Mark Llano, a decorated Marine veteran, founded Source One Distributors in 2003 to supply equipment to the United States military, other government agencies and law enforcement.
The son of Cuban immigrants, Llano, 43, started the Wellington-based firm in his garage using his savings and credit cards and has built Source One into a highly successful business and an important supplier of tactical military gear in the complex, multi-billion dollar government procurement market.
“I wanted to support the men and women fighting in the field for the United States,” said Llano, who has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of South Florida and completed a Minority Business Executive Program at the University of Washington.
Last year, Source One had revenues of about $180 million, up from $150 million in 2010. “We were profitable in our first year and have been growing ever since,” said Llano, the founder, president and CEO of Source One.
Llano was working as an investment banker in Florida in the 1990s and early 2000s when he decided to leave a successful career and follow the dream of starting up his own company.
“I found a niche for tactical gear and saw an opportunity to set up a company that offered value, not just in pricing but in quality customer service,” said Llano, who grew up in Tampa. He realized he could develop a business and at the same time help Americans in the armed forces.
Having served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1988-1992, Llano, who taught hand-to-hand combat, understood that troops on the battlefield needed the right type of quality equipment delivered on time, and saw that the government could benefit from a one-stop-shop that offered a wide variety of items and understood the mission requirements. The government often uses one contract to acquire a small number of items or a single item. “Why not make it more efficient by using one contract for a wide variety of items a unit needs?” he added.
Llano teamed up with Randy Webb, the company’s COO, and began researching the complex world of military bidding and contracting.
“I didn’t know a thing about contracting with the government,” Llano said. After receiving help from the Procurement Technical Assistance Program at Florida Atlantic University, which teaches small businesses about government contracting procedures, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Llano and Webb put in long days, traveling to military bases all over the country, meeting with procurement officers and finding out what they needed. They also met with manufacturers that could supply products used by the military.
Within 90 days, Source One made a sale — chemical light sticks and camouflage face paint — to the Florida National Guard. In its first year in business, the company had sales of $1.8 million, and revenues grew exponentially in subsequent years.
Source One set up its website in 2004, signed contracts with organizations like the Prime Vendor Tailored Logistics Support Program, GSA and the DOD EMALL (which are vehicles for military purchasing), visited trade shows and continued to expand its network of suppliers.
The company supplies an enormous range of U.S.-made items, including tents, shelters, uniforms, boots, optical devices, military backpacks, body armor, knives, firearms, sniper gear and field medical kits. It landed multimillion dollar contracts with agencies such as the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Department of State and the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia.