In partnership with the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA), Innovation DuPage (ID) launched the Construction Industry Owner-to-CEO Business Accelerator, a program designed to support Hispanic, Black, female and veteran-owned businesses.
In the coming weeks, we will be sharing the inspirational stories of the inaugural class of the HACIA O2CEO program.
Liliana ‘Lilly’ Aguilar is the President and Founder of Solutions Cleaning Services. When she was 17, Lilly left Colombia and moved to the US. She started in an entry-level office position at a construction company and rose through the ranks until she opened her own business. All of her hard work led to her successfully landing a spot on Negocios Now’s “Who’s Who in Hispanic Chicago”, and a $10,000 Bank of America Supplier Diversity Small & Diverse Business Scholarship.
I sat down with Lilly over zoom to learn more:
I always had a business plan in mind along with big aspirations to become independent and to create a legacy for my family. I’ve worked toward that by taking every opportunity that I am presented with and by understanding my roots, my capacity and journey."
Katie: Tell me a little bit about your company and what you do?
Lilly: Solutions Cleaning services is a full-service cleaning company. It is a Certified MBE, WBE, DBE firm providing customized post construction cleaning to general contractors, construction managers, property managers, developers and other firms at the most competitive prices.
Katie: How did you get to where you are today?
Lilly: For 17 years, I served in a variety of administrative and marketing roles for a construction subcontractor, but I always dreamed of something more. When that company closed, I seized the opportunity to bring my dream to fruition. I used the knowledge, skills and network I’d built over the years to launch my own firm and expanded our services to the commercial and industrial market.
Katie: Can you walk me through steps you’ve taken in the process of building your business?
Lilly: I always had a business plan in mind along with big aspirations to become independent and create a legacy for my family. I’ve worked toward that by taking every opportunity that I am presented with and by understanding my roots, my capacity and journey.
Before I became a business owner, I had the opportunity to work and manage a large company that provided services similar to what Solutions Cleaning Services does now. From my 15 years at that company, I gained a career and the trust of many in the industry.
In 2013, I purchased equipment, a used company vehicle and began reaching out to all of the contractors that I had worked with previously.
As a Latina Owner, I want to continue breaking gender and cultural barriers in the construction industry."
Katie: What inspired you to start your own company?
Lilly: I was inspired by my family. I am striving for economic independence and striving to build a better future for my daughters.
Katie: What has your experience been like as a women-founder in the construction industry?
Lilly: Being a woman in the construction industry has always been rewarding. I have had to wear many different hats including administrator, estimator, project manager, field supervisor and others. Receiving my certification as a Women Owned, Minority Owned Business Enterprise from the City of Chicago and the National Minority Development Council opened many doors for us. The construction workforce has welcomed me with open arms and countless people have offered me help and advice along the way. It’s very empowering.
Katie: What keeps you going when things get tough in your business?
Lilly: God is my strength, and as a Latina Owner, I want to continue breaking gender and cultural barriers in the construction industry.
Katie: Tell me about a challenge you have faced in the course of starting or running your company and how you overcome it.
Lilly: One of the biggest challenges I have faced is the language barrier. I wasn’t born here. I came to this country as an immigrant and had to learn English. I faced discrimination because I mispronounced words or just because people didn’t like my Colombian accent.
I overcame this challenge by being me, trying my best and educating myself.
Katie: What did you most enjoy about taking Innovation DuPage and HACIA’s Owner to CEO Program?
Lilly: I applied for the program to learn how to expand revenues.
I don't know of anywhere else in this region that could replicate the kind of experience found at Innovation DuPage. The accelerator program provided me with key skills that will further strengthen the foundation of my business allowing me to grow financially. I want to be able to use and apply the resources and techniques offered by this program to improve my skills as a woman and minority business owner. I’m looking forward to using the tools that we learned to become a business and community leader.
Innovation DuPage (ID) is a non-profit venture that unites entrepreneurs and small business owners with the people, resources and programs that help them grow. We connect our members with vetted mentors who can help establish a strong foundation as they rapidly scale. Connect with us on our website, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to discuss your next steps.