Q&A with Burien Mayor and Ahora Construction President, Jimmy Matta
Feb 4, 2020
“If it wouldn’t be for Business Impact NW there would have been no way I would have hit over three million dollars.”
Ahora Construction is a union contracting firm grounded in values of collaboration, efficiency and excellence. If last year’s sales are any indicator, then Founder and President, Jimmy Matta is certainly following through on his promise to deliver excellence. As the Mayor of Burien and a minority business owner with an extensive career in the carpenter’s union, Jimmy has a wealth of knowledge to share regarding leadership, creating an inclusive work space, sustainable business growth, and community building. These life lessons are useful to entrepreneurs at any stage and we are excited to share them here with you.
Business Impact NW:
How did you come up with the name for your business and what is the origin story behind your Ahora Construction?
“I knew I didn’t want to use my name, and I wanted it to be in Spanish and start with an A. My father came to this country in 1975 and he was always of the mindset that you have to get up early because that’s when you find the deals, and you have to do things today. He used to say “Hey man, you gotta do this ahora! You can’t wait for tomorrow.” I just had this thought “Ahora Construction…”
I ended up picking up jobs working contracts, and some residential. Things started going good, but… I didn’t really have much money to be able expand. So I ended up coming here, to Business Impact NW, and I talked to Joe Sky-Tucker about looking at a loan. I said, “I’ll never be able to get a loan. I’ve been through a divorce, I went through bankruptcy. I’ve tried to get credit cards; I couldn’t get credit cards.”
My sister at the time, finished high school, but didn’t finish college – so I ended up getting a consultant through the DBE program to help teach her how to do our books. She learned how to do our books, and she now runs our payroll and runs everything that has do with our finances. She ended up getting a CPA. So our first year we hit like $87,000. Our second year we hit three million, so that’s what we did in 2019…
If it wouldn’t be for Business Impact NW there would have been no way I would have hit over three million dollars. I ended up getting a $50,000 loan, $150,000 credit line. This year I’m going to be asking for a bigger credit line so I can add on more liability.
I’ve been very happy to have an organization like this because as a minority, track records show that for people of color, our credit is not up to par – plus they’re in these jobs where they’re not getting paid very much money, so their equity and loans are based off their home, and you can hardly operate with that kind of money.
My goal in the next five years is to grow the company and hit 10 million… The business is really for my son and whoever wants to be a part of it… I’m not looking to live a lavish life, I want to be able to help other contractors really learn how to do business. I’m of the mindset that if we help the minority community build wealth in our community, then the sustainability and ability for these communities to continue to flourish in our country is going to be greater. We need that as a country. We need to make sure that our middle class is not abolished overnight. And that we make sure that we understand that our diversity is our strength.
“I’m of the mindset that if we help the minority community build wealth in our community, then the sustainability and ability for these communities to continue to flourish in our country is going to be greater.”
Business Impact NW:
That’s wonderful that through Ahora, you’ve been able to help people’s careers grow, including your son who recently graduated from business school and is helping with estimating, your sister on the finance-side of things and your loyal foreman. How were you able to end the year with over three million in total income? That’s amazing.
Working hard. Working double shifts. Having the right people…Making sure not to bite off more than you can chew. And making sure that you can deliver.
Business Impact NW:
How were you introduced to Business Impact NW?
It was an individual that worked for Washington State Department of Transportation by the name of Oscar Cerda. He said, “I’d really like you to go meet with this guy Joe Sky-Tucker.” And I said, “The reality is who is going to want to loan money to me? I’m bankrupt. I’ve tried everywhere.” [Cerda] is a very patient man and he said meet with the guy. I met with the President Sky-Tucker here and he made me feel like my bankruptcy wasn’t a big deal and said wow this really looks like a good business plan and yes we’re willing to take the risk, but we need to figure out where your credit is at.
Business Impact NW:
How are you bridging community in Burien as a mayor and a small business owner?
With bridging there has to be understanding, and there has to be empathy on what the mission is. In my business and in public service I have a lot of people that depend on me on both sides… Sometimes when I go to bed, I’m like oh my – something is either bothering me about the business, or about the city.
There are basically three things I always think about when I see community and I run my business. One is “el amor del pueblo”- the love for community. Number two…education and information. You have to be informed and you have to educate yourself. And then action.
The other part of that is that my dad used to tell me “there are three kinds of people in the world- dreamers, doers and talkers. Who are you?” I’m a doer. I don’t want to be a talker. If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to follow through with it. And if I dream it, I want to talk it and then follow through with an action.
There is a principle of organizing people that I learned as a tradesperson and as a union sympathizer, which is educate, agitate, and organize. Once you know something, you’re going to get agitated by it and then you’re going to go into action.
Congratulations to Jimmy Matta on being elected for a second term as Burien’s Mayor. Keep up with Ahora Construction’s successful journey, on their website ahoraconstruction.com, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. For information about Business Impact NW’s loans, visit businessimpactnw.org/about-our-loans.