A Woman Contractor’s Small Business Success Story

I was raised in an era where women were expected to stay at home and care for the children while the man went to work to provide for his family. By the time my kids were old enough to walk to school in the rural village where we lived, and make their own lunch, I was available for part time work as a substitute teacher.

When my husband passed away I had no choice but to gain full time employment, which I secured in a government office. When I was over 40, the recession hit with a vengeance and I was laid off when government programs were cut. Rather than pounding the sidewalks in search of another job, I took an inventory of my skills and determined that I could start a woman-owned and operated home renovation business.

Here’s what I realized. Throughout most of my child-rearing years while my husband was working, I frequently had sections of our home torn apart to make improvements. I had a natural instinct for construction and design. My husband was an excellent cook, so we were considered an unusual couple, with reversed roles in the family.

I began by submitting a list of my skills to local women’s shelters and retirement homes where the residents typically felt threatened when there was a man on premises. It worked out quite well for everyone involved. The women living in the facilities felt comfortable with my presence and I had the skills to handle the small repairs needed on the buildings.

I put together a flyer to put up in the small city a few minute’s drive from my village. Then I placed ads in local community papers. I started getting phone calls from people that needed their homes painted or repaired. I got a few contracts to do bathroom and kitchen renovations. My work was high quality and I spent a lot of time with my clients, learning about their lifestyles and how I could help them improve their homes.

Eventually I gained several regular clients that called me frequently to do work around their homes. The jobs got bigger and I had to hire some help. Some of the local laws changed and I had to get a contractor’s license. I now have a company truck, a garage full of tools and a team of excellent subcontractors. I don’t do much of the actual labor anymore; I manage the jobs and continue to work directly with my clients and help them determine the best designs for their home renovation projects.

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