A conversation with Carlos Fernandez

02/09/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:21 AM

Carlos Fernandez didn’t know he wanted a glamorous career as a high-tech entrepreneur, but that’s what he got.

A Wichita native, Fernandez comes from a big family and worked in the family business, Chico’s Restaurant, when it was at 3949 W. Douglas.

As a teenager, he started his own car detailing business and got into computer design by creating his own business fliers. That led to a freelance graphic design and Web design career that took off when he started working for a record company. They flew him all over the world.

But as that business started changing, he realized he wanted to build his own business. He started building touch-screen kiosks, first for businesses and organizations in Newton, and later for Kansas City’s Union Station and the University of Kansas. He was recruited by Stephen Owens, owner of a number of businesses and a volunteer fireman in Hesston, to help develop a software application called Page-Out to help coordinate volunteer firefighters.

Fernandez, 30, is married to Adriana and they have seven children. They live in Newton.

What is Page-Out?

Page-Out is basically the on-call mobile solution for volunteer firefighters and EMS responders. What the mobile application does is assesses all of the chief’s resources. Currently, they basically utilize a list that they have to go down any time there is a fire. In rural areas such as Hesston and Halstead, anytime there is a fire during the day, the chief has to go down the list and call everyone on the list. They have pagers, but it’s got a very loud tone and most of the time during working hours they’ll turn that down. The chief knows who is working during the day and he keeps track of all that. But they don’t have a system to keep track of the on-call availability of everyone.

What were you doing before you got into business startups?

I got hired on as a freelancer with Upstairs Records out of Houston, which was a small independent label that was connected with Universal Music Group. They had a couple of artists in the Hispanic market and I did all their album cover work, their websites, their logos, I did everything. It was a good, good job. I worked with them for five or six years, and they flew me around the world. I went to Japan, I went to London, Moscow … it was at the time social media was just starting so they wanted everything documented. Every single thing. It would be me shooting photos, doing whatever.

How do you keep up with your field?

I’ve been able to discipline myself, getting up every morning at 5 to do any technology news you can think of and on the financing side as well. I do Bloomberg, I do the Wall Street Journal. I get in there and see what those people are liking as well so I can focus on that … I do one hour every day.

How do you manage to have such a large family and an entrepreneurial career?

My children range from 12 all the way down to one, so (my wife is) a busy, busy woman. She’s a saint, the backbone. I’ve done entrepreneurial ventures for 12 years and she’s been with me this long continuously, backing me up, listening to my crazy ideas … I do make time. I do find there is something great about having such a huge family. People freak out when I tell them the number. But if you put the amount of love I have from each of those children, I’m so blessed.

So what was getting into Pipeline Entrepreneurs like?

We were up in Kansas City for two days with the rest of the people who were there. And we got to meet each other and it was for me the most enlightening experience to know there were more people just like me. I felt like nobody else understood what I was going through. I felt isolated. But to be around people that knew everything, knew what I was going through, understand my drive.

How did you two start Page-Out?

This was Stephen’s idea. … His department was already looking for something. “We can’t find anything. We know there are other things out there that do some of this or that.” But he said, “What you do you think?” I said, “Build an app for it, so you don’t have to worry about it.” And he said, “Well, do it.”

What’s next for Page-Out?

We’ve had access to get a huge database of volunteer fire departments around the United States. There are about 37,000 and we have begun the market validation process, which is simply calling up and asking if they have a problem with on-call availability with their volunteer firefighters or if they have something in place to solve that problem. We’ve called 100 fire departments.

You did?

I did. I’m call center, customer service, software developer, everything. Me and Steve … we will continue and hopefully get 1,000 calls in and try to see if this is really something that is needed. We beta tested it in the Hesston Fire Department for about a year. We really, really want to make sure this is something that fire departments can utilize. In Hesston, they swear by it. Firefighters there have made it what it is today. We want that for other volunteer fire departments.

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