Vietnamese Immigrant Finds Success in Government Contracting

South Carolina-Alex Lo came to America with his parents in 1979 from Vietnam to escape unrest in his home country. But Lo didn’t just build a new home in the United States, he built a successful business as well.

Seres founded in 2007, is a minority-owned environmental engineering and consulting firm headquartered in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. The firm provides environmental engineering consulting, remediation, regulatory compliance and operational support to federal, state, local governments, and chemical/industrial manufacturing companies.

“Being a minority has not been a factor in growing my business,” said Lo.

 In 2013, the firm was accepted into the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program.

“I am very grateful to be in the program,” said Lo. “The advocacy and assistance has been outstanding and I appreciate the efforts of the SBA’s South Carolina District Office for contracting and business development support.”

The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program for small disadvantaged businesses. The 8(a) program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are majority owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The program continues to help thousands of entrepreneurs gain a foothold in government contracting.

Seres started with one employee in 2007 and now employs 35 full-time employees based on demand of temporary staffing projects located throughout the country.

“One of my challenges is finding the right people to manage and accomplish the company’s mission,” stated Lo.

Seres has major plans to expand and is continuously submitting bids for new contracts. One of the most helpful features of the 8(a) program is the Mentor-Protégé Program. The program develops small businesses through large firms that are experienced in government contracts. Mentor provided assistance can be sought for management and technical assistance, financial and contracting assistance, trade education, business development assistance, and general administrative assistance. Seres has a partnership with Arcadis, a leading global Design & Consultancy firm specializing in natural and built assets. Arcadis has over 27,000 active staff in over 40 countries that generate €3.3 billion in revenues.

“The relationship we have with our mentor has been the reason for a significant part of our recent success,” said Lo. “The relationship has enabled Seres to develop new clients and learn valuable lessons along the way.”

Success does bring challenges. At one point, Seres struggled with making payroll.

 “We had to learn the mechanics of cash flow management,” said Lo.

Since those growing pains, the firm has increased revenue substantially. In 2012, Seres generated $2 million and reported $6 million in revenue for 2016.

Lo graduated from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering.  In addition, Lo is a registered engineering professional in North Carolina and South Carolina.

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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.  Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. www.sba.gov.