SMALL BUSINESS: Seeking Shelter

Members of the Cabral family have worked together and apart to build roofing businesses that have found clients nationwide.

By DAVID GREENBERG
Staff Reporter

The Cabrals have an odd twist on the family business: spinoffs. Most of the members of the huge clan, springing from 16 brothers and sisters, are in the roofing business and they compete with each other for the same customers through three separate companies.

"It's a free market," said Desi Cabral, sales executive for Cabral Roofing & Waterproofing Corp., the largest of the three firms. "Whoever can impress these buyers gets the contract."

Since its inception in 1997, Montebello-based Cabral has grown into a 67-person firm that last year generated $9.7 million and is expected to top $11 million this year. It is run by company president Andrew Cabral, who started the firm after his brother, Jesus, closed the original J. Cab & Sons Roofing Inc. in Commerce in 1997 due to health problems.

Andrew's brother Fernando left Cabral Roofing in 2000 to start F.C. & Sons Roofing Inc. in Bell Gardens. And Jesus' two sons, Jesus Jr. and Enrique, are currently resurrecting J. Cab & Sons, which Jesus started in 1984 as the first Cabral-owned contracting company.

Although the other two firms are far smaller than Cabral Roofing, all three compete for commercial and industrial projects.

Just last week, representatives of Cabral Roofing and F.C. & Sons bumped into each other at a walk-through at Vernon City Hall. Both firms are expected to submit bids this week to upgrade the building's roof.

Although family members acknowledged that competition is vigorous, they said they never let business get in the way of family unity.

"There's no bad blood," said Fernando's son, Armando Cabral, F.C. & Son's project manager. "There's enough business out there for all of us. It's all in the family. We need to respect each other."

Jesus Cabral gave Andrew and about a dozen of his brothers and sisters their start in the business.

When Jesus become ill, Andrew, who at the time was J. Cab's general manager and controller, formed his own firm and brought the 35 J. Cab employees with him. Using a $200,000 loan, he bought his brother's four trucks and roofing equipment and leased a 1,000-square-foot facility in Bell Gardens. (Andrew moved the company to Montebello in 1999.)

With a solid client base, Cabral Roofing generated $5.3 million in 1998 its first full year in business. Since then, Andrew Cabral has expedited revenue growth through government contracts.

Government certification

The company's big break came in late 1998 when it received Small Business Association-8(a) certification, which the other two firms do not have. The federal program mandates that military agencies set aside some of its contracts for minority-owned businesses that do not have to bid against other companies.

Cabral Roofing has landed five government contracts totaling $30,000 to $2.8 million each; this year it's looking for six or seven large contracts totaling $4 million.

"You get the opportunity to prove you can do as high quality work as non-minorities," said Andrew Cabral. "Without this, minorities would probably not get to do big work for the federal government or big corporations, who get references from the federal government."

From the early 1960s through 1990, the Cabral family immigrated to the Los Angeles area from their native Zacatecas, Mexico, where they raised cattle, corn and oats. Jesus Cabral, one of the first family members to immigrate, started out here in the meat industry, first at the Farmer John Meats processing plant in Vernon and later at a McDonald Corp.'s warehouse in City of Industry. When a friend suggested that roofing would provide a better living, Jesus and his three brothers made a career switch.

Besides government contracts, Cabral Roofing recently landed a $1.3 million roof replacement contract at a Philip Morris USA manufacturing plant in Concord, N.C., where as many as 200,000 cigarettes are processed each minute.

"They're doing something right to be able to build up their company that fast," said Bob Frye, vice president and general manager of Boyle Heights-based West Coast Roofing Inc., a Cabral competitor.

Cabral flew a crew of 12 workers to the Philip Morris site where the four-month job should be completed in April. Cabral Roofing targets projects that will generate a minimum of $50,000 although it will occasionally take on a $20,000 waterproofing assignment. Its largest contract brought in $2.8 million in 1999 to re-roof housing facilities at the Naval Base Ventura County in 1999.

PROFILE

Cabral Roofing & Waterproofing Corp.

Year Founded: 1997

Core Business: Roof replacements and repair.

Revenues in 1998: $5.3 million

Revenues in 2001: $9.7 million

Employees in 1998: 35

Employees in 2001: 67

Goal: To increase the number of $2 million-plus government contracts to seven per year, from three last year.

Driving Force: Using its Small Business Association 8 (a) certification to generate large, no-bid government contracts.

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