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Monica Jojola: Pueblo Ambition Inspires Award-Winning Business

Monica Jojola founded Montech in 2011. Today, the business has over a dozen, multi-year federal government contracts in place. (Courtesy Jojola)

There were two main inspirations for Monica Jojola, President of the award-winning company Montech Inc., on her way to success. One was watching and tagging along with her grandparents in the Isleta Pueblo where she grew up, as they made and painted pottery all winter to sell at the Indian Markets in the summer.

“That showed me how a small business could be run by family – the product, the planning, the marketing. I went with them to Market, then as a reward, they made sure to stay in a hotel with a swimming pool so I could cool off at the end of the day,” Jojola says by phone from her office in Albuquerque.

The other big inspiration was her first job at age 17 with Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. “Even though I was at the lowest levels of the company doing office clerical work, it gave me a taste of Air Force life and I absolutely loved it. The organization, the discipline, the structure, the responsibility, I was fascinated by it and wanted to know more. Of course, I was not privy to any of the higher levels of the place but I knew there were amazing activities going on and I wanted in. They were doing important work. It showed me what responsibility was like at a young age. From that first day, I knew what I wanted to do and could possibly be. That was my moment.”

The recurrent summer job was also pivotal in financing her college education at the University of New Mexico where she earned degrees in Political Science and Journalism.

“Education was always my goal then, you can lose a job but you can’t lose that,” she notes. “Everyone I worked with at the base had these higher degrees in their pockets and I saw that was the way in. I also worked for an art gallery in Albuquerque that sold Native art and had several outlets. That showed me how a small business is run and I loved being around Native art like my grandparents had made, but my heart was more into different kinds of business. In a gallery, it’s sale after sale. In a government it’s service after service. That was also a milestone moment. I put myself through college and then spent 15 years working with Chickasaw Nation Industries (CNI) as Director of Business Development.”

At CNI she learned to master business development and about marketing, communications, writing proposals, leadership, project management and organization development.

“It was a major education and showed me how to make sure financing is in place to run all the businesses you set up. After many years of learning all that and weathering the crash that hit in 2008, it made perfect sense to me to take all my experience and start my own company. That was the time. I saw you could be recognized and aided for being a woman-owned, small business so that was in my favor. I literally started at my dining room table with my laptop. It was scary, but I had so much experience and so many contacts, I really felt I could do it. Stepping away from a steady paycheck was a big leap, but I was not running to fail — I was walking to my potential.”

Her first jobs were contracts for consulting, helping companies make the right decisions for their business development, training, and strategy. That laptop went everywhere with her as she traveled to meeting after meeting with clients.

“As I met with more and more people, those consulting contracts turned into subcontracts and then eventually to full contracts. The government agencies I was working with began to say why is she not the prime contractor here? That decade plus experience and creating partnerships at the Chickasaw Nation Industries definitely came in handy as I had good references. Now I can swim in that same lake.”

Advances in technology definitely helped, as Jojola could be remotely working everywhere from her home to a coffee shop and have conferences anyplace. Still, the work to get the work is immense as calls for contracts posted on government boards need to be met with lengthy, detailed proposals that can take weeks to put together.

“Right now in the middle of summer I have three big proposals I am working on, so it is limiting the amount of travel I can do. It can take 20 to 30 days to produce just one of them. Usually though I do travel a lot as I have employees and contracts scattered around. When I’m needed I have to go so often re-route trips quickly.”

Right now, Montech has over a dozen, multi-year federal government contracts in place with personnel in New Mexico; Arizona; Oregon; Montana; Wisconsin; and Ohio. The company currently recruits for over 90 different labor categories serving government clientele with Administrative Support Services; Information Technology; Natural Resources; and Scientific Services. US Department of Defense, and Air Force – Instructional Design/Training Support.

Her list of heavyweight clients include the US Department of Defense, Air Force – Information Technology and Administrative Services: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service – Professional and Technical Support Services; US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs – Program Support, Records Management; US Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration – Scientific Management, Administrative Services, General Business Solutions and US Department of Defense, Air Force – Fitness Program Services, Religious Services, System Symposium Support.

Montech is a certified U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a), Woman Owned Small Business, and American Indian Corporation. Jojola and her management team all hold active U.S. Department of Defense; U.S. Department of Energy; and U.S. Department of the Interior personnel security clearances, which allow them access to the highest levels. She is a long way from filing papers as a clerk at age 17 and setting up pottery at market.

She has furthered her education and skills becoming a 2013 graduate of the U.S. SBA’s e200 Emerging Leaders program. In 2017, she co-authored the book “Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs of New Mexico: Surpassing Barriers and Stereotypes.” She serves as the 2018 Honorary Commander for the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; 2018 Chair on the University of New Mexico – Anderson Alumni Council; and a member of the 2018 Board of Directors on the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico

She has received a long list of awards and recognition including:

2017    Small Business Contractor of the Year, U.S. Department of Agriculture

2017   Woman Small Business Champion of the Year (U.S. Small Business Administration, NM)

2017    Top New Mexico American Indian-Owned Business (“Albuquerque Business First,” NM)

2016    First American Entrepreneur Award (National Center for American Indian Enterprises)

2016    Entrepreneurial Leadership Award (UNM, American Indian Business Association, NM)

2016    Top New Mexico American Indian-Owned Business (“Albuquerque Business First,” NM)

The award that means the most to her is the one she received in 2017 from The USDA as that was voted on by her clients and is a national not just regional award.

“My clients called and asked to come to my office which is unusual but they wanted to tell me in person they had nominated me and I had won and we were all going to Washington, D.C. to accept it.  That meant a lot and we had a memorable time in D.C.,” she says proudly. “I have some big new partnerships in the works and a new award I have been told I am receiving so right now am truly enjoying the ride.”

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