Kelly Hernandez, owner of Air Crafts Heating and Air Conditioning in Valley Center has been nominated for the NAWBO Bravo award, which is presented by the National Organization of Women Business Owners.
She will attend the NAWBO Bravo Awards in San Diego on Friday, November 1 at the Cape Ray Carlsbad Beach Hilton from 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.
She described herself as “very humbled and honored” to be nominated. “It’s absolutely nice to have what I do recognized,” she said.
The company was founded in 1985 and Hernandez purchased it in 2016. It has grown in sales, revenue and the number of employees in the intervening three years. “This year has been our best!” she said. They moved to their new office at Lizard Rock Road in May of 2017.
Her goal for the company is, “to continue to do what we are doing and serving our community and doing it with integrity.”
An example of this: Soon after purchasing Air Crafts, Hernandez eliminated the “industry standard” commission structure for sales staff, allowing them to focus on doing right by the customers. While many companies have sales staff try to upsell the customer on the latest and greatest equipment, Air Crafts technicians are focused on what is best for the customer.
Working her way up in an industry where only 7% of the businesses are owned by women, and 1.2% of the workers are women presented many changes for Hernandez. Prior to Air Crafts, Hernandez worked for 23 years for an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) company. She started as an entry-level office manager and rose to touch every part of the business, including accounting, HR, payroll and installations. When the company sold, even though it was not immediate, new management eventually let go of most of the previous staff. Some might have been devastated by this development. Instead, Hernandez saw it as an opportunity to build her skill set. She went to work for an HVAC company with a different specialty, providing her exposure to more aspects of the industry that prepared her to run Air Crafts.
Hernandez is very much involved in her community. She dedicates her time to the following organizations: VC PRO referral organization; Rotary Club of Valley Center, as a board member and secretary; Women Developing Business (which she co-founded); Valley Center Business Association, as an advisory board member and Valley Center Chamber of Commerce.
As a co-founder of Women Developing Businesses and advisor to the Valley Center Business Association, she actively participates as a mentor and helps organize events to provide resources otherwise unavailable to newer small businesses in the area.
Hernandez rarely says no to requests for in-kind and cash donations to local schools and organizations.
After being an employee herself at other companies for more than 30 years, Hernandez knows how employees want to be treated. Since acquiring Air Crafts, she has increased employee benefits and vacation time and always allows employees to take any family time they need. She treats her employees like family.