About 20 years later, Nevarez not only owns a Littleton-based company but Wednesday became Minority Small Business Person of the Year.
Nevarez, founder and president of Innovar Environmental Inc., bested 10 other regional award winners in the competition held by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Innovar, which employs 95 people, provides environmental and facilities services such as mold abatement, demolition and landscaping.
"When you have your own business, you can use your own philosophy, your own ethics," Nevarez said in a phone interview from Washington.
Nevarez, 41, founded Innovar - which means to innovate in Spanish - in 2000. She was the sole employee. Now, the company takes in $3.5 million a year, and its clients include the Fort Carson Army base, which hired Innovar to perform a yearlong asbestos abatement project, as well as National Guard bases in Minnesota and Washington, she said.
Nevarez credits her former employer, Engineering-Environmental Management Inc., with helping shape her entrepreneurial plans. She started at the Englewood- based environmental consulting firm as an accounting manager after she graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting and had risen to chief financial officer by the time she left.
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