KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A decade after Brandy McCombs started her construction business, she has more than 75 people at her Kansas City company and plans to continue to grow.
“I started it in 2009 when everybody thought I was crazy, but I felt it was actually an opportunity because everybody else was closing their doors,” she said.
McCombs didn’t start out in construction.
“It was actually by accident,” she said, leaving the restaurant industry for better hours. “I basically answered an ad in the local paper.”
Now, International Builders & Consultants (IBC) specializes in interior finishes. They put the finishing touches on the inside of construction projects. The other part of the business came after McCombs saw an opportunity.
Now, IBC also helps traffic flow safely around construction sites.
“And here we are four years later doing $6 million in revenue just on that division,” she said.
But finding women to work on construction is often a struggle.
“I probably know about 10 women and that’s with two different trades,” she said.
“I need more women, I want more women,” said McCombs. “And so does everybody else.”
Women make up less than ten percent of the construction workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 7 percent of construction managers are women.
“We’re 51 percent of the population and it doesn’t make any sense that we’re less than 10 percent of the construction work force, even worse in the trades,” said Catherine Schoenenberger, President of the National Association of Women In Construction. “The construction industry really needs us."
Schoenenberger said the Greater Kansas City chapterhas 110 members and is actually the largest NAWIC chapter across the country.
For McCombs, finding women is a top priority.
"I have multiple ladies that I’ve gotten into the industry that have, are still actually here to this day because they said, ‘Huh, I think I’ll try that’ just like I did,” she said.
Angie Theodoriches is a licensed cosmetologist who made the jump into construction a few years ago to become a flagger on the KC Streetcar project.
She now works in the office at IBC.
“In the construction industry, it is hard to find someone who knows the field and the office,” said McCombs about Theodoriches.
“Brandy has been a true inspiration for me,” said Janet Lockridge. “She is unstoppable and therefore I’m unstoppable.”
Lockridge credits McCombs with helping her take the leap to start her own business, calling her a mentor.
“I do consulting as far as emergency plans,” she said.
Construction is a second career for Tracey Anderson.
“I advise on anything that opens, closes, and locks,” she said.
“Janet is my cheerleader, I am hers,” she said. “We are all stronger together.” And they want to be role models too.
“Making sure that more minority women understand the importance,” said Lockridge. “These are good paying jobs. These are great fields to be in.”
“Empowering,” said McCombs. “Big. Huge. I think that’s where I became fearless because people did believe in me.”
If you are considering a career in construction, McCombs recommends reaching out to the Builder’s Association of Kansas City where she serves on the board. She suggests their mentorship program and hands-on training facility.