Grit and hustle can get your small business off the ground but strategic thinking and planning can put the company on a strong growth trajectory and ensure its sustainability.
Government contracting Strategy Success Stories

Immigrant hustle plus strategy set these business partners up for contracting success

Grit and hustle can get your small business off the ground but strategic thinking and planning can put the company on a strong growth trajectory and ensure its sustainability. Reliance Contractors is an example of that.

Reliance Contractors is a Miami-based facility support services company owned by Joshua Becker and Erika Lennis, and almost everything that they do is for federal agencies. “We have federal projects in almost every single state in the continental United States. We’re also in Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. We hold a little over 140 federal janitorial, waste management and toilet service providing contracts,” Becker says.

Becker and Lennis started the company in 2014 with just $500 that enabled them to register their business on, put up their website and get a logo designed, Becker says. “We still consider ourselves a startup in this very, very competitive market. We’re just pivoting, trying out new things, and, in essence, consistently growing.”

It’s not this duo’s first business. They were previously married and working together at a car dealership business that Becker started, struggling with the ups and downs of the business when she pregnant with their child. Becker recalls the day he told Lennis they would have to lay off their employees and shut down the company. “We lost everything,” Becker says. “Our child was just 3 days old.”

A family friend suggested they get into contracting – and that’s when their immigrant hustle really kicked in. “My mother is a Cuban immigrant. Erika was born in Venezuela. It was a matter of us just trying to change where we came from and not go through that paycheck to paycheck situation,” Becker says. “We wanted to build something consistent where you’re able to essentially drop your seeds and literally see the fruits of that come about.”

While the marriage didn’t survive, their partnership in business has thrived.

“We started off with one little tiny contract, we were both physically cleaning those bathrooms in a small daycare. And then we ended up getting a random project in Lee County, Florida, cleaning a library for five years, and that opened up another door for us to get another regional project with a town in Broward County,” Becker explains. “And then our first-ever federal project was in Key West, the United States Army Special Forces Underwater Operations Training Center, and we still have that project. That was our foot in the door on the federal side.”

It’s been rippling effects since then, including contracts for Coast Guard stations, Customs and Border Protection stations, and even miniature detention centers, says Becker. “We also do Mount Rushmore.”

Part of the national APEX Accelerator program and the statewide Florida APEX Accelerator network, the Florida APEX Accelerator at FIU Business is focused on creating more government contract-ready companies and connecting local businesses to government led innovation programs.  The Florida APEX Accelerator at FIU Business, formerly PTAC,  and the Florida SBDC at FIU, has helped Reliance Contractors in recent years. Becker recalls one of his first meetings with Florida APEX Accelerator at FIU Business consultant Luis Batista, a specialist in government contracting and procurement, who said he was surprised they had made as much progress as they had without having tapped into resources and programs available to them, such as SBA’s 8(a), GSA and Mentor-Mentee programs. With the help of these programs and certifications, they could reel in much larger contracts, he told them.

“Luis came in, and he really helped us strategize. We’re thankfully in the final stages of our SBA GSA application. We’re going to jump onto the Mentor-Mentee program as well. The next step is the 8(a),” says Becker. “We literally want to hit every single avenue.”

Reliance Contractors is focused mainly on providing janitorial services, but would like to  eventually provide a full spectrum of facility management such as waste management, toilet services such as portable latrine rentals, painting, security, and landscaping. Their expansion plans could also include international growth in federal contracting, such as servicing US Naval bases and embassies abroad, Becker says.

“We don’t think that any other company will provide the type of service that we offer and always  envisioned for our business,” says Lennis. “We’ll answer your calls, and we’ll make the changes that are needed to be done to make this contract run and a lot of people appreciate it.”

Adds Lennis: “I think one of the main motivators for me is that we are providing jobs. As an immigrant myself, it was something that I knew that we needed to pay our bills. And now we get to do it. Every time we win something, whether it’s small or big, we’re providing jobs.”

That’s for sure. Reliance Contractors now has nearly 200 employees.

Finding workers with the right work ethic has been a challenge, as well as striking the right balance between work and personal life, Lennis says. She advises entrepreneurs to build a support group around you.

“I’ve got to go with the cliché never give up,” says Becker, when asked for his advice for his entrepreneurs. “Everything is a learning process. You have to pivot and continuously change. Strategy and planning are extremely important, with a focus on consistent growth.”


Instagram: @RelianceContractors


Leave a Comment