An Entrepreneur Describes the Forces That Drive Innovation in DenverJan 12, 2022
"I don’t believe in ‘microwaved solutions,’” said Monika Celado-Stenger ’99. She speaks with the confidence and clarity of a leader who has worked hard to forge her own path—and learned a thing or two along the way.
Monika moved to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when she was 17. Since then, she has steadily, strategically built her life, her career, and her own company here in Denver. Today Monika is President and CEO of Servitech, an electrical services contractor.
But she will be the first to tell you that success didn’t come easy. It took the ingenuity to create opportunities around her, as well as the spirit to meet those opportunities with fearlessness and drive.
A Challenging Road, and a Fresh Start
When Monika started college at age 19, she knew she had a challenging road ahead. “I had to start by learning how to speak English,” she reflected. Her road had detours: She dropped out, moved to New York City, and found herself “kind of lost.” She soon recognized it was time for a reset. “Then I came back to Denver, enrolled at CU Denver, and got pregnant at 25,” she said. “I graduated two years later with my child in my arms—literally.”
What led to her success this time around? “The environment I landed in in Denver was helpful,” Monika recalled. “Having my classmates at CU Denver be older professionals—it gave me an example: Okay, these are older individuals, advancing their careers. It showed me the power of education. It doesn’t matter at what age I graduate.”
“If You Don’t Find a Job, You Make a Job”
At 27, Monika received her degree in psychology and began searching for jobs in H.R. Interviews came, but offers did not. “I come from entrepreneurial parents,” Monika said. “I saw from a very young age the work ethic and the resilience required. If you don’t find a job, you make a job for yourself.” So that’s exactly what Monika did.
She experimented with different business models and ultimately founded Servitech, recruiting electricians and technical services professionals in her network to join her in building Servitech’s brand as a full-service electrical contractor. “I started with professional services,” Monika said. “I wouldn’t say no to anything. ‘Sure, I can do that for you,’ and I’d figure it out.”
“It’s amazing what happens,” Monika added. “I went to Kinko’s, created a logo, printed some cards with ‘Servitech, Monika Stenger, CEO.’ It’s amazing what that piece of paper can do.”
It’s even more amazing what 21 years of hard work can do. Today, Monika’s company has 63 employees, is generating $20 million per year in revenue, and just launched a foundation with a mission to reinvest in the community that made Monika’s own success possible.
A Community Friendly to New Ideas
“Denver is just a very friendly community to new businesses and new ideas,” Monika said. “Outside of Washington D.C., Denver has the most federal agencies. We have a very robust medical industry, healthcare industry, aerospace. You have all these economic engines”—engines that Monika believes entrepreneurs can strategically serve with innovative businesses.
In launching her foundation—and in her volunteer roles on the board of the Mi Casa Resource Center and the Denver Latino Commission—Monika has also experienced firsthand her community’s willingness to give back: “Denver is a great incubator for nonprofits because of our culture here of giving back.”
“This is why I love Colorado,” she reflected. “We need to let people know who are moving into the state: You are welcome here, but you need to understand that we are a give-back state. We take care of those who are less fortunate.”