When I first met Travis Mack, his Saalex Solutions was a small company based in Oxnard that provided tech support services to a couple of military installations, including Naval Base Ventura County.
A Navy veteran, he’d taken his training in demolition and logistics, added his knowledge of the Navy way and a hefty dose of determination to create a new company. That was nearly 15 years ago — and Mack has come a long way.
On June 2, the Los Angeles District office of the U.S. Small Business Administration honored Mack with its Small Business Person of the Year Award.
His company, now based in Camarillo, has more than 250 employees, posted $35 million in revenue in 2013 and supports Department of Defense operations around the country.
Saalex was named the 2nd Fastest Growing Company in the region by the Business Times and it’s taken home one of our Spirit of Small Business awards. Long ago, it graduated from the SBA’s 8(A) program that helps minority and disadvantaged businesses compete for government contracts.
But during the decade-and-a-half that I’ve known Mack, I was deeply mistaken about one thing. I assumed that Saalex was derived from a technical term used in the company’s work supporting test ranges. That was not even close.
“I named the company after my kids,” he told me during a brief chat at the awards luncheon at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown LA. “It’s a combination of the names of my son Sage and daughter Alexcia,” he added, as a beaming Alexcia, now a student at CSU San Bernardino, looked on.
In his acceptance speech, Mack talked about the fact that the road to success isn’t always smooth. “There are plenty of trials and tribulations,” he said. “But you must persevere.”
Alexcia Mack clearly has some of dad’s determination. She’s the point guard on the CSU San Bernardino basketball team and while she doesn’t have a precise plan when she graduates in a couple of years, she did admit she’s begun giving some thought to working for Saalex at some point.
The award, Mack told me, “signifies all the hard work and dedication our staff has put” into building the business. It also signifies smart choices by Mack who said he spends a lot of time hiring the best people he can find to take his company to the next level.
“It’s a culmination of all the efforts we have made,” he said.
He said he also benefited from a number of free classes the SBA provided to him as he rose through the ranks in gathering expertise about the procurement process. “The value of the training was in excess of six figures,” he told the audience of 600 who attended the luncheon.
But from picking a name to giving his daughter a shoutout during his speech, he’s kept his priorities straight.
“He’s a great dad,” said Alexcia.
VENTURA COUNTY’S BIG DAY
The SBA Awards for 2015 were a watershed moment for Ventura County small businesses.
In addition to Mack, two other companies got awards.
As Ray Bowman, head of the Ventura County Small Business Development Center looked on, Exporter of the Year honors went to 3D Lettering Corp., a recent transplant to Simi Valley.
Owner Armik Shahoony moved to California via Iran, Italy and Germany. His company develops 3D graphics, emblems and decals for automotive, marine and military customers around the world.
Also honored was Ventura-based CJSETO Support Services, a staffing company that provides technical support staff to commercial and military customers in a number of locations in California, Washington State and the Washington, D.C. area. Founder Chet Seto recently graduated from the SBA 8(A) program.
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