VIP Collision: A New Face on an Old Frame
VIP Collision Center is Moving from
Strength to Strength!
South Valley BusinessSource Center
and Local Businesses Working in Tandem to Build Communities.
Jesus Rodriguez wasn’t supposed to own or operate one of LA’s premier auto-body restoration centers. He wasn’t even expected to leave Choluteca, let alone Honduras. And thirty-years ago, the notion that he might see adulthood, would have seemed presumptuous.
Jesus was born at the heart of Honduras’ sprawling southern city of Choluteca, a regional transport hub along the Pan-American Highway smacked between El Salvador’s eastern and Nicaragua’s western-most borders. As is the case in most large Honduran cities, its residents have become all too accustomed to the circular trifecta of poverty, crime and violence, and the fallout that usually accompanies it.
Univision Interview: The American Dream
His father left home soon after Jesus was born, and his mother was seldom an influence. Jesus, his five sisters and brother were raised by their grandmother, and by the age of 10, he was on the streets, selling homemade juice and candy to help with household expenses.
At the age of 11, with as much preparation as any child might have given the move, Jesus left Choluteca for the Honduran capitol of Tegucigalpa. He found work at an auto-body shop, washing cars by day, and attending adult education classes at night. He gives me a slightly nostalgic smirk when he recalls asking his teacher for permission to leave class early, “usually by 10:00 PM,” for fear of walking home in the dark. And by the age of fifteen he was working full-time, welding, sanding and painting.
“Life was hard in Honduras,” explains Jesus. “But I wasn’t special. Life was hard for thousands of people, many of whom worked, sacrificed and eventually succeeded.” According to the Honduran Commission of Human Rights, little has changed. 10 percent of Honduran children don’t have access to public education. 30 percent have no access to secondary school. And over 40 percent are working full-time by the age of 13.
The relationship between education and income is hardly novel, however. Nearly 65 percent of Hondurans have settled on or under the national poverty line, and 54 percent of rural residents earn no more than $1.25 per day. These factors coupled with an extreme dearth of any real political or economic growth have spurred unprecedented levels of violence and a rash of unabated killings in recent years, targeting politicians, human rights advocates, labor activists, journalists and an unfortunate many more.
At the age of 25, prompted by circumstance and a tinge of intrigue, Jesus left Honduras. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1998, and spent six months combing the city for work. He floated a bit, working long hours at Galpin Motors in Van Nuys, and at a high-end paint and body shop in Santa Monica. However, it wasn’t long before shop owners began to take notice of the quality and pace at which he was churning out work.
Jesus was hired by 101 Collision in Westlake Village, and quickly found himself managing and instructing co-workers. “The shop had a 25 car back-log when I arrived,” he recalls. “A team of us completed the work in a week.” ‘I’ rarely comes up in conversation with Jesus, a mind-set that has worked its way into nearly every facet of his life. His shop is “family” owned, and operated by a “team” of technicians. The church services and Bible study he leads at Iglesia Cristo Miel are organized by a “community” of individuals. And the growth he’s forecasted for his business will be achieved through entirely “collaborative” efforts.
“If you have a passion and a specialization, business is fairly straightforward. Tenacity is what comes in short supply.”
– Jesus Rodriguez
But this is just Jesus. Despite a wanting for personal and professional guidance, he’s succeeded time and time again in the most humble fashion. Early struggles helped forge both perspective and resolve, and in many ways he seems grateful for the hardships. As Joshua Gonzales, Program Director at the South Valley BusinessSource Center commented, “he’s simply done everything right. He worked hard, saved, and established good credit. In the world of business startups, you can’t ask for a better profile.”
Jesus worked at 101 Collision for over a decade, and in 2012, decided to take what he’s described as a “natural next step”. There was a gap in the market, according to Jesus: gone are the days of the repair shop that worked on your father’s, mother’s, brother’s and sister’s cars. Today’s shops are single-serving, and more often than not, automated in repair and customer service alike. VIP Collision was conceived to bring together the best of both worlds, using state of the art material, equipment and techniques, with an emphasis on convenience, service and long-term relationships.
“When Jesus approached us we knew there was something special,” commented Jose Cornejo, Chief Business Consultant at the South Valley BusinessSource Center.
“It’s rare that someone endures what he has, and comes out the other side with as much optimism.”
The small business loan process took roughly a year, during which time a team of professional consultants at the South Valley BusinessSource Center helped Jesus fine-tune his business plan, obtain necessary permits and licenses, and connect with the local WorkSource Center to find qualified employees. Jesus opened the doors to VIP Collision in August 2012, and has turned it into an unqualified success. Today, VIP Collision employs seven full-time staff, services hundreds of cars per year, and is looking to purchase a new building and expand operations to multiple locations.
“Jesus Rodriguez and VIP Collision are prime examples of what can be accomplished through sheer grit,” Cornejo continued. “Jesus aspires to more than personal wealth. His personal and professional lives are geared toward family, community and enjoying what he does to the fullest. We’re looking forward to working with him as VIP expands.”
Initiating Change in our Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation (ICON CDC) is a 501 (c)(3) community-based, non-profit organization located in the San Fernando Valley.
ICON CDC’s core program is its BusinessSource Program (BSP), which provides free services to entrepreneurs and small business owners in order to promote local economic development, job creation and financial literacy. ICON CDC also works in partnership on several other areas of interest including youth development, environmental justice and community-based transportation planning research.