Community College of Philadelphia has served as the springboard for every professional leap Luis Torrado of Northeast Philly has made over the past 30 years.
Community College of Philadelphia enabled Torrado, a 1987 graduate, to land his first professional job drafting at one of the region’s largest electrical companies. Fast forward 27 years. Torrado, now owner of Philadelphia-based Torrado Construction, credits the College, specifically its Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, for equipping him and other graduates with the tangible and intangible tools needed to grow. And grow he has.
Torrado’s Port Richmond-based general construction firm saw revenues skyrocket from $4 million in 2012 to a $13.7 million in fiscal 2015, an increase of over 200 percent over three years, and is projected to add 50 more employees over the next five years.
That’s phenomenal growth, by any standard.
“The program gave me the confidence I needed to move forward,” said Torrado, a 2014 graduate of the Goldman Sachs program for up-and coming entrepreneurs. “I learned I was much smarter than I thought I was. I became a leader.”
Since it came to the region, 10,000 Small Businesses-Greater Philadelphia has graduated 251 area business owners, putting them on a path to sustained growth. A new study recently released by Babson College found that small business owners who complete the program in this region report creating new jobs just six months after graduating, and 61 percent report increase in revenues.
The program provides entrepreneurs with best practices and strategies to help create jobs , plan for future growth , and, in Torrado’s case, gain more confidence.
Not that Torrado was ever a shrinking violet. Even back when he was a student, he never shrunk away from achievement.
Nobody in Torrado’s close-knit family had any ties in construction. Torrado had no reputation, no references, no proven track record, which are all must-haves for success in a business that relies on referrals. But that never stopped him. He possessed a relentless work ethic, instilled by his parents, as well as a belief in himself, even in the early days when he ran his business out of his parents’ home with only two employees in the field.
“I always had a feeling I would do something,” he said.
As a college student, he also took advantage of every opportunity. In 1986, when Community College of Philadelphia made an internship available at Forest Electric Corp., one of the premiere electrical companies in Philadelphia, Torrado jumped on it.
He wound up working for Forest Electric five years and learned all operational aspects of the sprawling business. By 1996, Torrado was ready to incorporate his own firm.
Business grew slowly at first. Torrado Construction initially renovated residential properties, then graduated to commercial renovations, ink removal and painting services. The firm was getting the business, but had no cohesive blueprint for growth .
By the time he enrolled in the 10,000 Small Businesses program, “I was at a place where I was driving blind,” he says. “I was just bidding work without really focusing on where we were and where we wanted to be.”
Since completing the program, Torrado has learned, with the assistance from Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, how to put a line of financing in place, increased his knowledge of forecasts and budgets and has put more strident deadlines in place for completion of projects.
The College and the contractor have grown older and stronger together. “It felt good to contribute to a college I attended,” Torrado said.
Not to mention a College that has reinvented itself to meet the needs of successful graduates.