Russ: This is the BusinessMakers Show, and for today’s guest we are featuring a seventeen year old corporate veteran, an executive at that, at a Fortune 10 company who has left the company to start her own Business. I’m talking about Alma Del Toro, now Founder and CEO of Blue Bull Energy. Alma appeared two week ago on The EnergyMakers Show, and we were totally impressed with her passion and enthusiasm for her new mission. We enter the discussion where I have just asked Alma to tell us about Blue Bull Energy.
Alma: Blue Bull Energy is a fairly new company. I just founded it a couple months ago, and basically, we’re at the early stages, but it has three phases in my vision to reach it’s potential, which is in about seven years. The first phase is consulting; second one is tap into the gap of supplier in the energy sector as a minority, a woman owned business; and eventually move into the seven-year projection, will be to own my energy company, whatever shape or form that may be. And as we’ve been talking earlier, it could be oil and gas, it may be alternative energy, it may be the energy of the people that actually works at Blue Bull that taps into a whole other energy level or potential.
Russ: Wow, ok. So, very early stage; two months. How has it felt so far?
Alma: Actually, very exciting. I already have a mixed portfolio, and I have about three contracts in the works and two signed with trust control, and I have one for business development and new area access for Latin America, Mexico specifically, which is my niche, with one of the largest oil and gas companies; they are from Europe, so I’m very excited about it.
Russ: Ok, well and Mexico is such a happening place right now, right?
Alma: It is; it is.
Russ: I mean they have opened it up for outside investment, so it’s like a gold rush, isn’t it?
Alma: Yes, we’ve been waiting for 70 plus years, so it’s definitely exciting.
Russ: Ok, does it, did you have a background of knowing about the oil and gas business in Mexico?
Alma: Not in Mexico particularly until I joined BP about 17 years ago, so my experience started at BP in the Amoco days. I was interviewed by Amoco, hired by BP in 1999, and in BP I had about 10 different leadership roles; I worked chemicals, downstream, and upstream. I’ve managed budgets from $400 million to up to $4 billion. I’ve done business development for BP in several countries, and executed big deals and with material impact to the bottom line, to NBP. I had the opportunity to work in over 10 different countries, manage large teams, disciplinary teams, technical, functional. So, my last role in BP as a Senior Advisor for Business Development, Western Hemisphere, Mexico was my main area of focus. I’m a lawyer for Mexico and I’ve been basically bred in one of the largest oil and gas companies in the industry, so working and figuring out what are the rules in the game, how do you enter Mexico from a downstream perspective or upstream, so that was my area of focus for the last three years at BP. So, it’s definitely a passionate area for me.
Russ: My goodness. It sounds like, was this a 17-year preparation just for doing what you’re doing?
Alma: Basically, yes. If you were to read the way my career was to be deployed at BP, you know when I reached my milestone, what do you want to be when you grow up, it was definitely to head Mexico for BP.
Russ: Wow, so was your whole BP career, I mean your whole oil and gas career with BP, or was there some other company?
Alma: It’s always been with BP, yes. Before that I was a civil rights activist, basically.
Russ: Ok, what interests you so much today about doing this for the service businesses? I mean, is that where all the action is?
Alma: Well, from my perspective, what I see, is companies like BP and basically all the rest of the major oil and gas companies, they have a very big agenda and interest because they see the value of diversity and inclusion. So, part of the strategy of businesses, for example, is to bring a diverse portfolio of suppliers. They understand the market differently, they tap into different resources, so I want to position Blue Bull Energy in the next 3-5 years to be the supplier of choice for these major oil and gas companies, because I can bring both things; the knowledge as to how it takes and what it takes to run one of these companies and deliver, but also as a supplier, you know, I would understand what is it that they’re looking for. And my goal is to fill in that gap. So, one of the things that I’m doing with Blue Bull energy is getting certified as a woman and minority owned business, so that is part of my projection in the next seven years.
Russ: It sounds like you’ve got this all figured out, for sure.
Alma: Well, I hope so.
