Information technology consultant Rafael Estrada scoured the country for government contracts from 2007-12, but in the last two years, government spending on technology has roared back, and Estrada finds himself traveling a lot less than before.
“The last couple of years, we haven’t had to market as much outside the state,” he said. “We’ve been very busy with clients here in Sacramento and in Southern California.”
It’s a far cry from the dark days of the recession when the number of consultants at Sacramento-based Estrada Consulting dropped to 21 from 33.
Estrada, the company’s founder and chief executive, said his revenue has grown an average of 27 percent annually in the past few years, and he estimates it will grow by 44 percent this year. Although most of his business now comes from government agencies in California, he still has consultants working in Washington, Oregon, Texas, New York and a few other states.
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Estrada Consulting has done work for agencies such as the state Air Resources Board, the California Student Aid Commission and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Although the firm does a range of software development, its specialty is creating systems that track data and automatically generate reports. He started his company in 2000, after landing a contract with a state agency.
“They wanted to know how many mental health claims were coming into the state, how many were being approved, how many were being denied. How long is it taking to adjudicate claims?” Estrada said. “It was basic, basic information. Their systems were so antiquated, though, that to get a report from their systems would take months.”
Estrada built a system that produced daily reports, and his success there helped him to lure in new clientele. A graduate of Lindhurst High School and Sacramento State, Estrada was a late bloomer when it came to computers. He got his first one while a senior in college in 1995, he told me, and created his first software program to manage the statistics for his fantasy football league. Once Estrada demonstrated he could solve a technological challenge for a California state agency, he found it was easy to win contracts in other states.
“A couple years ago, we bid on some projects in Iowa,” he said. “We took a couple of projects that we did here, and we marketed our approach to the Department of Revenue in Iowa. We had no previous business in Iowa. … We were just a company that said, ‘We did a very similar project. We’re going to bring in the same exact team, fly them out there on a weekly basis,’ and they hired us.”
Virtually yours, Sacramento
Increasingly, Sacramento-area entrepreneurs are gaining backers in the virtual world by putting their ideas onto online funding platforms and video-sharing sites. Take a look at a three that caught this columnist’s attention:
Feminist and Sacramento State student Marina Watanabe counted roughly 16,000 individuals as subscribers to her YouTube video blog, “ Marina Shut Up,” last April when the U.K. edition of Elle magazine told its readers that hers was one of 14 playful yet powerful feminist voices they should follow. Watanabe, a graduate of Bella Vista High School, now has 28,340 subscribers. Elle U.K. praised Watanabe for her thought-provoking, witty observations and deadpan delivery. Frequent readers of this column will recall that Watanabe started an online business selling T-shirts with literary references at g4tsby.onlineshirtstores.com/. Through it, she earned enough money to pay for college. She now also receives a small income from YouTube ads on her vlog.
Comic book writer Eben E.B. Burgoon is more than halfway toward his goal of raising $5,000 to produce an 84-page volume that chronicles a series of adventures featuring the B-Squad, a squad of misfit mercenaries. “We are looking to raise enough money so that I can create the next four issues, all of which would be illustrated, at least in part, by artists living in Sacramento,” Burgoon told me. He said his plan is to deliver the $25 volume by Christmas. Burgoon’s Kickstarter campaign will end on Sept. 11, the day of Crocker-Con, a local exhibition of comic book and pop art talent at the Crocker Art Museum. Learn more at www.bsquadcomic.com/.
A carpenter and an aspiring lawyer dream of walking into a Sacramento-area bar and playing games, and they figured others would latch onto their dream and help them fund it. With 34 days to go, Dariush Gheyssarieh and Anthony Barajas are a third of the way toward raising $25,000 in a Kickstarter campaign they created to pay for games, tables, lighting and sound equipment, technology and fees. The two, lifelong game players, are asking geeks to unite behind Save Point Tavern, which will feature board games, card games, role-play games and gaming consoles along with adult beverages. In the Kickstarter appeal, Barajas writes: “We wanted to create a place where even more gamers could get together and game in an adult setting, replete with all the tools to encourage a great time – other players, food, drinks, and tons of games.”