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Meet Victoria Betancourt of Coneybeare in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Betancourt.

Victoria, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I arrived at the hospital in Santa Ana, California on October 19, 1989. I remember the date because it was the day before my mother’s birthday. I had just left my home in Colombia, my husband and my 3-year old son, for what I thought was going to be “a couple of weeks to help my mother while she recovered.” As it turns out, my mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer that had already taken its toll and spread throughout her body. Weeks turned in to months and along the way, I decided to stay in Santa Ana and take over my mother’s business. During that time, I left my marriage and would be able to care for my three-year old son. I had just graduated with a Master’s degree in Architecture. Although, the opportunity to run my mother’s business was one that I knew I couldn’t pass up and that is how I decided to start my career.

In my mother’s final moments, I asked her for her advice on running her staffing business and she said, “Good candidates are like lettuce; they don’t last long! Don’t let the good ones get away.”

A few twists and turns and 27 years later, I am still running Coneybeare, as well as Coneybeare Cleantech, another business that I started in 2014 to focus on renewable energy and clean technology sectors. Coneybeare Cleantech has been a way for me to unite my love of architecture (building a sustainable world) and recruiting (connecting people-for jobs but also for other endeavors).

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Just like anything, there have certainly been many struggles along the way. Luckily, someone impressed upon me throughout my early business education (school of hard knocks) that “the number one rule in business is NEVER RUN OUT OF MONEY!” I kept money in reserves and always accepted credit when the bank offered it. This has helped us stay flexible enough to weather three economic downturns due to recessions in 1991, 2001 and 2009-10. In 2015, which was ironically the most brutal year in 25 years in business, we lost our top three clients. Our top performing recruiter was on maternity leave and came back just to leave the company, taking all of the bay area clients with her. I also had other extraordinary expenses that year with worker’s comp lawsuits, as well as putting on our first Cleantech Leader’s Conference. This was an exciting accomplishment as Plant-e, the company from the Netherlands that can get 24-7 electricity from living plants, demonstrated their technology for the first time ever in the USA at our conference! This experience was extraordinarily inspiring, but expensive when the business was already hemorrhaging money.

Why did I stay in business and each time return to prosper again? Simply put, I had to. I graduated from architecture school the year before they put computers in the design studio. Who else would hire me? I have also complicated my life in the meantime with financial obligations and projects, some close to my heart, such that I simply had to make it work. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when fear and desperation are knocking at your doorstep.

Where are we today? We are prospering again, hiring more people and extremely optimistic about the future of Coneybeare and Coneybeare Cleantech.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Coneybeare – what should we know?
Coneybeare is a staffing firm that specializes in supplying manufacturing and construction related skilled industrial workers such as machinists, welders, millwrights, construction foremen, project managers, plant managers and engineers. While we work closely with companies in Southern California, we have also supplied employees nationwide.

While my mother’s advice about urgency (good candidates are like lettuce) is very important, so too, is quality. The rigor of our interviewing and reference checking set us apart. We have created our own pre-hiring process called CLEAR, which helps define the position in terms of RESULTS. This attracts top candidates who are looking for challenge and growth, and defines expectations up front, such that this document then becomes a management tool for the first 12-18 months on the job.

Coneybeare Cleantech does fee based, technical, engineering and executive recruiting and consulting, with an emphasis on renewable energy and clean technology sectors. Interestingly, “green” companies hire the same kinds of employees as every other company. Because of that, our experience through the years working with all types of sectors and types of people, makes us very adaptable.

For the future of Coneybeare Cleantech, we are working to morph it into something much greater than a recruiting and consulting firm. We have added “sustainability marketplace” to our website, which showcases not only consultants but also products with a sustainability related focus. It is our goal to turn it into an online marketplace for all things sustainability. Let’s think Amazon meets LinkedIn, with a GIS function that lets you search “micro-hydro power”, a map pops up with red dots for all the manufacturers or vendors of micro hydro power in their location. This would be a resource for people to not only buy and sell products and services but to do research, find partners, investors, funds, collaborate globally and get educated.

It is my dream to demonstrate how we can live beautifully, sustainably and in harmony with nature. This is where my interest in architecture finds expression. I want to create the world that I live in, quite literally! In addition to Coneybeare Cleantech, I am creating a boutique eco-resort and sustainability demonstration project in Colombia, South America, in the coffee region near where I used to live.

Collaboration (versus competition) has been shown to create resilience, an evolutionary advantage in biology. This idea of collaboration is now gaining traction as a better way to do business. This is central to the self-propagating marketplace we are building. It is our mission to create a platform for global collaboration to further the scope, speed and reach of sustainable solutions. It became clear to me after hosting our Coneybeare Cleantech Leaders Conference, that all of the technology and all of the solutions to live 100% sustainably on earth already exist. This marketplace would be a vehicle to speed up transactions and create synergistic interactions, so that we can solve the most urgent challenges of our lifetime.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Dogged determination and perseverance.

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