A Small Business That is Helping Turn On the Lights
For Martin and Angel Paris, a husband and wife team that started their
own electrical design and construction company in Detroit in 2012, it
was a dream opportunity: The City of Detroit awarded their fledgling
small business, Power, Lighting and Technical Services (PLTS), a
three-year contract to repair and maintain exterior lighting.
"The Mayor of Detroit is doing a
wonderful job getting the city’s lights
back on," says Martin. "We were
hired to go to all the city properties to
make sure the lights are operating."
Not long into the contract, however, Martin and
Angel ran into a problem. When the substation
at Hart Plaza went out, they needed to hire
a subcontractor with the expertise to fix the
components. But the subcontractor wanted to
get paid right away, and PLTS wouldn’t have the
money in the bank to do so until it received its
next payment from the City in 30 to 40 days.
"So we had to tell the City we couldn’t do
the job," says Martin. "It was embarrassing.
Luckily, the City didn’t cancel the contract
When one of Martin and Angel’s contacts at the
City heard about what happened, he told them
about the Entrepreneurs of Color (EOC) Fund,
a $6.5 million program managed by Detroit
Development Fund (DDF), a nonprofit CDFI,
with funding from JPMorgan Chase and the
W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Launched in 2015, the goal of the EOC Fund is to
assist businesses that lack access to traditional
forms of credit and capital. It provides financing,
as well as training and consulting services
to strengthen core business operations for
Detroit-based neighborhood businesses owned
by entrepreneurs of color and businesses that
primarily hire people of color. To date, the EOC
Fund has provided $1.3 million in financing – in
the process, helping to create or preserve more
than 130 jobs in the city.
"The Mayor of Detroit is doing a wonderful
job getting the city lit back up."
Co-owner Power, Lighting and Technical Services
Martin and Angel reached out to DDF, and – fast
forward a few months and a good amount of
paperwork later – they secured a $100,000 line
of credit. The EOC Fund also gave them a loan to
purchase a vehicle that lifts a service technician
to do overhead lighting work – a piece of
equipment PLTS previously had to spend
significant amounts of money renting.
"This is our first and only line of
credit or loan for our company,"
says Angel. "Prior to this, we were
running the business out of our pocket,
with whatever we made on our jobs,
credit cards and whatever savings
While financing from the EOC Fund is helping
the company better manage cash flow, the
process itself also left a positive imprint.
"Applying for the funding made us realize our
recordkeeping wasn’t where it should have
been," says Martin. "Working with DDF to get
everything in order was practice for us to be
a better business. We are now a lot better at
keeping up with our records and our financials
than we were a year ago."
Today, Martin and Angel are running a thriving
business with eight full-time, permanent
employees and contracts in place not only with
the City but also with a range of other customers.
While their services are in high demand, the
Parises are taking a careful approach to growing
their business. As Martin notes, for small
businesses like theirs, it can be disastrous if
customers fail to pay in a timely manner – or
pay at all – something Martin laments is not
uncommon in the construction industry.
"I cannot overemphasize how cautious we are,”
says Martin. “We’ve been very selective about
who we work for. But it’s working out for us. We
have a very good group of customers. They take
care of business, and we take care of them."