#BEYOUROWN MEETS SARAH SAGREDO HAMMOND
Sarah Sagredo Hammond is the President of Atlas Electric and Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Plumbing Services, Inc., a company located in Alton. Atlas Electric & Air Conditioning is over 35-year-old family business that has been in operation since January 1983. The company services expand from Laredo, Brownsville, Corpus and up to Austin. Today the business enjoys a 3,000 sq ft facility, 34 employees and partnership service locations throughout the Valley. Sarah helped create an in-house financing market which provides a stronger financial position.
She also oversees the management of Hummingbird Trailer Park, which is a winter Texan park for her family that is over 20 years old and at maximum capacity every year. She further manages rental Alton X-Plex and other real estate and has invested in other entrepreneur ideas such as QLUE, Inc. a mobile application.
Sarah maintains an active role in the community on behalf of Atlas and serves on several boards: She has previously served as Chair of SCI Women’s Business Center, the previous Chair of Organization of Women Executives, Current: President of Femfeshionals RGV, and is a Collective Director 1 of 7 in the US for FemCity. Her passion is to help women grow business locally. She has served on Texas Boards, and currently is a board member for the Greater Houston Better Business Bureau and South Texas Board. She was published in 100 Words / 100 Women by South Texas College. And published in the McAllen Chamber Ad and I am Latino Magazine
In December 2017 she graduated with a certificate in Scaling Business from Stanford University Graduate of School of Business. In 2016 she was the recipient of the Women In Technology for South Texas College and in 2018 chosen as the Mission Chambers Executive of the Year. In December she was awarded the 2015 Global Champion for Women Economic Development Award in Dubai. She was inducted into the SAMEAWS 2015 Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame. She was also featured in the Special Edition of the Amazons Watch Magazine as one of the top 20 global women to watch in 2016. In 2014 she was awarded the Small Business Person of the year award for the Rio Grande Valley and in 2015 RGV Hispanic Women of Distinction – Rising Star Award.
Although business and community involvement is important, what brings most happiness to Sarah is her family. She is married to Marty Hammond and together they have three strong daughters. She has lived here in the valley her whole life and married her husband from Alabama who settled here and has coached arena football and currently is still coaching.
Welcome Sarah, thank you for coming on board with us, can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Sarah Sagredo Hammond and I am an entrepreneur, working in a man’s field. I have 3 beautiful daughters and a wonderful husband, Marty Hammond. My mission is to assist women in growing business and helping women overcome stereotypes and names. I desire for all women to be uplifted and supported, despite our indifferences and opinions. I work in a male-dominated industry where learning a woman’s voice and understanding how to progress is crucial. In this male-dominated career, I have been referred to as the secretary and have been told, “I want to speak to the man, who’s in charge.”
I have also suffered a horrific divorce, where I was kidnapped and taken for 2 days by my ex-husband and today am speaking at several locations about the value of a woman. I have been published in 100 words 100 women with a poem written for my daughters expressing the value, entitled The Phoenix. I sit on several boards supporting and empowering the woman to support each other not only emotionally and personally but also in business. I truly believe that our business potential could grow if we could learn to speak to each other and trust in each other.
I sat as President of Organisation of Women Executives, an organisation that had an average of 60 members and 30 attendees and as chair we had over 186 members and over 100 plus women attending monthly luncheons. My mother ran 3 businesses, raised 4 kids, and took us to church 3 times a week, but she was still quite alone and unsupported by women. I never want another woman to feel that lack of support. Together with collaborating, we could change the market and the terms for future woman business owners.
Can you give us a little back story on how you are where you are today as the co-founder of Atlas?
I am President of Atlas Electrical, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration & Plumbing Services, Inc. company based out of Alton Texas that services the entire RGV. My parents started the business in 1992 and have since retired and succession came to its 2 children who worked in the company, myself and Roy Jr., my brother, who serves as Vice President.
Can you take us back to the very beginning of launching Atlas, the set-up process of how you initially funded your company?
My parents were migrant workers, they were high school sweethearts and after high school, my father and mother eloped and they went to work in the fields, as my father and mom had grown up as migrant workers. They travelled up with my fathers family and worked for several years up in the field. While working, my dad and mom decided that they wanted a better life for their children and my dad knew that would take education. He joined the Air Force. My parents were stationed at the Grand Forks North Dakota airforce station when I was born.
