How Women in Construction Can Grow Their Contracting Business
Not only do women have the right skill sets to be contractors, but they can also hand the family business to daughters.
Jean Brownhill, Sweeten’s founder and a trained architect, started the company to bring support and guidance to general contractors. She also created SAW (Sweeten Accelerator for Women), a mission to advocate and promote skilled women contractors. The aim was to shift the current professional model and help bridge the gender gap for established and growing firms.
Sweeten matches general contractors with high-quality home renovation projects, vetted for readiness and appropriate budget. Contractors pay only when they win a project. Budgets start at $15,000 and average $67,000.
Here, Jean offers a view into why she started SAW and the opportunities she sees for Sweeten to help women grow their construction businesses.
Women already in the contractor role
I have personally seen a lot of women go into interior design or architecture and work in these industries for many years. What I saw was that we were frequently doing the job of the general contractor: managing subcontractors, choosing materials, or coming up with construction details. It’s so obvious to me that women are already doing that work—and just not being compensated for it.
That is the reason why I started SAW—and why I started Sweeten in general—because I believe that internet technology and the web allows for new access points. It allows for new opportunities. In the past, a woman would have had an incredibly hard time becoming a general contractor, getting clients, or hiring the subcontractor networks they needed.
Now there’s so much transparency and opportunity. Sweeten provides that job deal flow that can help a woman-led general contracting firm not only in its first few years of business but also as the company continues to grow. We are so excited to support that.
Including daughters in the conversation
The general contractor and the construction industry have long been dictated by nepotism and through union participation. Union participation is related to commercial work and we don’t typically do that type of project. In residential, however, it’s mostly through nepotism. Fathers would hand down their construction businesses to their sons—an intergenerational transfer. In some ways, Sweeten’s platform can help with the mentorship and tutelage to help women grow their businesses.
In conversations with our male general contractors, we have said, “Hey, you should think about giving this business to your daughter.” In fact, we have one in our network right now whose daughter went to architecture school. I said, “Your daughter should take over your business.” He said, “That’s so funny you’re saying that. I was just having that conversation and didn’t even think that she would want it.” And she does.
Breaking the contractor stereotype
Through the power of storytelling and our blog, we’re highlighting the incredible projects that our women general contractors have completed and are really changing the narrative around what the job is. The job of a general contractor—it is logistics, it is communication, it is delegation. You have to marshal labor and materials to a job site and orchestrate the labor and the materials to come together to finish a project. You do not need to swing a hammer. You do not need to be a burly guy. Whenever the image of a general contractor is, it is a false one. Those executive functioning skills, women are great at that.
For all those reasons, it was clear to me that a program like SAW needed to exist. We’re so excited to be able to support these women general contractors. Hopefully, it will encourage more women to join the industry because they have the skillset for it. It’s a great profession and offers a path to small business ownership. The hours can be very flexible if you have children at home.
Building a flow of work
Our women general contractors do not have a problem with getting hired by homeowners. The challenge is when women need to secure additional subcontractor labor and get them to work on their projects. Subcontractors still have a very outdated idea about who a general contractor is. The good news is that if there is a steady deal flow and steady work, money does talk. They can break that up really quick.
Read more about Sweeten’s women general contractors and see their work and reviews here.
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.