How Julissa Carielo went from an accountant to a founder of construction and development companies

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Julissa Carielo’s talent for numbers manifested itself at the age of 7 or 8, when she took care of the bookkeeping at the auto repair shop her father opened on the South Side after his career. arrival in San Antonio from Mexico.

She graduated from South San Antonio High School, earned an accounting degree from St. Mary’s University, and worked for an architect, a building products company, and a general contractor.

And after about a decade of learning the ins and outs of the construction industry, Carielo decided to go it alone.

She used the funds from her 401 (k) to start Tejas Premier Building Contractor Inc. in 2006, becoming one of the few Latin American business owners in her field. The company has since held positions at Joint Base San Antonio sites in Randolph, Lackland, Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis and Port San Antonio, among others.


“When I entered the commercial construction industry as an accountant, everyone always told me it was just for men,” said Carielo, 50. And I searched everywhere to find the areas reserved for men. But I never found anything that said “only for men” and ended up taking it as a mere perception. “

“I saw the potential. It’s just a great opportunity that I would be crazy to pass up, ”she said. “And perception isn’t something that normally scares someone like me. It’s just a challenge.

Strive

Building trust with contractors was the biggest challenge at the start. She focused on spending one-on-one time with them and proving that her business was a professional operation. When she didn’t get a job, she said she called clients and requested a debriefing.

“I’m not the type of person who’s too proud to say, ‘Hey, I didn’t get it right, I need help with this,'” Carielo said. “I was like, ‘I need help and I want to get better.'”

She also juggled between wife and mother. After having her two sons and going back to work, she said, she thought, “If I have to do what I want to do, I’m going to bring the resources that I need. There’s no way I can do it all.

Carielo said helping with child care, establishing a routine with his kids, and taking classes with a parent trainer are helpful. Her children and those of other employees often spent time at Tejas Premier’s office after school.

Michael Hoover of DH Realty Partners is Carielo’s first client. He hired her to convert two grocery stores into gyms. Carielo had a solid grasp of numbers and costs, and when there were issues getting steel and a particular style of brick, she found them, said Hoover, who continues to hire her company for jobs. projects.

“She’s not giving up, and if she tells you it’s going to be done, it will absolutely be done,” he said. “She’s the kind of entrepreneur that when you hire her to do a job you don’t have to look over her shoulder to make sure she’s doing the job right because you know it will be right.” made.

Carielo’s background in starting and running a business prompted her to purchase a former West Side elementary school in 2015 and convert it into a non-profit Maestro Entrepreneur Center.

Today, 50 businesses are centrally located at 1811 S. Laredo St., which offers programs and spaces for entry-level entrepreneurs. Teaching there is one of Carielo’s passions.

“I love doing it in person because most of the time you see the bulb in their eyes and you’re like, ‘Oh. my God, we have them, ”she said.

Hope Andrade, a local businesswoman, former Secretary of State for Texas and former President of VIA Metropolitan Transit, said she was impressed with Carielo’s efforts with the Maestro Center.

“She’s been in a man’s world and been successful. But I don’t think she’s looking at herself just because she’s in a man’s world. She looks at the end goal and she focuses on that, ”said Andrade. “I think her motivation is that she can make a difference, a difference where no one else wanted to make a difference.”

Several years after the opening of the Maestro Center, Carielo decided to embark on business development.

She co-founded DreamOn Group in 2019 with Rene Garcia, a local real estate executive who spent over 35 years working for the Zachry Construction Dynasty.

Garcia got to know Carielo through a two-year mentorship program in the mid-2000s set up by Bexar County and Associated General Contractors. She spoke to attorneys and risk management staff at Zachry Corp. and participated in the estimates and preparation for the interviews, Garcia said.

“She was like a sponge,” he said.

Dream about

They stayed in touch and ended up launching DreamOn together. The company comprises Tejas Premier as well as property development and management subsidiaries, employs approximately 30 people and is based on the Maestro Center campus.

“She’s the visionary,” Garcia said. “If we take a look at a historic building or property, it has the ability to visualize what the opportunity has in store to the point that it can tell you what it will look and feel like five years from now. “

“She is very creative in spirit. On top of that, she’s a good businesswoman, ”Garcia added. “A lot of his ideas are well founded. These are ideas that are not only creative, but actually have a good foundation to start developing a project.

A third of DreamOn employees are women, Carielo said.

“Our goal is to continue to attract more,” she said.

Projects DreamOn is working on include the transformation of the vacant Scobey complex at 301 N. Medina St. into a mixed-use development and the rehabilitation of the Basila Frocks building in Zarzamora and Martin for the headquarters of a non-profit organization and a space for businesses and community organizations.

Carielo hopes these developments will be economic catalysts that bring more jobs, businesses and services to the area and encourage younger generations to stay on the West Side.

“They are leaving because they don’t see the opportunities offered here that are offered in other parts of the city,” she said. “How do we bring a part of that so that they don’t leave and are ready to buy or invest or be part of the same community where they grew up?” “

The Scobey complex is owned by VIA, which has received offers from DreamOn and Mission DG for its renovation.

DreamOn’s proposal includes residential, commercial, office, catering and outdoor components. The firm works with the architectural firm Overland Partners and Geyser Group, an investor who will contribute to the financing.

Discussions are underway with nearby landowners to expand the development, Carielo said.

She is not surprised that more developers are not interested.

“It’s really not the high-end type – it won’t be the Pearl,” Carielo said. “But it’s going to be amazing, this is how we’re going to bring him back to life.”

With the Basila Frocks building, DreamOn is partnering with the non-profit organization Prosper West. The empty structure once housed Basila Frocks Co., a clothing manufacturer.

“It’s a horror today,” Carielo said. “There is a need in this community not only to invest in this building, but to use it as a vehicle to invest in the community, because it can easily become the gateway to provide services that are not here.”

“It’s kind of our way of seeing things – not just the renovation of the space, but the programming that will enliven and revitalize the neighborhood,” she added.

But there are challenges. The nearby West Side is cut off by railroad tracks and a freeway, dotted with government buildings, and is home to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center and Haven for Hope Homeless Shelter.

It affects financing and rents. DreamOn is keen to work with lenders and financial partners who believe in reinvesting in the area and are willing to spend more time finding tenants, Carielo said.

“We have to do what the community can afford in this area, not what is in the statistics elsewhere,” she said. “We don’t want to build something that they can never afford and that no one is using. “

Carielo also co-chaired the COVID-19 Economic Transition Team, a panel appointed last year by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. The health effects of the pandemic – Carielo’s father has died after contracting COVID-19 – and small businesses have struck near her home for her.

She is appointed by the mayor of the city’s Small Business Advisory Commission, a group created in February to discuss policies and issues affecting small businesses as well.

“When you look at the very poor areas, we have to look at the businesses in those areas because they provide jobs for this community. If we can help grow these businesses, we will increase jobs, wages and benefits, ”Carielo said. “But we have to understand what their biggest challenges are so that we can provide solutions.”

Along with the west side, DreamOn envisions projects on the south and east sides, areas that are underutilized and often overlooked by local developers.

“Believing in your own community should be the first thing we do. But we have to make it a choice – it has to be our choice to make it, ”Carielo said. “As a person like me who started from nothing and started a business from scratch and being able to develop something, I just thought, man, I have a responsibility. I have to get involved. “

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