Kathy Hampton brings 'woman's spin' to construction cleanup jobs
In both her professional and personal lives, Kathy Hampton has always worn many hats. Working alongside her husband in the construction industry, she always worked two jobs, while also raising a family.
When she started her own business in 2006, Kathy was prepared to tackle new challenges. Volunteer work at a local school’s SUN program keeps her grounded to what matters most: family and community.
In her own words, Kathy talks about the transition from being a contractor to taking the rein as business owner.
I’m a grassroots person – I started from the bottom and worked myself to where I’m at right now. I always worked two jobs at one time. I was a lead housekeeper at Kaiser Permanente for many years, while also working different construction cleanup jobs at Labor Hall 296.
|Kathy works alongside Mark Bodyfelt, a project manager with Stacy and Witbeck Inc. on cleanup work for the Tuality-Sherwood portion of the Washington County Commuter Rail project.
I’d come behind main contractor — like people who did sheetrock or installed countertops and floors — and assist with cleaning it up and setting them up. I’d help them coordinate best and safest way to get work done in a professional and safe way.
I worked with my husband, Percy Hampton, who has led the local labor hall for a number of years. His experience has influenced me quite a bit. I think it’s very rare that a woman is able to go to work with their husband on construction jobs. I was able to see on a daily basis what his world really consists of.
I always had the idea of having my own business. I’ve always had my own ideals how I want to do things. I wanted to change the way of doing construction cleanup — taking it from a man’s standpoint to put a woman’s spin on it.
I think that [women] tend to take more notice of detail. I tend to look at a job from a safety standpoint, and also focusing on being fast and efficient, in a detail-oriented way.
I started Kathy H. Construction Cleanup in 2006. It’s taken me over 15 years to jump out here. When I was working for somebody else, I knew and understood how they wanted the job done. I kept doing it their way. In the back of my mind, I knew how I want to do this. I didn’t have the confidence at that time to pull it together. It took me all those years to do it for someone else, and to say: It’s time to get out here.
I wanted to show that women who have done construction work can be owners of their companies. I wanted to show that my work and my ideals are just as good as what I was doing for someone else.
I bring in a quality staff of people. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to reach back from where I came from and work with some of the people from the local union hall.
Being part of the local union hall has its advantages. Jobs through the local union hall have incorporated the health and safety components of the job.
I may not make a lot of money – but it’s always my goal to be fair to the contractor and my employees. I want to do a quality job, but also want the workers to get a fair benefit package and a fair wage. I always offer a fair competitive bid; quality in work and performance; and the determination to do it right. My main goal is to make sure that the job is done right.
I’m a member of the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs. Their meetings offer a great way to network with potential and current clients. I’m also involved with the National Association of Minority Contractors of Oregon (NAMCO). I like being exposed to the contractors, but also have the support of other business owners. Everyone has been very supportive of my efforts. I still so much I have to learn.
Starting up the business has been a challenge, although I have a lot of experience in the field and providing the services. To qualify as a minority and woman-owned business, all the requirements and paperwork can be very intimidating and overwhelming. I kept networking with people who are grassroots just like me, to find a support system.
I have such a mixed racial background – I’m African-American, Native American and white Irish. I think this has given me the opportunity over the years to look at things from different perspectives. To be frank, it has made me more passionate in dealing with people.
I’ve been fortunate to network with women business owners who were able to help and offer a support system. I’ve worked alongside men in construction jobs, and sat down in lunch rooms with them. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know the people who could make a difference.
The most important quality of an entrepreneur is being a dreamer, believing I can. It’s important not to have any fear to venture and ask questions. No question is too dumb to ask. Stay focused on your dream, and find a support system.
Do your homework on your market. Stay focused on the changes in industry. Stay flexible but determined. Find your funding – who has money who can help you? Find role models: people who have been successful in the industry.
I’ve had many a moment when I’ve had to sit back and regroup after I’ve heard ‘No’ too many times. I needed to get that spirit back within me to say yes, I can and I will.
This is my business. This is my dream. It can happen. If I failed, at least I tried.
But I didn’t believe that I was going to fail. I was so determined. I’m going to pick myself up and keep going. I’m going to keep looking for support; finding out new ways of doing things; and talking to new people. I just want to stay active in the market. I have a major service to offer, and I have a viable business model.