Entrepreneur Nancy Galvan was only 12 years old when she realized she wanted to be a businesswoman. Growing up, she was always finding ways to make money – whether it was reselling her candy to other kids at school, selling tacos or helping Stockyards visitors find parking. Despite her age, Galvan said she felt powerful whenever she made something happen.
“That was the first feeling of independence for me because I had a gift to persuade people to do things,” she said.
Now, at 42, Nancy Galvan is the owner of Unica Enterprises LLC, a janitorial company with offices in Dallas and Fort Worth. Unica serves several local branches of the federal government, primarily the Departments of the Navy, Army and Air Force.
Founded in 2007, Unica Enterprises began as a side gig to help Galvan pay off debt. Galvan was 29, working at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, and said she was struggling to balance her finances.
“I was in over my head with debt,” she said. “I had school loans – that didn’t look like I was going to make a dent paying off with my regular nine to five job. So, I tried to brainstorm and think of alternatives for how I was going to pay down this debt faster.”
She needed a job that allowed her to keep her full-time day job, while making extra money at night. After talking to other business owners about her options, Galvan decided to start a cleaning service. She put together a small staff, and for that first year, Unica Enterprises had three employees. Her first job was cleaning a government building in south Fort Worth. From there, more government contracts followed.
Galvan said she faced many challenges starting her business. Janitorial service is a small, male-dominated industry and she was often the only woman at the table during meetings with competitors. This meant she had to learn to advocate for herself both as a woman and as a business owner. Among the things she said she had to unlearn was being “too nice.”
“It’s that fine balance where you have to be honest and make sure you’re valuing yourself as a woman for what you’re worth and separate the emotional part.”
What started as a three-person operation is now worth several-million dollars. According to GovTribe.com (an online financial database focused on federal contracts) Unica Enterprises has received almost $12 million in federal contracts and grants since 2009.
Galvan said that in the last five years, Unica’s revenues increased by 1500 percent. She credits this success to the quality of her leadership team, janitors and partnership with her husband.
“We’ve had to really get creative during COVID because we’re not fully staffed and work still needs to get done,” she said. “But our leadership is very good, our janitors are really loyal, so we’ve got a good team.”
The janitorial services industry has steadily grown since 2011, according to the data collection website Statista.com, with revenues for 2021 reportedly worth more than $75-billion.
She Galvan believes starting her own business has helped her grow as a person, and that she encourages all women to tap into their personal strengths. By doing so, she said confidence and success will follow.
“I believe that even if you’re at rock bottom, that’s a good place to start,” she said, “because you can only go up from here.”