A buzz saw is a common sight and sound at home construction sites. Out of the norm is the voice of Kim Grant Brown, "got my microwave ... Thank you." She is one of only two women-owned home construction companies in Shelby County. "Not all women want to get dirty every day. I got mud boots that go up my knees in my car. I can't wear high heels on the job site."
Richard Grant from Grant & Company says, "it's really hard to get into this industry whether you're male or female.
"It could be intimidating for some women to walk into a house. Probably 90 to 99% of my subs are males," says Brown.
The 29-year old got started early in the family business while still in college. She came home and built her first house the summer between her junior and senior year. "Just loved the industry, loved the people in it."
In 2005, she followed the Grant and Company family tradition of creating a construction business on her own. Richard Grant says, "she does everything herself, pays her own bills, gets her own construction loans and stuff like that. She does not work for me and has never worked for me."
Her dad acted as mentor but Grant Brown has to put in the work to be successful. "Anybody can build a house. You can build a house. Knowing what to build, where, what the price point is, is a whole other ball game." It means constantly staying on top of the new regulations, industry trends, thinking like a contractor even if she doesn't pick up a hammer.
Starting as a home contractor, whether you're a man or woman takes more than just family connections. You have to find a job with a construction company to learn every aspect of the business, pass all the required tests for licenses, and have money put aside to buy land, pay suppliers and employees. It can be just as hard as it sounds.
When the hammer of the mortgage crisis came down on the housing industry, Grant Brown, a newbie with an old industry name, also had to adjust like the boys to survive. "The sizes of the houses we were building. The floor plans we were doing. People have much tighter budgets than they used to have, rethink all of our floor plans."
So far she has made it. 25 houses sold this year. That's almost double the number sold in 2010, in an economy that still is shaky at best. "You have to know how to relax and know the world is not going to end. There is always a solution to whatever is going on. And figure out what is the best route for myself."