Windows of Opportunity
Stratford Glass & Mirror, LLC—a million-dollar success story
Of God it’s been said that when He closes a door, He opens a window. For Julio Vasquez and Larissa Mariona, the husband-and-wife owners of six-year-old Stratford Glass & Mirror, LLC, those words ring true. The owners are thrilled to announce they achieved $1 million in sales in 2020. Take that, COVID-19!
In the Beginning
It was 2015 when Vasquez and Mariona decided to parlay what they had accumulated in the way of on-the-job experience into a startup business—Vasquez as a commercial glass cutter, glazier and installer for 15 years and Mariona as a commercial real estate/facilities management office administrator.
Their decision was helped by the fact that Vasquez was between jobs. Their faith also was key, adds Mariona. “We felt that this is what God had prepared us for,” she explains.
And so it began. At first, Stratford Glass & Mirror (named after the street where they once lived) did mainly small and medium jobs as evidenced by the Foot Locker, Bottega Veneta and Vans storefronts at The Galleria mall in Houston. Its repertoire of expertise in residential and commercial glazing includes windows, shower enclosures, glass tops, curtain walls and storefronts.
Today, however, the firm serves 60 clients throughout the Houston and Dallas areas, with a crew of six full-time employees (including Vasquez’s dad and brother), and an expanded network of contractors. Mariona says their growth is in large part due to The Blue Book Network®. Through this connection, Stratford Glass & Mirror has taken on “some really big” projects.
“The Blue Book has impacted our business greatly,” says Mariona. “The couple of clients we had when we started pales in comparison to The Blue Book Network of companies.” Vasquez agrees, adding, “Within a year after signing up with The Blue Book Network in 2016, our business rose 80 percent.”
Of course, success brings with it the potential for personal and professional challenges.
With regards to the former, parenting is a big job in itself; but running a small business while raising three young children (7 months to 8 years), compounds the challenge. However, Vasquez says they make it work. “We are blessed with kids who adapt easily,” he says. “Stratford Glass is a part of our family dynamic. Our kids enjoy visiting the sites and seeing the end results. That’s also an important reason why I enjoy this work so much. It’s very satisfying to see the difference we’re able to make to a building’s overall aesthetics.”
As for the professional challenges, two recent installations, for which Vasquez and Mariona are especially proud, serve as examples.
The first involved gigantic challenges—literally. The project called for the installation of about 15,000 square feet of glass in the form of 80 pieces of impact-resistant glass, with some weighing close to 600 pounds and measuring up to 58 inches by 96 inches. It is a showpiece that is part of a student center renovation project completed in October 2018 at College of the Mainland, a community college in Texas City, Texas.
“Until this project, our work was limited to one-story projects,” explains Vasquez. “With this being a two-story installation, we leased a boom lift to hoist the glass pieces 20 feet for positioning and installation. Our workers, who are trained and lift certified, met this challenge.”
The second project, also a community college, was completed last summer at Lone Star College-Houston North Fallbrook. There, Stratford Glass & Mirror used 250 pieces of glass, with some weighing as much as 180 pounds and measuring as much as 88 inches by 47 inches for storefront and curtain-wall installations inside a new student center. The effort also included glass handrails that had to be carefully welded. “Not only did the work take place in the Texas heat,” says Vasquez, “workers were masked and practiced social distancing due to COVID-19 protocols.”
As crazy as things sometimes get on construction sites when working alongside other contractors, Vasquez and Mariona are thankful for their reliable and knowledgeable crew members, whom they say love glazing and seeing the results of their work and who share their commitment to professional integrity.
“We make sure our employees are committed to being respectful of everyone on the job site and that they always strive to do the right thing,” says Mariona. That might mean, she says, redoing a piece of framing that doesn’t comply with the original drawings or correcting misalignments that may not get caught before construction is underway. “Whatever the fix, our guys, who know a little about a lot, can take care of it.”
That’s something that Mariona and Vasquez don’t take lightly. “We always look for quality people with five or more years in the field, and we make sure that we pay them well and provide bonuses,” says Vazquez. “When you find quality people who don’t want to do their own thing as independent contractors, it’s important to keep them happy. It is our desire that everyone who comes on board learns more and grows in our business. I want to teach them everything I know so they can be more passionate about their occupation.”
Mariona adds that it often becomes a matter of finding ways to get to know employees on a personal level with social events such as cookouts and informal get-togethers. “We want our crew members to love their work,” she says, “and to feel that they are an important part of a faith-based family business.”
“In addition,” Mariona continues, “we want our faith to show through within our community, which is why we look for opportunities to serve and support our church and local families in need of assistance.” She cites as an example Stratford Glass & Mirror’s rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Harvey.
“We helped several families in different ways,” says Mariona. “For one family, we cleaned out their house. For another, we rebuilt their home. And for others, we provided financial assistance.”
Planning a $500K Investment
So what lies ahead for Stratford Glass & Mirror? Vasquez says they have their sights set on a $500,000 investment in the form of their own insulating glass line for the production of double and triple insulating glass units.
The line would include multiple machines for glass assembly, cleaning, cutting and sealing, explains Mariona.
“Our goal is to have this in place within the next three years,” Vasquez adds. “We don’t want our customers to have to wait on product and with such a line, they won’t have to.”
As for growth projections, Vasquez says, “We don’t have goals when it comes to numbers. We simply want to stay focused on our quality, professional growth and God. It’s in Him we place our faith and confidence. He strengthens our team. We see that, so we know bigger things are coming our way.”