Latinos are leading the way in the recovery of the Las Vegas economy. Felicia Ortiz, 33, is one of them.
Ortiz moved to Las Vegas, Nev. from Las Vegas, NM in 2001, which she calls “Little Vegas,” and is now playing in the big league of consulting. She co-founded her own company called Cluster Construction Consulting last year with her partner Mark Bodner. Their primary clients are companies that range anywhere from a small developer to universities to an oil refinery in Canada, and their goal is to teach them how to do project management better.
“I think the biggest challenge so far has been finding enough time,” says Ortiz about her company which nearly doubled its profits from last year to $1 million. “It really is a 24-7 thing when you have a business. I dream about work all the time. I would definitely classify myself as a workaholic…It’s probably the reason I’ve been so successful.”
Last month, her company, whose staff has grown from 2 to 12 in a little more than a year, celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Now, as the president of her local chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA), she has started a scholarship for college-bound Las Vegas students.
“I’m hearing from these kids that they are only taking one class a semester because it’s all they can afford,” says Ortiz. “Through ALPFA, I created the Felicia Ortiz Scholarship – a $5,000 scholarship. I started with one local, next year there is going be two for the ‘little Vegas’ and one for the ‘Big Vegas’.”
Ortiz realized the potential of hard work at an early age. Growing up on a ranch, her parents couldn’t afford to send her to college. She plugged away in school and got offered scholarships to complete her BA in accounting.
“I started off being very entrepreneurial in elementary school,” says Ortiz, who used to make bracelets with her best friend and sold them until they started getting calls from parents complaining because of their popularity with their kids. “I knew if I wanted certain things, I’d have to do it myself…I wanted a bike, so I picked bags of spinach and sold them. Whatever it took, I got my bike…That just continued.”
Now that she has completed her lifelong goal of owning her own company, Ortiz’ mission is to build more Latino business leaders in Las Vegas. She says that currently the population of Las Vegas is nearly 30 percent Latino, but there are not enough executives representing them.
“We’re doing better in politics, but my goal is to see more people move up or own businesses like me,” says Ortiz.
She says her reason for getting involved in ALPFA is because she had always been involved in her community, and she felt that that’s what was missing in her life over the past couple of years.
“Last fall, I realized there is such a big need so I started recruiting again, and now I have this amazing board,” says Ortiz. “We’ve grown from 18 from last December to almost 100 now. We’re starting student chapters in universities, and those kids truly inspire me.”
She says Las Vegas has a really bad reputation for its education system, but she realizes the importance mentors have had in her life – her business partner was one of them.
“If we create the role models, they’ll be less likely to drop out of high school,” says Ortiz. “They don’t have to just take the job working at the hotel, but be a manager.”
Ortiz hopes that maybe other companies will want to open in Las Vegas as well.
“Hopefully we’ll change the stereotype of Vegas…,” says Ortiz whose long-term goal is to more than triple in size. “We want to grow and hire more people. The economy is not great right now, so the more people we can give jobs, the better…I think big picture. I’m positive.”