Raul Danny Vargas has beaten the odds all his life.
The son of Puerto Rican immigrants, Vargas, 47, was raised by a single mother on welfare in Brooklyn. At an early age, he faced poverty and hunger. “We lived in a ramshackle apartment, and there were days when I would eat ice cubes to curb hunger. My mother never learned to read or write, and she didn’t speak English.”
In spite of the strikes against him, Vargas said he was “blessed” with an older sister who encouraged him to stay in school and reach for more.
“I was running as fast as I could. I always tell my children now that the outcome may not be guaranteed, but the opportunity is,” he said.
Never afraid of hard work, Vargas had his first job at 12, selling snow cones from a pushcart on the streets of Brooklyn. “I would scrape shavings from this huge block of ice, and then put it in a cup and pour syrup over it. I remember that vividly. I did every job you can think of. I moved displays in big office buildings, did temp jobs… hard work was the never issue.”
He became the first person in his family to earn a college degree, eventually serving in the Air Force. But he always dreamed of owning his own business and launching a career in politics.
In 2004, after a career in the telecommunications industry, Vargas started VARCom Solutions in Herndon.
The award-winning company provides strategic marketing and high-profile public relations services to small businesses and major corporations.
As a small business owner, with 15 to 20 contract employees at any given time, Vargas thought he had weathered the worst business crisis when the economy shattered in 2008.
But sequestration—and its uncertain ripple effects—are more challenging, both personally and professionally, Vargas said.
“The uncertainty is the stake in the heart,” Vargas said during an interview Monday. “I have the benefit of a diverse client base, with both commercial and government clients. But many of my commercial clients have government contracts. Because of the uncertainty, it’s like everyone is holding their breath, so clients are pulling back and everything has stalled.”
He said he has already noticed agencies, such as the Department of Defense, shelving projects after his company expected to be awarded the contract.
“I would say the issue that we’ve faced is that we’re bidding on something, it’s basically a done deal, and then, as we’re getting close to moving forward, because of the uncertainty of sequestration, the contracts were put on hold, so we can’t keep people on the bench,” Vargas said.
“Those of us just trying to move ahead, and keep the economy humming, are dealing with the headwind of a dysfunctional federal government.”
Vargas is also a politically active business leader. He was appointed by the U.S. Congress as a commissioner on the National Museum of the American Latino Commission and by Governor McDonnell to the Virginia Workforce Council. He also served as chairman of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, the first Hispanic to chair a mainstream chamber in the history of Virginia.
His political connections have given him a sobering perspective on the events in Washington.
“Everyone I’ve talked with on Capitol Hill says they are frightened over our fiscal situation,” he said.
“I do agree that cuts need to be made. We need to be able to rein in spending. But this is the most absurd way of going about it. This blind slashing is inefficient. Honestly, I think a 12-year-old with a lemonade stand could do a better job.”