From Toiling in the Basement to Helping Build the KC Airport: See How This Construction Entrepreneur Did It

Mindy Rocha of CJ Industries LLC

From Toiling in the Basement to Helping Build the KC Airport: See How This Construction Entrepreneur Did It

Mindy Rocha’s dad and grandfather were pipefitters by trade. When she was in her early teens, her dad started his own business in their basement. Like many ventures, it was a family affair.

“I did my first quote letter at 13,” Mindy says. “My love for my dad became a love for construction.”

Now, Mindy owns CJ Industries LLC, a growing Kansas City construction firm. Learn how she went from toiling in the basement to helping construct the new airport.

The hiccups of starting a business

Mindy worked for her dad all through college. After graduation, she worked for a local contracting company. But she had that entrepreneurial itch.

“I saw a need,” she says. “And I wanted to go out on my own and go for my certifications. I wanted to see if I could be a self-performing MBE contractor.”

For those not in the know, MBE stands for minority business enterprise. This certification was an option for Mindy, who is Native American. She also wanted to go after the women business enterprise (WBE) certification. But more on those in a minute.

In 2013, Mindy founded CJ Industries, named after her sons, Chris and Josh. But before she could get certified and get the business off the ground, her personal life took a tumble. Her husband and one of her sons faced serious health issues. So ensuring the family’s well-being was the top priority.

“Once we got the family healthy, I hit the ground running,” Mindy says.

Preparing for business success

No one has ever said getting business certifications is simple. But it’s especially difficult when you go it alone.

“It’s not easy,” Mindy says. “It’s very taxing on you, emotionally and mentally. I didn’t know about the Small Business Development Center at the time. I had to hire an attorney.”

> > > Check out our guide to selling to the government and getting certified

Mindy eventually received MBE and WBE certifications from Kansas, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri. These certifications have helped open the door to large civic projects, like providing pipefitting support to U.S. Engineering for the new Kansas City airport.

Any successful businessperson will tell you that working on the business is an ongoing process. Mindy understands that because she participated in ScaleUP! Kansas City.

“I’d never written a vision statement or a business plan,” Mindy says. “ScaleUP! addresses those back-office items that you can take for granted. Having someone push you to do it while giving you guidance during the process was hugely helpful.”

Since her participation in ScaleUP! a few years ago, Mindy has worked with a business coach Jill Hathaway at the Missouri Small Business Development Center at University of Missouri Kansas City.

“The SBDC is a great resource,” Mindy says. “You can ask any question or bounce things off of them, and they’ll give you solid guidance.”

She’s also found support among her peers.

The importance of a strong network

Construction has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Even though she grew up in the industry, Mindy has faced challenges. But connecting with the right people has made all the difference.

“As a business owner, finding that group of peers to lean on has been crucial,” she says.

Mindy is active in the Kansas City chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction. The organization champions women in the industry with education and community.

“NAWIC has been so influential,” Mindy says. “It’s empowering to find that peer group. We lift each other up. NAWIC is a mix of everyone in construction, from tradespeople to owners to people in bonding or equipment rental.”

She’s found her people in subgroups of WBE owners and women in mechanical engineering. Mindy also participates in mentorship relationships with others in the construction industry.

Guidance for other entrepreneurs

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Mindy says. “When I started asking for help is when I started getting pointed in the right direction. That’s when things started to happen.”

She also encourages small business owners to take advantage of the SBDC.

“I think the resources that the SBDC provides are incredibly helpful,” Mindy says. “At ScaleUP!, you build relationships and learn so much — even things you didn’t know you didn’t know. After you hear a question, you think, ‘Oh yeah! I didn’t even think about that!’”

CJ Industries is a union shop with 50-60 employees. Looking ahead, Mindy is excited to see the company continue to grow.

“I’m excited to bring more people into our family,” she says. “And I’m excited that my son might be interested in the trades. There are lots of new opportunities and jobs coming to Kansas City. It’s good for our city.”

Help for building your KC business

You know what else is good for our city? All the support and resources available in the KC entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The KCSourceLink Resource Navigator is your one-stop shop for the people and organizations that can help you meet your business goals. This go-to database lists more than 230 Kansas City-area Resource Partners that are ready to guide your entrepreneurial journey.

And if you’re not even sure where to start? Start with us. KCSourceLink’s Network Navigators can create a free Personal Action Plan just for you. Answer a few questions, and they’ll tailor a free individualized checklist of the organizations and experts that can start making your business dreams a reality.

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