Russ: Ok. So, interesting that you spent as much time as you did in the oil and gas business before you got here, but were you growing up, as a little girl were you saying, one of these days I want to be with a big oil and gas company?
Alma: No, what I did say though is I wanted to be a lawyer when I was about 7 years old and work in a major company, but my background would never allow me to think this broad. I grew up in a very poor neighborhood in Chicago. My dad worked in construction, hanging drywall, and my mom worked in the tomato fields in California. I’m one of four, so at a very early stage after I was born in Chicago my parents figured out there was no way they could give us a good education. So, we moved back to Mexico with my mom where I studied law. We only got to see my dad twice a year for about a month each time; two months, and that was basically our lives for the next 20 years, and that’s the price my family paid for us to have a good education. After I studied law in Mexico, I came back to the states to pursue a master’s, and that’s when I stumbled with the energy industry and I fell in love with it.
Russ: Ok, well describe the stumble. How was it that you got in?
Alma: I was working at the time, in 1998, as the advocacy manager in the National Center for Latinos with Disabilities, in Chicago. And part of my role was to identify Latino leaders and major corporations that will come inspire our kids to go beyond high school and to pursue education. So, during one of those meetings that I had at a conference, I found this leader who was Mexican in BP; at that time, it was Amoco. So he came and saw me in action and he said, hey Alma, we need a lawyer in our team because we are exporting nitriles to Mexico. And I thought, what the heck I have to do in the energy sector, you know, I’m a civil rights activist. Well, little did I know, there is so much potential in the energy sector and I’ve always believed it truly is a force for good. While working at BP, I was able to raise over $80,000, and we built and orphanage in Ethiopia; I have put about 3 kids through school, one of them in medical school in Ethiopia; founded a micromanaging project, a microfinancing project in Kenya, in Mandera, close to Somalia, and I’ve been able to do so many things by working in the energy sector, so I absolutely love it.
Russ: Wow, a force for good. Ok, so was it automatic once you met this guy, or did you actually have to go through an interview process?
Alma: Oh, no it was not automatic, you could only imagine. So, he put my name in and then I got called for an interview. But given my background, I was nervous about as to how did you even approach something like this, so I asked my mom a day before the interviews, that we can spy in the parking lot how actually people dressed. At the time, I was driving a 1972 rusty old Toyota. And so we park right there just to observe for half a day how people dressed to come to work at these places.
Russ: Did that change what you wore for your interview?
Alma: Oh absolutely. After that we had to go shopping. I had nothing like that in my wardrobe, so that tells you a little bit about the growth that I’ve done over 17 years working at BP, and they’ve been absolutely amazing giving me opportunities and developing, to the point that most of my advisors and mentors are actually executives from BP that have left. And they meet with me on a regular basis, and I met a wonderful investor in New York, and he’s right there by my side. They listen to my ideas, they help me shape my project, and they basically motivate me to keep going forward. And I still have wonderful mentors that are still at BP, very senior executives, and this is the beauty of the industry; they truly help you. And it’s all about helping each other. I really believe that if you use the assets that come to you, and you use them in a way that you can make a difference, that’s what Blue Bull is about to me. It was my time, it was my turn to turn things that I’ve been given and provide that to others.
Russ: Well, you’re so qualified. I mean, your experience level, the fact that you’re a lawyer, the fact that you’re bilingual and understand Mexico and probably South America, it seems like you’re sitting right in the sweet spot of the future.
Alma: That’s why I think this was a pivotal time for me to decide if I was to stay in BP, it was going to be to stay until I retire. And if not, you know, I still have 25 years to give back to the industry. So, I thought this is my time to test if I can do this on my own.
Russ: Great, well we wish you good luck, and thank you for sharing your story with us.
Alma: Thank you, Russ.
Russ: And I love what you said about oil and gas. It’s, what was your exact phrase?
Alma: It’s a force for good.
Russ: A force for good.
Alma: My friends laugh about it but I truly believe it.
Russ: That’s great, I love it too. And that wraps up my discussion with Alma Del Toro, Founder and President of Blue Bull Energy.
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