With UTSA's help, SA entrepreneur markets oil-absorbing material to clean up oil spills

Oil Spills Material

Concord Supply owner and founder Victor Quiñones with the catamaran he designed to clean up oil spills

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(June 4, 2015) -- When oil was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Victor Quiñones was practically jumping up and down. He had the solution but no way to get it to the people who needed it.

The entrepreneur and inventor has a somewhat wild backstory. He's a native of Reynosa, Mexico and first founded Concord Supply at age 17. The business failed and he went on to run a currency exchange shop, where he was held up and shot in the head. Luckily, he survived and ultimately founded Concord Supply a second time with his wife Liliana. They supply steel companies with materials that package and protect metals.

The materials are all Victor's own inventions, and at the time of the Gulf Oil Spill, he had already created a material that soaks up oil and rejects water, thinking it could be useful for people trying to cook healthy meals.

It wasn't until 2013 that Concord found the UTSA International Trade Center, which gives one on one trade advising, training, and customized market research to fit small business needs. This assistance allows businesses to grow not only in San Antonio but also internationally.

Liliana was the first to hear about the university's resource, which helps businesses learn to export, and had initially thought about using the International Trade Center to turn her jewelry hobby into a business.

"But the entire time, I talked about the boat," she said.

The boat is a catamaran with a mechanism of Victor's design attached below. His fabric drags along the surface and captures spilled oil, rejecting the water, and making it possible for the oil to be returned to the company that had spilled it.

Alberto Rodriguez-Baez, senior international business advisor with the International Trade Center, soon met with the couple. Setting out to not just market the boat but to grow Concord's export business, he and his team conducted international market research, providing market intelligence for Concord on the steel industry worldwide, potential clients and helping them to get in touch with other trade promotion agencies.

"UTSA has a community outreach side and we are part of the Institute for Economic Development," Rodriguez-Baez said. "What we do is help local businesses grow in different ways. It's part of the mission of the university as far as giving back to the community."

Victor now has a binder full of international contacts made through the International Trade Center to facilitate his growing export business. Today, Concord Supply exports 90 percent of its product to places like Japan, Mexico and countries in South America and the Middle East.

"They are already in the process of penetrating new global markets due to the international market research, trade advising and international business development training we have provided to them," Rodriguez-Baez said. "Only one percent of American companies export. Exporting is largely an untapped method for growth and revenue generation, but most companies just don't know where to start."

Rodriguez-Baez was so proud of Concord's success that he nominated Victor and Liliana to attend the Business Forward and White House Small Business Round Table earlier this year. As a result, Concord was one of only two Texas companies that were invited to the White House to discuss small business with government officials, including Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.

"They told us to let the people know about the importance of exporting and how easy it is to export," Liliana said. "We need that spirit of 'Made in the USA.'"

With their business booming, they've now been able to create the Concord Oil Recovery Division and are busy acquiring more boats to make them available to oil companies. When oil spills are not on the horizon, their boats are available for transportation and tourism.

"A century ago the United States was a land of opportunity for commerce, in everything," Victor said. "Right now, we're losing that to China, to India, to other countries. It's time to start doing this, start exporting and start making this country the country of Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie again."

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Learn more about Concord Supply here

Learn more about the UTSA International Trade Center here

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