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Digital Sandbox KC provides early-stage proof-of-concept support for digital products.

Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center provides technical assistance to startup and existing businesses.

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Alex nunez marble and tile

Growing a Business One Tile (and Employee) at a Time

Accidental entrepreneur becomes intentional and strategic business owner.

  • Now Hiring: Hired 4 employees in the past year; that's 60 percent growth.
  • Fattening the Bottom Line: Increased revenues by 50-100 percent year over year
  • Bankable: With the help of a bank loan, plans to buy a building in 2017.

Alex Nuñez was a tile installer for 15 years when his knee started to bother him. He saw an orthopedic specialist who recommended he set his trowel aside, get off his knees and consider switching jobs.

His boss at the time offered him a different position in the company and a $30,000 a year pay cut. Alex wasn’t having it, so he left the company and started Nuñez Marble and Tile in 2013.

“When I first started the business, I did whatever I had to do,” explains Alex. “But not because I had a plan or knew what I was doing.”  

His first hires were haphazard, without much thought as to who fit his culture or how he wanted to grow his company. He explains his initial interview process: “So you know how to tile? You want to work? Okay. Here’s a job.”
We Create Jobs Report

Hiring for the business' sake

Alex admits he made some bad hires, and the proof was in the poor quality of workmanship and deteriorating relationships with clients. “I was really putting my new business in danger.”

Before he hit rock bottom, Alex joined ScaleUP! Kansas City, a free educational and coaching program for growth-focused entrepreneurs offered by the UMKC Innovation Center thanks to a generous grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration. “During ScaleUP!, I realized that if I wanted my business to succeed I needed to have a plan and goals.”

One of the first systems Alex straightened out was his hiring process. “My business doesn’t run without a strong team, so we have to get it right.”

First, Alex lengthened the HR process from "So you want a job?" to a formal interview and a request for references. If he decides someone may be a good fit for his team, they receive an employee handbook and uniform, are required to get a physical, take a safety class and then enter a 30-day trial period in the field.  

“You learn a lot during the first 30 days—are they a hard worker? Can they do good work?”

Alex admits that two of his current employees nearly got cut during the trial period. But he saw their potential, trusted that they wanted to learn and brought them onboard. “Today they’re some of my best employees.”

Scaling a business, one employee at a time

Alex hired 4 people in the past year, bringing his total to 10 employees. For those who like percentages, that translates to 60 percent growth in just a year.

“Thanks to this new hiring process, I feel much more comfortable and secure. And it has helped my business grow tremendously.”  

When Alex wrote out his financial projections during ScaleUP! in 2015, his revenue goal was for just over $1 million in 2018. He will surpass that mark this year. His revenue has grown 50-100 percent  year over year.

Alex’s next goal is to move out of his home office and secure funding to buy a building. “I want to own, not rent. We’re working with a bank now to secure a loan.”

When Nuñez Marble and Tile moves into a new space, they will need to hire an office manager.

“Providing jobs is one of the most important things I can do as an entrepreneur. I follow the golden rule as a boss and it has paid off.”  

The news is out—Kansas City startups are job-creating powerhouses.

16,376. That's the average number of jobs Kansas City startups create each year. That's huge news. Learn more in our newly released We Create Jobs report, including details on how much these new jobs pay, how tech startups contribute and what you can do to keep this number growing.

And if your business is ready to hire, then you need to download our free checklist—how to hire your first employee.

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