As a young man, Diego Lujan bounced back and forth between the dusty San Luis Valley and the urban neighborhoods of Colorado Springs. The men in his family laid concrete and built roofs. Meanwhile, Lujan “ran the streets,” as he puts it. He had no desire or expectation of one day working long hours in a blue collar job, much less running his own business or becoming a role model for other young people who also felt lost.
At 18 years old, with a young son and a wife he needed to support, Lujan became a plumber out of necessity — but as one job led to the next, he learned that there was a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from a hard day’s work. And it was the sort of work he quickly became proud to do.
“When most people think of plumbers or plumbing, they think of the Hollywood stereotypical fat plumber with a buttcrack cleaning out toilets or cleaning drains all day, right?” he said. “That’s what I thought a plumber was as well, but I realized real quick that that’s not what plumbing is. It isn’t that at all. The infrastructure that it takes and the knowledge that it takes to take care of that infrastructure is super challenging.”
After several years spent working with a variety of companies — Heating & Plumbing Engineers Inc., Vision Mechanical, Frontier Mechanical Systems Inc. — Lujan had learned the trade inside and out. He had grown as a person, too, having learned how to take direction and focus his energy on something positive.
“Plumbing really saved my life and took me out of poverty,” he said.
Lujan now uses the willpower he harnessed to overcome the challenges of his youth to run Alphalete Plumbing & Mechanical, which he founded in 2015. His company now serves over 2,000 customers every year in the Springs.
Last year, the Colorado Springs Hispanic Business Council honored Lujan as a Hispanic Rising Professional of the Year.
“Diego epitomizes the Latino culture of hard work, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Joe Aldaz, who nominated Lujan to be named a 2021 Rising Star. “He has built his business from the ground up and through his experience intimately understands the challenges, struggles, and successes of what it takes to be a successful business owner.”
Before the end of 2021, Lujan plans to open a trade school to show other young people an opportunity to start out in plumbing, which he found out over the last year is a service people simply can’t live without — even during a public health crisis.
“Every business through the pandemic has had its own challenges, but if there’s anything this pandemic has done it has solidified the plumber’s place in this world because we haven’t missed a beat,” he said. “We have been busier serving the community and really have been a driving force behind the economic impact within our community.”
Editors Note: The young professionals featured on these pages are winners of the CSBJ’s Rising Stars awards. Each is an active, engaged member in their communities and at work and were selected by a committee of former winners.