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How Global Containers, a Latino-Founded Company, Was Saved from Bankruptcy

De casi cerrar al éxito: cómo una propuesta de valor presentada a Microsoft salvó a una empresa de Texas manejada por latinos

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José Ochoa is the textbook description of a Latino entrepreneur in the United States: hardworking, ambitious, and a dreamer. A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, Jose knew that his life would revolve around manufacturing and packaging, so he began studying industrial engineering in manufacturing at the Instituto Tecnologico de Chihuahua I and II.

Paying for his studies and making ends meet during his student years was no easy task, so he began his working life at a young age, selling fruit and working in construction in the hot Ciudad Juárez during his summer vacations. He worked in a company owned by one of his aunts, a successful local businesswoman. With the money he earned during those months, he paid his way through college.

José graduated with an engineering degree in 2001, but the job market was complex and he was unable to find work in his field for more than a year. He had a stint as a filter salesman that allowed him to support himself and then moved to Ciudad Juárez, where after months he was able to get his first job as a packaging engineer at Delphi Automotive Systems, one of the largest suppliers to General Motors and other car companies. There he met his current partner.

It was at this job that he understood his current niche market. “I had a hard time, I was even crying to try to understand how Delphi works, the whole supply chain, how the automotive industry and the development chain worked. Fortunately, I had a mentor, my boss, Ángel Vargas, who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to learn alongside him,” Jose told El American.

From Delphi, José moved to a German automotive company, Siemens VDO, where he helped the company save money and improve packaging engineering. Then, fate led him to cross paths again with his current partner, with whom he decided at that time to start his business: Global Containers & Custom Packaging Inc.

The birth of Global Containers

They founded the company in 2008 in Mexico and in 2009 in the United States. He and his partner detected a market opportunity after having problems with suppliers in the packaging industry.

“They never met the agreed deadlines, the service was not the best and sometimes it was frustrating. We had that niche to exploit. It was an opportunity and we took it,” he said.

De casi cerrar al éxito: cómo un programa de Microsoft salvó a una empresa de Texas manejada por latinos
José Ochoa, co-founder of Global Containers. (Courtesy of José Ochoa)

Global Containers entered the business to exploit the knowledge of its leaders in packaging engineering, logistics and supply chain, reducing packaging costs, improving designs, raising the level of service with great attention to detail to transport and distribute the goods. Later, they added talent to their ranks and created a team committed to the vision of becoming recognized as the most reliable and efficient option in the regional market.

One of the first customers they sold their services to as a packaging supplier was HP, who sent their refurbished equipment to Ciudad Juárez for Global Containers & Custom Packaging Inc. to deliver their packaging materials and efficiently manage the proper inventory levels for on-time delivery of tablets and laptops. Today, HP remains a customer of Global Containers.

Another important customer that the company co-founded by José Ochoa has is Amazon, which he described as “very efficient” and which led the company to move up a level to further improve its own quality parameters.

“We have been with Amazon for a couple of years now and they are very demanding, but we have an incredible staff here in El Paso who have been with us for many years. We have almost no turnover, we have 25 employees and the person who has been working with us the least amount of time has been with us for 7 years.”

The company also offers services in the automotive industry, the medical area or even, as can be seen on its website, in the food industry. The distribution and supply of packaging materials, as well as logistics to protect and move products produced by the manufacturing and maquiladora industry, is Global Containers’ forte.

The downfall

After a decade of success, landing major clients, making its way in an aggressive market and providing jobs for several families, Global Containers suffered one of its hardest blows in September 2018: the bankruptcy of its main client, Technology Solutions.

“Overnight our biggest customer was out of money and owed us a ton: almost a million dollars and that almost put us out of business,” José said. “At that point, we pulled back; we rethought our market value proposition and restructured our processes to make them more efficient. But the blow was very hard. Obviously, we as owners stopped receiving a large part of our revenue so we didn’t run any employees and, in fact, no one was laid off.”

The resurgence

While they had managed to survive the bankruptcy, the situation was not the best for José’s company, who said he was a believer in “continuing education,” taking courses and reading up on his niche market in order to apply new ideas and knowledge to his business.

That’s how, at the beginning of 2019 and after suffering the loss of a million dollars, José found on LinkedIn an announcement about Microsoft investing a lot of money in a bi-national business accelerator program for suppliers “of my style, from the manufacturing industry.”

“I signed up, we dropped some bills because enrolling cost was around $2,500-3,000, plus the commitment – if we were accepted – that I would be twice a week, for three months, full time there in the binational courses with experts learning how to accelerate our company.”

According to José, enrollment in the course was not only due to the fact that the Microsoft program looked ideal for the company, but also because it was vital to change “the mood and the narrative” of Global Containers. So he also got his staff involved with the program and he committed himself “to making things work for the sake of our future”.

The idea of the program was to apply the tools given by the Microsoft acceleration program in real time, take the results and then update the value proposition to the market in a short presentation/speech to Microsoft, the manufacturing industry and government executives from Texas and Chihuahua. “We were selected as the best market value proposition among 11 companies selected out of 33 that had applied.”

Una bancarrota, Microsoft y unas botas Jordan: la historia de cómo se salvó una empresa en Texas manejada por latinos
Jose poses with the check he won during the Microsoft program. (Courtesy of José Ochoa)

Michael Jordan in José Ochoa’s life

José Ochoa told El American that one of his main inspirations is basketball player Michael Jordan “because of his passion, leadership and indomitable strength on the court”. He tries to replicate that in the business world.

“I’ve always been a fan of retro sneakers and that last day of the speech, I wore bright red Jordan’s, in honor of my favorite player, that had worked for me at some conferences,” José recounted of how he approached a speech that would change the course of the company. “I felt empowered, the presentation went amazing and, a few weeks later, after Microsoft gave us $25,000 in prize money and a better prize in exposure and recognition, I asked Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, to sign the sneakers and take some photos of me to have them on display in our company.”

That photo of Ochoa, Smith and the Jordans was featured in none other than the What Inspires Me section of the famed Entrepreneur magazine with a brief account of how Global Containers & Custom Packaging Inc managed to survive the bankruptcy of its main customer and the lack of liquidity.

Una bancarrota, Microsoft y unas botas Jordan: la historia de cómo se salvó una empresa en Texas manejada por latinos

After the Microsoft program, fortunes changed for the better. Global Containers improved and added processes they needed to refine while leveraging their strengths to grow the company. They reinvented themselves. From there they got big clients, Jose got to network with important people in the business world, even getting great friendships with personalities like Joe Foster, founder of Reebok.

“Today I can tell you two things: 2021 was the best year of our company and the best thing that could have happened to us was the bankruptcy of our main client,” José Ocha said proudly. “Every time I give mentoring talks to young entrepreneurs I tell them that I did a million-dollar MBA. The most expensive MBA in life. But that was the starting point to change after 11 years, and improve our company. They don’t have to pay for that internship but learn the lesson through the testimony.

Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.

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