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Mayfield Evans: E & S Diversified Services.

While stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage in 1978, Mayfield Evans hit on a way to serve his country and his financial future as well. He and partner Willis Sims decided to bid on a state janitorial contract.

They put up an $8,000 bond between them and won the bid to clean the Alaska State Troopers headquarters on Tudor Road. The two men and their sons started waxing floors, and E & S Diversified Services Inc. was born.

"We pressed on. That went well. We decided there might be a future here," Evans remembers.

By December 1978, the fledgling firm was realizing $3,100 in monthly revenues. Like many entrepreneurs, Evans began with skills acquired in the military. He built a successful enterprise with 200 full-time and part-time employees and substantial contracts throughout Alaska and in the Lower 48, many of them servicing military installations.

The company's current job list reads like an atlas: a contract to perform janitorial, mess attendant (food service), shelf stocking and warehousing services in Spokane, Wash.; a mess attendant contract for the U.S. Coast Guard in Ketchikan; U.S. Air Force janitorial contracts at Shemya and Elmendorf; a contract to operate laundry and dry-cleaning services for Elmendorf, Fort Wainwright and Alaska's forward Air Force stations; and janitorial contracts for the Federal Aviation Administration in King Salmon and Anchorage and for the municipality of Anchorage and state of Alaska in Anchorage.

Such success was a distant dream when E & S Diversified began. Evans, his partner and family have struggled against red tape, shifting bid procedures, economic recession and racial discrimination.

That first job taught Evans and his partner a lot, but the lessons were just beginning. After several years of success, E & S Diversified lost a major contract. The owners responded by diversifying -- adding construction site cleanup and painting to their services. By 1985, the firm again was riding high, and Evans bought out his partner.

"At that time, I decided we needed to expand Outside because it was so competitive in Alaska. I guess I did hundreds of bids and didn't get one, but I learned a lot about bidding procedures Outside," Evans says. He used savings and sold off personal stocks to travel, research bids and buy equipment.

In 1986, disaster struck again. The municipality consolidated several of its janitorial jobs into a single contract, and E & S Diversified again lost a major portion of its revenues when it failed to land the work. The company's gross income plummeted from $70,000 a month to $16,000.

"It was devastating," Evans recalls. "I didn't know which way to go. I was really in the dumps. So everything that came out, I bid on. I continued to work nights and bid by day. I think I exhausted most of my savings during that time."

E & S Diversified finally landed a job at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California that revived revenues to about $25,000 a month. Other jobs followed.

But by 1987, Evans was no longer content with just getting by: He wanted to move into the big leagues. Having been turned down for a bank loan, Evans had been forced to give up a major contract when he couldn't pull together the necessary resources. But in 1987, his 1983 application to the federal 8(a) program was accepted. The program, operated by the U.S. Small Business Administration, provides technical assistance to minority-owned firms and helps them secure government contracts on a non-competitive basis, as long as strict requirements are fulfilled.

Even then, the first 8(a)-assisted contract didn't come through for months. To maintain an aggressive and competitive position, Evans continued infusing the business with his own money. Evans sold the last of his stock in late 1988, and during the first quarter of 1989, E & S Diversified won five major contracts.

"If 8(a) hadn't come through, then I would have had to close the business. Without that help, we could never have gotten where we are today. I could never have gotten the capital to do the bigger projects. We would have stayed in the lower category," Evans says.

While Evans feels he has not encountered widespread prejudice in his extensive public-sector work, he has found it difficult to land private-sector contracts. He recalls winning one janitorial contract from a private firm: He lined up employees and bought supplies, only to have the contract canceled when the company realized E & S Diversified was African-American-owned.

Evans worries about the fate of other minority-owned firms throughout Alaska. He hopes to pass on to others some of the knowledge he's gained through the years through the newly formed African American Business Council, of which he is a board member. Although the road to parity and prosperity has been hard for Evans, the minority business owner's perseverance and attention to detail and quality have paid off.
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Article Details
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Author:Richardson, Jeffrey
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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