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Couple Act As Much More Than General Contractors

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Couple Act As Much More Than General Contractors

How LBR Partners uplifts and educates their Spanish-speaking trade partners


By Caroline Broderick July 9, 2024
remodeling lbr partners
A remodel project completed by LBR Partners. | Courtesy Belkis Cruz

Belkis Cruz’s company culture is fueled by her own culture.

“When we’re in jobsites that the homeowners aren’t there, we’re jamming out to music,” says Cruz. “Whether it’s salsa, bachata, corridos—we’re just living our best moments, and I think that it makes us more productive. We’re always happy.”

Cruz is CEO and co-founder of LBR Partners, a Minneapolis-based design-build remodeling company she runs with her husband Rafael Valdivia.

For Cruz, fulfillment and company success come from sharing knowledge. It’s helped to develop unbreakable relationships with LBR’s network of Spanish-speaking trade partners who share her culture, and many who share a similar journey to the United States.

LBR focuses on company culture
Rafael Valdivia and Belkis Cruz
opened Minneapolis-based LBR Partners in 2018.

 

La Niña Primero

Cruz’s roots begin in Nicaragua where she was born, then left at the age of five on foot with her parents. And she recalls nearly every moment of that months-long journey: captured in Mexico, the youngest in a jail cell with 20 others.

She’d hear, “La niña primero,” when food or water came­—the little girl first. Wading through the Rio Grande with Cruz on her father’s shoulders and her mother gripping his chest.

She remembers hunger knotted in her stomach, having a single apple each day.

Those memories now, at age 38, brings tears to her eyes when thinking of her four children.

 

Entrepreneurial by Blood

Her family made it safely to Connecticut where it took just two years for Cruz’s father to open his own hardwood flooring business. “My dad had a third grade education,” says Cruz. “So his reading and writing were kind of limited, but he knew numbers like nobody’s business.”

Cruz began her first job then, too, at age 7 as the unofficial translator. She accompanied her father to proposals and permit meetings. 

“I would talk to the builders, and he would always say, ‘One day, that’s going to be you.’ I never really understood... I was like, ‘How am I going to be that white man? Am I going to physically turn into him?’” laughs Cruz.

Cruz shared her father’s enterprising spirit, but not the same builder hopes, until LBR Partners.

 

Getting Back What You Give

Cruz’s father’s quick road to business ownership came from his entrepreneurialism and hunger for learning. He never kept his business knowledge to himself.

“I remember him sharing that information with people and that inspires me to do the same,” says Cruz.

That hunger for learning, sharing of knowledge, and passion to uplift people is what has propelled LBR Partners. Approaching $4 million in annual sales this year with six in-house team members, Cruz sees that when you give to your team, they give back double.

Most of LBR’s trade partners are Spanish-speaking, a purposeful choice for the company. It’s a rarity, says Cruz, who notices larger general contractors don’t often hire small Latino trade partners, and Spanish speakers tend to work for a trade partner rather than operate a business. 

“I specifically hire those smaller Spanish-speaking subcontractors because I know that they’re the ones that are struggling and I know they’re eager to work,” she says. “And those are the ones that get drawn to me and my husband because we’re helping them and then whatever they might need.”

Cruz and co-founder Valdivia teach their trade partners about pricing, estimating, business operations, marketing—any facet of business they want to know. And they don’t mind if some leave to run their own businesses. They want that. One team member simply asked, “How do I start my own company?” and within two years, he purchased a home, sponsored three family members from Guatemala, and operates a crew of five.

“At the end of the day, I don’t even care if I get anything back from them because that’s not my purpose,” says Cruz. “I want them to share their knowledge with everybody.”

Cruz has a national platform where she shares stories about Spanish speakers in construction and information about their businesses: a bi-weekly Spanish version of The Curious Builder podcast. 

 

Big Changes Ahead

This year, Cruz and Valdivia will transform LBR Partners through a major rebrand with a new name and look, one more representative of the company’s background and personality. LBR Partners is set to become Casamia Build and Design Co, which translates to my home. The brand will feature vibrant, tropical colors and the national bird of Nicaragua, a Motmot.

“We want Casamia to not just be a company. We also want it to be a representation of us and our culture,” says Cruz. “Obviously the name is in Spanish and we didn't shy away from that. You want to work with us? This is who we are. And hopefully you'll hire us because of that.”

 

 


written by

Caroline Broderick

Caroline Broderick is the Managing Editor for Pro Remodeler. Most recently, she served as the associate editor for PR's sister publications, Pro Builder, Custom Builder, and PRODUCTS where she covered design, building products, trends, and more in the residential construction industry. She can be reached at cbroderick@sgcmail.com.
 


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