Mark Llano

President and CEO
Source One Distributors
Wellington, Fla.
U.S. Marine Corps Reserves

Mark Llano, CEO of Wellington, Fla.- based Source One Distributors Inc., has managed to keep his company growing, even after hurricanes Frances, Jean and Wilma wreaked havoc on his business.

“Being in Florida, you get used to the occasional storm and frequent rain,” Llano said. “However, nothing could compare to three hurricanes in two years.”

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma struck right before Source One was set to begin delivery on its largest prime contract to date. Even though nearly all shipping had ground to a halt in South Florida, Llano was still able to deliver. He developed and implemented a contingency plan that included acquiring a satellite phone to keep the lines of communication open and obtaining multiple generators to power the facility.

“That was huge,” Llano said about Source One’s success despite the natural disaster. “That was a major contract for the U.S. Marine Corps. If Source One were to be late on the deliveries, our credibility would have been seriously damaged. Your reputation is key. Don’t short sell yourself, your abilities, your team and always put yourself in the mind of the customer. I can’t stress how important your reputation is to a successful business.”

Llano joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1987 and formed a lifelong commitment to his fellow Marines. He was approached about reenlisting in 2001, but was forced with a difficult decision. He was married and had two children by this time and was enjoying a successful career as an investment banker. But, he felt a deep connection to his fellow Marines and wanted to serve. This deep connection inspired Llano to establish Source One as a way of serving the needs of his brothers and sisters in arms without rejoining the Marines.

“I saw this as a way that I could give even more back,” Llano said.

Source One began humbly enough on February 13, 2003 in Llano’s daughter’s bedroom. Armed only with a cell phone and a computer, Llano began researching the vast network of opportunities available in supplying various government agencies.

“I started looking at the Department of Defense (DoD) and the [Department of Homeland Security] DoH, and there’s 23 agencies in the DoH alone,” Llano said. “I literally took a big board and made a sort of tree chart that illustrated the opportunities.”

He said he spent in excess of 100 hours per week researching during those first three months. His hard work paid off as Source One saw more than $1.6 million in sales after its first six months in operation.

“Owning a business requires a daily gut-check,” Llano said. “You’ve got to ask yourself every morning if you’re willing to do what it takes.”

Llano said his philosophy is guided by some simple, yet profound advice from his grandfather.

“I remember he told me ‘If you believe in who you are, you will become what you believe,’” Llano said. “That always stuck with me and I’m reminded of it everyday. If you believe that you’re a winner, you will be.”

Llano said that being named the Vetrepreneur of the Year will help him show other veteran entrepreneurs how reach their goals and achieve success.

“I’m definitely humbled and honored by this,” he said. “I just want other business owners to see the opportunities that are out there and any obstacle can be overcome with teamwork, dedication, and hard work.”