouse portion of a space of that iWrap leases in the Cornelius Pass Business Park in Hillsboro.PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ
INVESTING IN FUTURE
Sixto and Hernandez also realized they needed to upgrade their equipment by adding a faster, more efficient computerized vinyl printer. A brand new printer could easily run in the six figures; however, they were able to locate a used one for a fraction of the cost. Still, it was more than they had on hand.
They knew exactly where to find the money: Through their work with MESO, they had enrolled in an Individual Development Account, or IDA, program.
IDA programs are matched-saving programs that allow low-income borrowers to save up money. The programs have different purposes. Some IDAs are designed to help save money to use toward purchasing a home. Others help save money to buy vehicles or pursue educational opportunities. The one that Sixto and Hernandez enrolled in was focused on purchasing equipment and other business assets.
With the money they saved and the matched funds they received, the couple added the vinyl printer to their businesses along with a lighting system for the installation area.
They began to reap benefits from their investment almost immediately.
The equipment has helped them continue to serve customers even as the pandemic has caused problems for small businesses in other industries. In fact, it has helped them grow their business to the point that they are considering adding even more space to be able to handle more installations. If that plan works out, they may not have to look far.
“There’s the potential to expand into an adjacent space,” Sixto says.
The idea of adding to their expenses is a bit unnerving. With the extra business they expect to see come in as a result of expanding their working space, they’ll likely need to hire more help to handling installations. But it’s also exciting, Sixto says. He and Hernandez feel they have developed the business know-how they will need to make an expansion a success. They’re also considering enrolling in the IDA program again to save money to purchase additional equipment to make sure the business keeps moving in the right direction.
“We’re ready,” Hernandez says. “We feel we are ready to grow the business.”