Client Spotlight: Altura Engineering & Design Reflect on Their Time at the Enterprise Center since Winning the Amarillo EnterPrize Challenge
Altura Engineering & Design is the only company in the region to specialize in piping design for the oil and gas industry. Altura’s unique business model leverages experience and expertise to provide specialized piping design, planning, and consulting services to the petrochemical industry to meet those needs.
Kyla: Tell me a little bit about Altura. When did you start? Why did you start? Why did you want to start a business in Amarillo? Basically, what is the background of this company?
David: Well, we got the idea back in 2012. We wanted to look into starting an engineering design business here in the area. We felt that there was a regional presence for a company like ours and we started exploring that, but we weren’t getting any traction. It wasn’t until we got plugged in with the WT Enterprise Center that we actually started making progress on actually putting together the idea. In 2013, we entered the EnterPrize Challenge and we ended up receiving a grant.
Kyla: Tell me a little bit more about Altura. What is it? What is your client base? Who are you looking to serve? What does your business provide?
David: Altura Engineering & Design services primarily the oil and gas industry and other industrial facilities. We provide drawings and detailed specifications that a construction company would use to install new equipment at facilities like oil refineries and natural gas plants.
Kyla: What made you decide to enter the EnterPrize Challenge?
Jacob: I think it was by chance. I think when we first set out to start the company, we didn’t know anything about the EnterPrize Challenge. We met with the SBDC and they sent us here to get our idea off the ground. We decided to take Idea Village with Brian Whipple. It was a 10-week program and we cut it back to about eight weeks, then we fell into the EnterPrize Challenge which led us into creating our business plan. We had eight weeks of coaching at that time, as far as research, so we just put it all together and it just worked out. The timing was perfect as far as the Idea Village and the EnterPrize Challenge.
Kyla: What challenges were you experiencing as an entrepreneur? What goals did you want to accomplish when you first set out to do this?
David: One thing we were in line with in the beginning and one of the goals for the company was to create a home for technicians and engineers in the area, where they could have a local company that could service the oil and gas industry. A lot of times these companies are coming from bigger cities like Houston, so we wanted to build a home here in this area for these technical resources for those that may not have a lot of options.
Kyla: How did the EnterPrize Challenge help you overcome those challenges or accomplish those goals?
Chris: One was our client base. What clients were we going to go for? What was our potential for growth in different industries? Understanding what our challenges were there, which was really beneficial, got us to really think about who was going to be our client in the future.
Jacob: I think to expand on that, once we started putting that business plan together it really forced us to look to see who was out there and what kind of businesses we could approach, whether it’s oil and gas, I think even data centers if you looked at for what we do is piping design. There are huge data centers out there that I would have never thought had this type of stuff. It forces us to look at the different companies that were out there that we could service.
Kyla: How would you describe the competition from the time you entered to the time you won? What was that process like and how did it help you in building your business?
David: It was very labor intensive as far as hours that we had to put into doing the market research and writing the business plan. The financials were the toughest because we had no previous history so trying to put together an idea of how much revenue and what our expenses would look like was difficult. Overall, it gave us the insight to whether or not this was a feasible business idea.
Jacob: I think the Enterprise Center provided those resources. One of your interns really helped us with doing some of the marketing research. I don’t think I would have known where to look for that information other than jumping online and doing a google search. That’s what, for me, I remember the most. If we needed information, we had resources available to help us find that information. For me, I’ve never put a business plan together so piecing it all together was a challenge and I was kind of lost for a long time. Luckily, we had the three of us put things together. The resources and the advisors and people to talk to really helped me understand it.
Chris: It’s important that it made it easy because I don’t remember a lot of that pain. It almost seemed painless. We had people that were available to find information to help us out, to ask questions and to coach. It is a blur now. It didn’t seem that difficult.
Kyla: How has your business helped support the community and the economy of Amarillo since the challenge?
David: Well since 2013, it started with the three of us and now we’re up to 22 employees — employees with good paying jobs — and we’ve also been able to participate in community service programs. We’ve got scholarships that are given out on our behalf for students that are interested in careers in engineering. We do a lot of community outreach to help spark interest in math and science. We are able, because of the success that we have had in a short amount of time, to help out in the community.
Kyla: If you had not entered the EnterPrize Challenge, where would you be right now, and how would your business be different?
David: If it hadn’t been for the EnterPrize Challenge, it would have been a tougher start. We didn’t have that business background to begin with. We know the engineering, so we were able to get our first clients and do the work but when it came to running the business and growing the business, especially when we started onboarding the employees, that’s where the advantage of the Enterprise Center really came up because we were able to work with advisors that had been through that before. They were able to give us a lot of advice and what to look for in the future – how we could put systems together today that are going to be scalable as we grow the company. That’s what’s been the real benefit of the Enterprise Center.
Jacob: Probably some of the networking, too. We were able to touch base with other business owners not just necessarily trying to solve problems, but as a support system that we didn’t have before, encouragement and things like that for us. We had the network in the oil and gas industry but as far as business owners, we may have known some, but not people that were focused on growing their businesses and looking to help other businesses in Amarillo grow. I think that gave us the motivation to keep pushing.
Kyla: Overall, how has winning the EnterPrize Challenge transformed you as an entrepreneur?
Jacob: For me, it motivated me. I love being around other entrepreneurs and with the Enterprise Center, they’re at different stages. You have guys that are just trying to get their business off the ground that are struggling, maybe sleeping on the couch, but they have this vision of growing or starting their company. Then you have these guys that have been in business for a long time that have very successful companies. Getting thrown in that mix motivated me. It made me want to push this company as far as we could take it, see what other avenues we could take. This is just for me; I’m sure we all have different visions and that’s the beauty of a partnership. We can put all of these things together. It opened my eyes to a whole other world, people that are traveling down this same path just different stages. It’s fun to see them grow.
David: The WT Enterprise Center has grown me as an entrepreneur by giving me more confidence in business experiences and had allowed me to think even bigger. We are looking at different opportunities and everything just seems more realistic, more doable than it did three years ago.
Chris: For me, it’s been the eye-opening of the fact that everybody wants to see you succeed in Amarillo. We’ve dealt with professionals in Amarillo – bankers, CEOs, owners of corporations – and they just want to see people succeed, they want to see Amarillo succeed. Having that safety net and that type of support, you just can’t go wrong. You’ll always have somebody that you know you can bounce ideas off of and they’re just there to support you. Whether you’re making mistakes or not, they’re willing to listen, and that’s been a great experience.
Kyla: If you were to meet a business owner in Amarillo or somebody thinking about starting a business, why would you recommend the Enterprise Center to them?
David: Starting a new business is overwhelming, and that’s why most people fail or they don’t keep moving forward. If you surround yourself with a group of advisors that have started businesses and have been through all of that, that’s what the WT Enterprise Center does and I would recommend anybody that’s wanting to start a business to start in an incubator or somewhere with an environment where you have advisors, people that are willing to help you, because that’s the only way you’re going to move ahead is if somebody can break that idea down and give you ideas on what the next step is so that you can realize the goal that you have.