Green Builds Business for JJH Auto Body & Paint
Several times a year, the USHCC Foundation partners with local Hispanic chambers of Commerce across the country to host Green Builds Business. Environmental stewardship is everyone’s responsibility, yet minority communities lag behind in knowledge and mobilization. Often, minorities are the first and most affected by bad environmental policy and yet the last to be informed. Recognizing that small business is leading the economic recovery of our country, the USHCC launched Green Builds Business as a way to engage our members in caring for our environment, while exploring ways for our entrepreneurs to become more efficient and profitable by going green.
In August 2011, we administered a training session in Salt Lake City, Utah where we met Johnny and Irene Hernandez of JJH Auto Body and Paint. Johnny runs the day to day operations of the shop with help from his sister Irene. Their father takes care of the technical aspects, while Johnny deals with the financials, marketing and overall management.
Only a few months later we began hearing about how their family business was successfully implementing green business practices successfully. We recently reached out to Johnny to learn more about his business and how going green has benefitted JJH’s bottom line.
How has JJH Auto Body and Paint evolved since its inception and what role have you played in creating the business?
“JJH Auto Body and Paint is still a fairly new business. My father moved out to Utah from Los Angeles and opened the business from the ground up in 2009. My father is a talented technician and had saved up some capital to open his business. We did the research and found that Utah offered a much better environment to start an auto body shop in. He found the right market and an empty lot and built the building that houses our business today. It’s been a profitable decision making our stake here in Ogden. We’ve got more assets to operate the business.
Being Latino owned has been an advantage as well: recently the governor of Utah gave a speech recognizing the contributions of Hispanic businesses to the growth of the state. We have a competitive advantage in bilingualism. We can cater to the growing Hispanic population here.”
How did you come to participate in GBB and what was your experience like?
“I heard about it through the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. We hadn’t even become members yet before a Chamber member invited us to the event in Salt Lake City. After seeing the benefit of being able to participate in programs like GBB, we joined the local chamber right away. Honestly, I started out skeptical with the idea of going green. I wondered: how could an auto body shop like ours go green and how would it benefit our business? Come to find out, there’s a lot one can do to promote a green business, we just didn’t know it yet.”
What’s been the greatest advantage you’ve seen in implementing green business practices?
“I can attribute going green to procuring a new government contract. We just recently signed a contract with the city as a provider of auto body and paint services to police cars.”
How did going green help you land more business opportunities?
“Because we’re a small business, we have to get our resources locally. That means taking advantage of SBA programs. I met with a procurement officer for the state of Utah at a networking event and after I told him about how we had implemented some green business practices, he referred us to a few contacts of his in the City. We gained contact with a police car dispatcher in Salt Lake City. He and colleague came and visited the shop and shortly afterwards we were invited to apply to make JJH a certified bidder for government contracts. As far as I know, there are only five shops on the list that the city currently goes to for bids and we’re one of them. The bid requests ask ‘what is your business doing to become more sustainable’ and we have the advantage of being able to really speak to that criteria and the evidence to back it up.”
Can you give us an example of what you’re doing to make your business more environmentally friendly?
“We’ve been recycling our paint thinner! That’s one of the first things we started doing to go green after the GBB training. Not only is it better for the environment, but being able to reuse our thinner 4 to 5 times has saved us a good deal of money. We’re starting to look at water-based paints to cut down on harm to the environment as well.”
Is there anyone in particular you would recommend participate in the GBB program?
“Any small or mid-range business owner! Whatever your business is, you can still have sustainable practices. If it wasn’t for GBB I wouldn’t have started doing what I’ve been doing. You need to want to do it, just takes a little bit of work.”
Where do you see your business heading in the future?
We’d like to be the preferred direct repair facility for an insurance company. It will take some time and we know as a new business we aren’t likely to be considered yet. We have a goal to generate a 20% profit consistently, based on the total number of sales. And in the next couple of years we’d like to open another shop up in Vegas. Hopefully, we’ll be able to follow the successful model we have here. After that, we can help other businesses accomplish the same thing. We want to be a resource for others eventually. It’s not just about making money, but working to be able to give back. If we did it without having anything, you can do it too.”