Member Spotlight: Oscar Saucedo
President of Landworks
At Landworks we believe the key to maintaining a beautiful lush landscape is to have well-trained and qualified landscapers. Landworks owner-partners personally train each of our crewmembers in the best trimming, edging and mowing techniques.
Can you please introduce yourself and your business and the date it was founded?
My name is Oscar Saucedo, and I purchased the company in 2009 when I was brand new at the fire department, having just completed my service in the Marines. I bought the business for my dad and ran it for about 10 years with two employees. Over the last three and a half to four years, I have focused on the business, and it has grown.
What inspired you to start your own business?
It was a need for my father during the 2008 recession. He had worked in construction for most of his life, and I was starting my career at the fire department. Although I had my career in place, I wanted to help him get through those rough times. I searched on Craigslist and found a business for sale at around $50,000. I negotiated with the seller and was able to buy it for $25,000. It was an established route, which provided immediate income that my father could maintain himself, with additional opportunities along the way. This is how I got started, as I wanted to help my family out. It was an opportunity for me to learn about the big professional and commercial side of the business that I never knew existed until I purchased it at 28 years old. It was a big chunk to take on, but I learned a lot from the experience.
How has your identity impacted your journey so far?
I grew up in Southeast San Diego, which is known for being a rough area. Growing up, I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur or owning a business. I just thought about working in a business. Joining the military gave me the skills I needed to be successful in life, such as leadership, drive, and never giving up on anything you want to do. Believing in yourself can be difficult for Latinos in the environment that we grew up in, so giving back to the community became important to me. After my time in the military, I joined the fire department and ended up doing a nonprofit for 10 years. For 6 of those years, I was the President of Bomberos de San Diego. My goal was to instill in kids the importance of having a dream and fulfilling it, whether it’s joining the Marines, becoming a firefighter, or being an entrepreneur. It all starts with believing in yourself.
Can you share any challenges you have faced as a business owner and how you have overcome them?
The initial challenge for me, as with many entrepreneurs, was believing in myself and doing a risk assessment for the business move we were making. For us, it meant transitioning from residential to commercial cleaning, which involved going from two to five employees and really fine-tuning everything. Initially, funding was a challenge, and I struggled to secure it. However, when a contract was presented with a tight deadline, I took out a loan on my house to make it happen, which did not go over well with my wife. Nevertheless, I think that taking that first jump is what many entrepreneurs face, but it is crucial to do a thorough risk assessment and understand what you are getting into and how to manage it. Funding can be a tough obstacle initially.
Can you share an example of how the Founders First accelerator program supported you in discovering new avenues for growth?
As the business began to grow, I realized that I knew very little about running a business. After high school, I joined the Marines and then worked for the Fire Department, where I gained experience leading small teams. However, with 17 employees, I needed to learn about P&Ls, projections, and how to manage employees effectively. So, I immersed myself in the business world and enrolled in an online veterans MBA program two years ago. I also attended the Founder’s First CDC program, and most recently, I spent a week at Dartmouth University participating in Building a Successful Diverse Business. The Founder’s First program was very impactful for me. I was able to check and balance everything I was doing, such as HR and accounting. Time was set aside for each professional to meet with me and review my company, books, and ensure I was doing everything correctly. Additionally, the instructors were incredibly helpful.
Can you offer any advice for other entrepreneurs who are just starting their business journey?
I’ve mentioned it a few times, but believing in yourself and having a risk assessment for everything is crucial for entrepreneurs. You may have big dreams, but it’s important to take the first steps in a logical order and focus on your end goal. The military played a big role in teaching me these skills, along with my life experiences.