Latina entrepreneurs making a difference in their community
The founders of Diaz Electric of New York, Jacqueline Capriles and Ana Diaz, provide a multitude of valuable services and opportunities for residents of Sunset Park.
The date was October 29, 2012.
Jacqueline Capriles, a software developer and Sunset Park native, had planned to sell mobile apps at a business conference in Phoenix.
That same day, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, causing all flights to be cancelled. All items Capriles had purchased for the conference had been delivered a day in advance, and then were lost because no one was there to retrieve them.
The following day, Ana Diaz, an electrician and also a Sunset Park native’s phone started ringing nonstop. Given her experience in the electrical industry in the area, it was people in need of an electrician in the aftermath of the hurricane.
“Ana turned to me and said, ‘Jackie, I got my electrical license, but I have no employees who could help me,’” recalled Capriles. “So, I turned to Ana and I said, ‘You have one.’”
Capriles then grabbed her tool belt and decided to help out.
From there, Diaz Electric of New York, Inc., an electrical contracting firm based in Brooklyn, started to grow as Capriles helped Diaz set up the computer system, and created invoices, brochures, and advertisements, while establishing an email address, website, and business phone number.
“It became clear to us that we were better working together than individually on separate businesses,” said Capriles. “With Ana's technical experience in electrical and my experience as a software engineer, we found that working together was something we did successfully.”
The two officially became partners and soon thereafter, Diaz Electric was born.
That sense of community and togetherness is what has helped drive the success of Diaz Electric.
Ana Diaz and Jacqueline Capriles are both natives of Sunset Park who met while they were college students at Long Island University. Each made the intentional decision to stay in the community that raised them, and help provide valuable opportunities for its residents to see them flourish individually and grow together as a community.
Capriles, co-owner of Diaz Electric, was originally born in Manhattan and moved to Sunset Park with her family at the age of 7. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. from Curaçao in search of a better life, and then met her father, who owned a Spanish restaurant in Harlem.
“The neighborhood was poverty-stricken and had drug addicts sleeping in the hallway in the apartment building we lived in,” Capriles reflected, adding that her mother worked as a super in the building.
Worried about his family’s safety, in 1977, Capriles’ father sold his restaurant and moved the family to Sunset Park, where Capriles has remained for more than 20 years.
Diaz, president of Diaz Electric, was born and raised in the Bronx, to parents who emigrated from Ecuador.
Her mother worked at night, while her father worked during the day in order to support the household, which included Diaz and her four siblings.
“Their work ethic was great, and they knew that by working hard, you can move ahead in life,” Diaz said of her parents.
Due to the fact that both women came from families with strong work ethics, it followed them throughout their lives and into their careers.
Both Diaz and Capriles had aspirations of becoming business owners in their respective fields — Diaz as an electrician, and Capriles as a software engineer.
With the goal of becoming entrepreneurs, the two joined a women’s business club where a group of women encouraged and supported each other in their business goals. Capriles’ idea was to sell mobile apps, while Diaz’s idea was to open an electrical contracting business.
However, the experience of Hurricane Sandy, coupled with their love for the Sunset Park community, sparked the idea of starting Diaz Electric.
“We decided to place our business in Sunset Park in order to give back to the community and grow with the community,” said Diaz.
At Diaz Electric, there is an emphasis on hiring people locally and from the community. Its location in Industry City is also a bonus, as the area has seen a huge boom in its economy, with jobs jumping from 1,900 in 2013 to nearly 8,000 today.
When Capriles and Diaz first told others about their idea of opening an electrical contracting company, the initial reaction was one of doubt and concern, due to the fact that they are women.
However, despite doubts coming from those closest to them, Capriles and Diaz didn’t let that dissuade them from taking on those challenges.
“We told them that we were not only capable, but we were planning to grow the business into something bigger than just field work,” said Capriles.
“Once we were able to show the agencies that we work for and the construction management firms that we worked for that we were very capable of doing this type of work, we gained their respect and that’s how we were able to grow the business,” she added.
In addition to providing electrical services, Diaz Electric also provides a number of other services for the community.
These services include internship programs, workshops, and seminars that focus on concepts, such as punching down data, patching panels, wiring electrical outlets and more.
“We’re not only interested in doing electrical work, but we are also interested in enhancing and enriching the community,” said Capriles.
Diaz Electric also works with community organizations like the Worker Justice Center of New York, the New York City Department of Education and the New York City Department of Youth & Community Services to provide opportunities for young people, students, young professionals, mid-career professionals, and individuals of all ages. In addition, they also speak to children on career days and participate in panels discussing entrepreneurship and women in business.
“We really love the idea of paying it forward, and giving back to the community in every way,” said Diaz.
The experience of living in Sunset Park means a lot to both Diaz and Capriles, and each endeavor ties back to helping that community. For Capriles, the fact that she grew up, has built relationships and started her family there holds a lot of sentimental value.
“I want to remain in this community, and I want to be able to provide the support to help this community thrive,” she said.
For Diaz, she has always been impressed with the diversity, warmth and camaraderie of the Sunset Park community.
“A feeling of home… having the sense of community here through other people is what really keeps me attached to Sunset Park,” she said.
Through Diaz Electric, the two entrepreneurs can continue to play a role in helping the community thrive and provide valuable opportunities for those who live there.
“It’s pretty energetic when you walk through the hallways at Industry City,” said Diaz. “That’s why we stay here.”