Why all this commentary? Because this is the start of the transition to being an entrepreneur. My father started the business back in 1992 w my mother after coming back to their home town. I came into the company full time in 2008, even though I had been doing financials since 1997 for the company and was working as a dispatcher when it first opened. However, full-time investment came in 2008 and in 2012 my passion led me to take the position of President.
Can you share with us a particular career highlight so far?
I think the biggest highlight that I get is being able to give back to our community, for a few years, we were able to install a new air condition system as a gift to a family in need. we also were able to hook up a stove and provide some plumbing and electrical work free for a family that was chosen that was in desperate need. Being able to support the community in that manner is such an honour for us, and helps humble us as we work hard.
How about any hardship, difficult times or barriers faced whilst growing professionally?
Several barriers and some hardships apply to anyone who is a business owner. I can tell you that in our industry, the work is seasonal, so cash flow comes in hard and fast during the busy season and slow and sometimes not steady in the winter. This is the reason that Atlas expanded into Refrigeration and Plumbing Services, to help compensate the slow periods and constantly remind customers that we can handle more than 1 need for the RGV.
Further, another issue is that we live so close to the border about 15 minutes away from Mexico. Because we are invested in the community we have to have proper licenses and protection and insurances; however, there are many companies that pop up that do not have insurance or protection and charge just to get by for the day for themselves and are one men shops. These type of businesses affect the overall industry and bring down warranty and pricing for good service work. We find that those are the ones who hire unlicensed or undocumented people; while our company pays all workers compensation and taxes to represent ourselves. These type of companies take away from our industry and brand.
Then, of course, I am a woman leading the organisation; so from time to time I will have my team come back and say how part warehouse people will be making fun of them because “they chose to work for a woman,” and so sometimes, that intimidates new prospective employees and filling the need for technicians can be difficult. Gratefully, we have a brand that has helped us push through sufficiently and are recognised for our hard fruits of labour and this is no longer an issue.
How are you working towards your own personal development?
I was accepted to Stanford Graduate School of Business for a Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative Certificate, wherein we were introduced to the models of scaling businesses, it was truly eye-opening for me, and helped me understand the need for better structure and outlined definitive positions of staffing, we could no longer run as a mom and pop business, but had to truly be a corporation for growth.
I also read and subscribe to MentorBox and Leadership Box, and have become part of several different organisations, not only in the HVAC industry, such as Women in HVACR, but also looking for training programs, that teach us growth and improvement, such as NCI, and EGIA. You should never stop learning is something my father instilled in me since day one, even to this day, every conversation we have, he has a growing moment for me, or I end up hearing or learning something I did not know about. So for me continually learning and being part of the community as well, helps my growth as a person, leader and business owner.
One hard lesson in life you have learned so far?
Wow, this is truly what I speak about in different locations through a group called the Fab5. I somehow despite great upbringing and being very strong-willed and a determined young lady in my youth, I found myself lacking or not understanding my complete value. Value for a woman is so important and how we define that ourselves, will affect what we will tolerate in treatment, whether its treatment from family, a significant other, or spouse, or even friends.
I have found my definition after a violent attack by my ex-husband that left me missing for a few days and traumatised. I was in an abusive relationship with someone who was bi-polar and had lost the meaning of my value. Finding that is something that I try to share with everyone, especially for women, because in the end, we are women, hide so much shame, and emotion behind closed doors.
What are your preferred marketing methods for your services at Atlas?
Social Media is at the forefront of our branding. Follow us on Facebook, linkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and our website. We work hard to brand our name and have top of mind awareness. I serve on several boards throughout the community because I care about those initiatives. Most of my initiatives are for women, enhancing business and trust among the business leaders. I further am passionate about ethics in business and serve on the Better Business Bureau and work hard to help the youth in our community through mentorship programs or even through sponsorships of their current programs.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
To #BEYOUROWN is the definition of finding your own value. If we are our own, then we can admit failure, it is to truly be OK with who you are no matter what room you walk into, Being comfortable in your own skin. Iammyown!
What have you got planned throughout the rest of 2019?
I am hoping to highlight another industry to our service performance, bring in a few more vehicles, streamline some communication issues that a business should always be working on. I am also hoping to get a few licenses myself, that will benefit the company going forward. I am seeking platforms to share and help other women as well.
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