Leotis Watson II

President, Sammons & Watson Holdings, LLC (Mesquite)

“I was in the information technology industry for about 10 years and during that time had started a consulting company focusing on small- to medium-sized businesses. Several of my clients were in the mortgage and title industry.

“Then the bottom fell out of the IT market. In the space about a week, I was out of business. Luckily, I was able to transition one of my contracts into a full-time position. But I also had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I wanted to backtrack and figure out what had gone wrong with my business. What I found was that I didn’t know enough about the business end of my business — I knew IT, but that wasn’t enough to stay afloat.

“So I did some research and saw that El Centro offered a small business curriculum, and I ended up in the program to learn more about how to do things right the next time around. One of the best parts of the program was the diversity of students — I was in class with people who had started businesses for restaurants, spas, educational companies and a lot more.

“This program teaches you how to build a business from the ground up. I’ve learned not to be afraid to take a look at all aspects of your business, from the numbers to the way the system works to the team in place. If you don’t have the process in place, you’re in business for no reason, and it’s not going to last.

“Once you complete a class or a curriculum, that’s not the end of it. Owning a business is an ongoing learning process — you have to be tenacious and flexible. To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be willing to learn and desire to always want to do better.”

Sammons and Watson Holdings, LLC, is a real estate holding and commercial property firm that focuses on purchasing and renting small- to medium-sized apartment complexes to students in college and university towns. His IT consulting company went under in 2007, and he spent nearly two years planning, researching and building the infrastructure of his new entrepreneurial enterprise before actively going into business in early 2009. He lacks just two classes to complete his certificate in El Centro's​ Small Business Academy.