Armida Campos

Pomona Quality Foam, Inc.

A few years after starting her business, Armida Campos and her business partners knew they had "made it" when they paid back the business loans they originally took out to start Pomona Quality Foam, Inc. Thirty years later, Armida attributes her success to the knowledge she had upon starting her upholstery company and the belief that learning never stops.

When business partner Sal Gonzalez approached Armida and her husband with the idea to start a company and the possibility of a partnership, they agreed. At that time, Armida was working a few weeks a month as an assistant to an investor engineer in the garment industry.

"Sometimes there is a crisis that will push you to take action," she said about the decision to start a business. "In our minds, we [Armida and her husband] always wanted to have our own business. We were employees being laid off a lot of the time… I think we wanted to be in control of what we wanted to do."

Once the decision was made to start a business, Armida and her partners began the process of learning how to do business. After speaking with multiple bankers, they were drawn to a specific person who stood out above the rest.

"When I called a bank to open a business account, the bank would tell me what I needed. But, when I called California Bank & Trust, the banker didn't just stop at telling me what I needed, but said if I didn't know how to get it done, to simply come by the bank and she would show me what to do," said Armida as she described the importance of a good relationship with a banker. To her, a relationship goes beyond numbers, and instead should focus on someone you are comfortable discussing business.

"You want a bank that knows you and makes things easier for you and your business," she said.

After thirty years as a business owner, Armida, a mother of three children, says the best advice she can give an aspiring business owner is for them to consider all the possible business situations before they start. For example, how long can you live without a paycheck? How many hours can you work a day? The more information you have going in, the better. Don't be afraid ask yourself the hard questions.

The answers to these questions, however, can come from many sources. Armida herself valued the help from other entrepreneurs.

"I really didn't have a mentor, but I went to other people who had started their own businesses with my questions," she said. "The key to success was putting together all of the knowledge that I had from other business owners, the experience I brought from my previous jobs, the knowledge of my partners – and putting it all together. But most importantly, never stop asking questions."