Gutierrez Canales Engineering

Marisol Canales and Stacy Guitierres knew one thing for sure when they set out to open their own engineering firm in 2002: they would need a competitive edge in order to succeed in the traditionally male-driven engineering and government contracting sectors.

The business partners worked together at a larger firm before deviding to strike out on their own.  “We knew that we wanted to get into government contracting and offer a diverse range of services.” Canales said.  “We also knew that becoming an SBA B(a) firm would make it easier to compete in a very competitive market.”

Canales and Guiterrez met with Arizona Western College SBDC Center Director Randy Nelson early in the process to get help with 8(a) cerificiation and to learn more about the financial side of their business.  “Randy really helped us get off to a good start.” said Canales.  “A lot of people who want to start a business have no idea what to do or what the first step should be.  The SBDC makes you aware of the process and then helps you work through it.”

Knowing what to do andmaking it happen can be two very different things.  “The greatest challenge we faced was breaking into the engineering, military and procurement  markets and gaining respect.” said Canales  “We were young, femaile and I’m Hispanic.  That seemed to be three strikes against us from the start.”

The women knew that they could prove themselves if given an opportunity.  “We met a few key people who took a change on us, we proved ourselves and that opened a lot of doors for us, ” she explained.  “Getting that initial experience was the biggest hurdle.”

Youth proved to be a greater challenge than being female,  “People don;t want to trust you when you’re young and inexperienced,” she noted.  “Earning their trust is the most important thing that you can do as a new business owner.”

Today, Gutierres Canales Engineering, PC (GCE) employs 27 people and has $2.3 million in annual sales (2011).  The company has become a regional powerhouse in civil and environmental engineering, industrial hygiene and cosntruction pavigin projects, especially under contracts for military clients including the U.S. Army Corps of Enginners, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Defense, and at a military bases including Yuma Proving Ground.

The biggest reward, the parners agree, has been gaining the respect of ther clietns an collegues.  Being able to share their story with other younger people is also very rewarding.  Canales talks to local high school groups about careers in enginnering, where she assures students that they can do whatever they want to do, career-wise.  “It’s not as impossible as they think it is,” she explained.

It’s the same kind of encouragement that Canales received when she was a student. “Someone came to my school an talked about engineering.  If you can spark that first idea in someone, it can really be life changing.”