(Courtesy Elizabeth Perez)

Hiring Our Heroes: An entrepreneur strives to hire veterans

Elizabeth Perez’ father who originated from Jalisco, Mexico and served in the U.S. Army for 20 years has always been her inspiration. After he passed away when she was only 17, she followed his example and joined the military in 1997. She served in the Navy for almost nine years, and now she owns her own renewable energy company, GC Green, which offers jobs to veterans.

“I grew up learning to sustain what we have,” says Perez, 33. “That’s always been my passion.”

While serving as an aviation logistics specialist in the Middle East, she says she witnessed firsthand America’s demand for oil, which helped fund the opposition, and how many vehicles and machinery would be at a standstill without it.

“I saw our dependence on oil, and I thought why not create a way to reduce our energy consumption?,” says Perez.

As soon as she was honorably discharged as a 9/11 service disabled veteran, she set out to do just that.

“The only way to get educated on the topic was to get to school,” she says. “I took courses at University of California, San Diego and got certifications in the environmental/green industry. I then found a job at a local firm which focused on clean energy in 2006.”

After realizing this emerging industry was one which was only going to grow, she says she got the idea to train more veterans in the field.

“In 2009, I approached the company I was with about training veterans, and they didn’t see it,” says Perez. “They weren’t really going to hire veterans, so I started my own company.”

Today, Perez has trained more than 900 contractors in California, nearly 100 of which are veterans in building analyst performance with Energy Upgrade California. Next month, Perez begins teaching classes, at the same university which taught her, to teach and promote veteran entrepreneurs through Kaufman FastTrac.

“I’m the first to graduate high school, and the first to finish college,” says Perez of her family. “I think as a female business owner, I’m finding that mother side of me. It came back full circle.”

The busy mother of two says she strives to have a successful business but a lot about that involves giving as well.

“I think it’s also imperative to target Latinos and low income communities,” says Perez “I really want to go give back to the Latino community, because a lot of my passion stems from my father. He worked so hard to give us a good life and he did. It’s all about creating awareness of the programs that can help them.”

Perez is also a The Mission Continues fellow and is volunteering her time to connect veterans directly with companies in the clean environment field. She says there is a desperate need for companies to reach out to Veterans with opportunities.

“Employers want and need the skills that our Veterans can provide to their workforce, and when we can make the connection between the job-seeker and the employer, both win,” said Ismael Ortiz, deputy assistant secretary for veterans’ employment and training, in a statement today by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Ortiz will be present at the Hiring Our Heroes job fair on the 28th.

Perez says she just took a trip to Imperial Valley, Calif. last week, where there is 30 percent unemployment, to talk about job creation through the Economic Development Council.

“I love what I do!,” says Perez, her voice cracking with excitement. “It’s awesome to get up flowing with ideas and I can’t wait to get out there and see the difference. What good is that training if it doesn’t align with something in the end? Either if it’s my firm or another, partnerships are essential.”

PART II of our Hiring Our Heroes series.

Click for all of the NBC News Hiring Our Heroes stories.


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