The business: The Ochoa Corp., which includes 8A Advertising, The Soccer Field, and Soccer World, in Las Vegas. Its 8A division manufactures signs; the other two operations are retail outlets specializing in soccer products.
The players: Jose Ochoa heads the corporation. He started the business in 1978 after moving from Talpa, Mexico, to Las Vegas four years earlier.
The background: Ochoa was only 15 when he decided to leave Mexico. His father had died and his mother had cancer, which meant that he had responsibilities for six younger siblings. He was encouraged by a cousin, Alfredo Ortega, to relocate to Las Vegas because of the economic opportunities in the rapidly growing city. Ochoa landed a job with Shaw Advertising, which made signs for the commercial market. Ochoa liked his job, but was ambitious and wanted to go into business for himself.
The challenge: Ortega did not speak English when he first came to the United States and had to learn the language and culture to succeed. When he decided to go into business he had saved only $1,000. Adding to his responsibilities was his decision to get married shortly after starting the business. “I had to grow up in a hurry,” he said.
The solution: Ochoa believed he could succeed. He was impressed by the economic opportunities in the United States and wanted to prosper. “I learned a little bit of everything,” he said of his three years with Shaw. He listened closely to people speak and picked up English rapidly. “At first, it was a big barrier that I didn’t speak English,” he said. “I had to listen a lot. It was complicated (learning a new culture), but not impossible. What is so great about this country is that if you want to do something, you can do it.”
Ochoa made important contacts in the sign industry during his time with Shaw, which helped him when he formed 8A Advertising (the name of the company is a word play on his name; ocho means eight in Spanish). Ochoa used $700 of his savings to buy an old truck and leased a small office. Initially, he installed signs for other small sign manufacturers. This turned out to be a lucrative market because many companies did not want to install and maintain their signs. It was a struggle at first, but Ochoa began to make money and a year later decided to manufacture his own signs. “I really had to work hard,” he recalled. “I would start at five in the morning and wouldn’t finish until eight at night.”
The hard work paid off. By 1982, he had three employees and was doing so well his accountant advised him to incorporate. Ten years later, he purchased property at 2950 N. Commerce St. and developed a 5,000-square-foot office and manufacturing facility. Ochoa discovered a niche making signs for Las Vegas home builders. The residential growth of Las Vegas has given him plenty of business. The company also makes signs for political candidates “and anybody else who needs them,” he said.
Four years ago, Ochoa decided to diversify. He had always loved to play soccer as a youngster in Talpa and as an adult in Las Vegas, and wanted to create a business capitalizing on his hobby. He saw a strong market for stores specializing in soccer apparel and equipment. He opened his first soccer store, The Soccer Field, in 1996, and three years later opened Soccer World. His sales have steadily increased. “We can see the growth in soccer, not just in the Latin community, but also with the children’s programs,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa had an advantage in launching the new business that he did not have before. “What really created the soccer stores was the success of the main sign business. I had the capital and the opportunity to make a dream come true.” He wants to expand his soccer operation to Green Valley and other areas of Las Vegas, and has a long-range dream to expand out of state. His business has grown to include eight employees with the sign business and three working for the soccer stores.