‘It’s all about the mission’
With Wells Fargo’s help, Carmen Nazario keeps building ELYON International — a multimillion dollar, veteran- and woman-owned IT services company with a global outlook.
Nota del editor: También está disponible una versión en español de esta historia.
Carmen Nazario admired the poster on the post office wall: “Join the Army. See the World.”
So Nazario left the University of Puerto Rico in 1970 to serve stateside for three years in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Her mother, Elvira, wasn’t surprised, recalling the graduation caption she’d penned in her Saint Rose High School yearbook: “Life is an adventure, and those who are willing to take more risks live life to its fullest.”
Nazario’s biggest risk is her biggest success — ELYON International, Inc., the now-multimillion dollar IT services business she launched July 1, 1997, with one client and one employee: herself.
Today, ELYON International, a Wells Fargo Commercial Capital customer, has 124 full-time employees and 50 contractors in 21 U.S. states, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Based in Vancouver, Washington, the business serves a growing number of government clients and Fortune 500 companies. Military veterans comprise more than a quarter of ELYON’s senior management and administrative ranks. Three of the five members of her C-suite team are women — leadership that includes Black and Latino veteran men and women from Korea and the Philippines.
The company’s offerings include Program and Project Management; IT and Applications Services; Data Analytics; SAP Consulting; Geographic Information Services; Workforce Transformation Services, and access to its Global Delivery Network.
In the Army, Nazario learned computer programming along with discipline, respect, teamwork, and leadership. After leaving the Army, she added a business degree from Portland State University, then worked for IT companies in a variety of roles, from project manager to systems analyst and information systems consultant, before launching ELYON.
“I had to gather all my courage to launch my company, filling multiple roles until I could add staff,” she said. “The success and growth of our company since then is a result of a lot of hard work by a lot of very good people.”
Nazario counts Marian Botchway, her relationship manager at Wells Fargo Commercial Capital, among them. The relationship brought the capital, guidance, and support ELYON needed to grow, as well as a credit facility that’s essentially a line of credit ELYON can draw from as needed and repay.
“I enjoy building relationships with business owners, helping them navigate the banking environment, implement their business plans, and achieve their long-term goals,” Botchway said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Botchway helped ELYON apply for and receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan as part of the U.S. government’s emergency relief for businesses.
“The PPP loan was a great benefit to our company because we were able to provide continuous employment to key employees I needed to help run the business,” Nazario said. “It also provided needed cash flow when some of our customers couldn’t pay on time because of the pandemic.
“Companies cannot grow without the proper financing,” she said. “We’ve been able to record 30% growth annually for the past three years because of our access to capital, and would not be where we are today without Wells Fargo.”
“The PPP loan was a great benefit to our company because we were able to provide continuous employment to key employees I needed to help run the business. It also provided needed cash flow when some of our customers couldn’t pay on time because of the pandemic.” — Carmen Nazario
ELYON’s growth has provided opportunities for other women-owned businesses, like Stephanie Amend’s Arrowhead Solutions, LLC. A one-stop-shop for firms hoping to do business with the U.S. government, Arrowhead helps ELYON manage and ensure compliance with federal contracts — specialized knowledge that’s opened up new business opportunities.
“Carmen’s story and her drive inspire me,” Amend said. “I believe that female business founders have a great opportunity to inspire each other.”
U.S. Navy veteran Angelina Choisnet said Nazario and ELYON’s reputation as a military-friendly employer drew her to the company in 2019 as its administrative assistant. “This was hugely important to me as a Latina woman veteran, as this was my first civilian job after serving in the Navy for 10 years and spending the next six raising my children and going back to school,” she said. “I was quite nervous about reentering the work force and if I would be able find something in this new career path that not only gave me a chance but also left me feeling fulfilled.
“Since I joined ELYON, Carmen has been so supportive. She encourages me to keep learning new things and brings in new experiences that help me grow both as a person and at the company. She’s a source of empowerment and pride that I sincerely appreciate and am blessed by.”
A global perspective
ELYON International’s business name reflects the multicultural company Nazario sought to build, where all are welcome. She didn’t always feel welcomed herself as a child, moving from Puerto Rico to Costa Rica to New Jersey and back to Puerto Rico before she was 10.
“When we initially moved to the mainland U.S., I could not speak English, and then years later when we moved back to the island, I did not speak Spanish,” she said. “Other kids made fun of me and my siblings. Eventually we caught up, but these childhood experiences were humbling and helped shape my character and outlook in life.”
As one of the few Latina IT CEOs, Nazario tries to lift others through her membership, speaking, and other activities with the Women’s Business Enterprise Council Pacific. Also supported by Wells Fargo, WBEC Pacific is one of 14 regional partner organizations of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council — the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the U.S. and a leading advocate for women entrepreneurs.
Winner of awards from such groups as the WBEC Pacific, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Women Presidents’ Organization, Nazario recently joined the Women in Cloud group of women entrepreneurs. The network seeks to create $1 billion of economic access and opportunity for women in the cloud economy by 2030.
Closer to home, she’s trying to achieve similar results through 10 years of support for the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber’s college scholarships for Latino students in Oregon and Southwest Washington. All have pursued STEM studies, Nazario said, allowing her to “cheer on a new generation of Latinos and pass on the baton.”
“Having experienced numerous challenges as a Latina woman in technology has made me more resilient and even more determined to broaden opportunities for other Latinos in IT and business,” she said. “I remain grateful and thankful for the experience of being raised in two cultures.
“In my business, it’s all about the mission at hand, and since day one, our mission at ELYON has been to be valued by our customers and employees,” Nazario said. “With Marian and Wells Fargo, I feel I’m working with a team who cares about me and other women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses the same way.”