By Shelley Zalia, Forbes Women
Erica Beal is the founder and CEO of AVIVV, a professional services engineering firm serving the energy and utility industry. In March 2021, her company became the first engineering firm to be a certified military spouse-owned enterprise in the United States, adding to its distinction of being woman and minority-owned.
I recently caught up with Beal via Zoom while she was on location at a job site to hear how she successfully launched her company right before the pandemic, and how she is setting an example for not only Latina women and military spouses — but for all women. If you can see her, you can be her.
Married to a U.S. Navy SEAL, with two young sons, Beal grew up in Texas in what she described as a very lovely, biracial family; her mother is Mexican-American and her father, Anglo-American. The first in her family to pursue a degree, she praised her parents for the sacrifices they made and the tremendous work ethic they instilled in their children.
“My dad was in oil, gas and construction and never took a sick day. He was there when the sun came up. My mom, a Latina career woman, worked for a Fortune 500 company, starting as an admin and became a national account manager (before receiving her business degree years later). She showed me how to break through barriers.”
Beal met her husband in college and together they began a new life in San Diego. She always had a love for construction and began to look for employment with no local friends or networks to help with leads. After opening their electric bill, she called the 1-800 number and asked, “How do I get a job there?”
A simple question that led to her 16-year career in the energy utility sector. Starting as a temp, she worked her way up, learning a range of functions including audit, procurement, supplier diversity, energy efficiency and finance. Inside, she had always felt her “internal entrepreneur” nagging her to go off and start something; she just didn’t know when she was going to take that leap.
“I was lucky because my husband came home,” said Beal referring to her spouse, a decorated military officer. Over the course of his 21-year active duty career, their family has endured multiple, months-long combat deployments. After his last he said, “‘I’m tired, my body is tired, it’s time for me to help support you back.’ I had to have his commitment to make this leap as a family, we’re a unit.” That was the fuel she needed to found AVIVV (which means “growth” and was suggested by her sons) in September 2019.
Launching a business a few months prior to the pandemic may have proved disastrous for some, but Beal pivoted quickly and with positive results. She’s in an essential business — people need electricity and they need reliability. Her instinctive calling has been to help other military spouses by reducing the roadblocks they face when trying to sustain careers on the move. A report from the White House released last month shared that unemployment among military spouses remains at a staggering 22%, a number that has barely budged in ten years.
“There’s a void and we have to do something about it,” said Beal. “There’s a very qualified workforce that wants to get out there.” The construction industry is a big opportunity for military spouses and those transitioning who are not aware of how deep the need is for infrastructure projects.
Read the complete article originally posted on Forbes.