Hispanic Heritage Series
Part IV of V
There are risks and then there are life-altering decisions. The latter is what Phil Covarrubias, Sr. took when he mortgaged his future, said goodbye to a full-time job at a Conoco refinery and started his own excavation company.
Spoiler alert. The risk paid off, but in far more ways than the elder Covarrubias could have imagined for himself and his family.
“He mortgaged our house, took out a loan against everything, bought an old, beat up backhoe and an old beat up dump truck that barely ran and we went out and started breaking up sidewalks and driveways and digging holes for people,” said Phil Covarrubias, Jr., a state representative of Colorado’s 56th district covering parts of Adams and Arapahoe counties. “We worked our whole life. We were allowed to play one sport each year and the rest of the time we worked.”
Working For and With the Family
Growing up with a father who had an entrepreneurial spirit and a farmer’s mentality could be difficult, Covarrubias Jr. said. But the payoff has been astronomical from a professional and financial perspective.
“Even at that time I had at least enough sense to understand that we were taking a big chance at least to some degree,” said Covarrubias Jr. who was 12 at the time his father chose to start his own business. “We practically killed ourselves out there, but we were willing to do whatever it took to keep the business running. There was never any looking back. That was not the attitude.”
It was the same attitude that had persisted in the Covarrubias family since Phil Senior’s grandparents immigrated to Rocky Ford from Mexico.
“Working on a farm, I think is what really kicked off the entrepreneurial spirit in the family,” Covarrubias said. “They had to work for themselves pretty much all the time.”
One uncle became a plumbing contractor, another would become a concrete contractor and Phil Covarrubias Sr., would go on to start what is now called Covarrubias Construction Services, Inc. With so many small, independent business owners and contractors in the family, it was no surprise that Covarrubias Sr., would go on to cofound the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado (HCC).
“He got involved in every single Chamber of Commerce,” Covarrubias said of what helped lead his father’s gamble into long-term success. “He and his friends were the original founders of the HCC and I’m really proud of that.”
From Muddy Boots to Ties and Suits
Though his father didn’t know it at the time, it was that involvement in local government and chambers of commerce that would help his son develop the skills to get involved in politics.
“Here’s what it looks like,” Covarrubias said of the lifestyle changes that started to come about. “You start going to fancier dinners, you learn how to golf, and you start hanging out with other people that have businesses and are involved and you learn how to act and how to talk.”
Now a small-business owner himself, Covarrubias said he is making his own strides to repeat his father’s successes; mortgaging part of the future to found his business Capital Construction and work for himself.
“I worked for him for 20 years,” Covarrubias said of his professional relationship with his father. “But there came a time for Phil Jr., to go and do his own thing.”
Though working as a politician and a small-business owner with two teenage boys at home may mean no time for anyone, Covarrubias said he has been able to make it work in large part to a supportive family and his wife Tonya Covarrubias, the new CFO at History Colorado.
One other point of pride within many of the Covarrubias family is Phil Covarrubias’ sister Shari Glover who was the first in the Covarrubias family to go to college - among a long line of siblings with military service - and is now an attorney and associate judge in Pasadena, Texas.
Covarrubias said his sister is another example of the benefits to be had from being involved in a family-operated business at a young age.
“When you make your kids a part of the business with responsibilities from a young age, it seems to me that it’s very fruitful to them when they become adults,” he said.