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Woman entrepreneur building and thriving

By Paula Anderson 


Many times when we see a construction company working to erect a new building, we automatically think about a man as the owner. 


While most construction companies are owned by men, there are a few woman-owned construction companies erecting structures too.  According to the Memphis Area Minority Contractors Association (MAMCA), a certifying agency in the city, 35 are women and 87 are men. 


Serenia Curtis, founder of Curtis' Construction said, “I never imagined my life as a general contractor.” But 18 years later, she is thriving and building in Memphis, West Memphis, Arkansas and beyond.


Serenia Curtis: Photo Credit Paula Anderson

Entrepreneurship is about taking risks and solving problems.  Curtis said, “When I was working for a radiation company, I heard T.D. Jakes speak about his father’s janitorial business.” 

According to Curtis, Jakes said, "His dad took pride in mopping the floors.” After listening to that statement, her mindset shifted. 


Her first construction venture occurred when she went to give a client a quote to clean her house. During the project, the client wanted to sell the property. 

Curtis said, “I decided that I would buy the house and I flipped it for an $18,000 profit.”  Shortly after that purchase, she obtained her residential building contractor’s license which allowed her to work with local builders.


However, she became frustrated when she was not treated fairly. 


This prompted her to obtain her general contractor’s license and bid on projects independently. 


All of this happened during the housing crisis in 2008, which proved to be a turning point in the real estate market.  She received a subcontract for $150,000 and this paved the way for her to become a GC a month later for a $258,000 project performing roofing services.


“Working in a male-dominated space has not been easy,” said Curtis.   


“As a woman, I face a lot of challenges because I am often overlooked because of my color and gender.” 


Stephanie Alexander, executive director of Memphis Area Minority Contractors (MAMCA) said, "The biggest challenge for women in this space is RESPECT. Construction is a male-dominated business. Another challenge for all contractors is the current workforce and financial capital.”


Although this industry has been a challenge for Curtis, it does not stop her from continuing to stand steadfast in the midst of adversity. 


“I was an athlete in school and I was taught to never give up.” Therefore, when people say, ‘I can’t that adds fuel to my fire,”added Curtis.  


Curtis is currently working on the construction of the Shelby County Health Department project as a subcontractor.  Her company is responsible for “framing, drywall and acoustical ceiling package.” She is working in partnership with Turner Construction, the prime contractor.   


“We are the contractor responsible to bring all other trades through the building to ensure an early completion date,” said Curtis. 


The expected completion date is May 2020, according to Curtis. 


Her ability to not accept defeat motivates her to continue everyday in a male-dominated industry.   


“It is not easy, you have to be built for this, and I know this is my purpose and gift from God because it comes natural,” said Curtis. 


With all the adversities of gender inequality in the construction space, Curtis is willing to help other women learn about the field, which she said, “requires theory and practical knowledge."


Curtis has achieved a measure of success, but her goal is to focus more on business development and growing her company.   

“It takes energy and sacrifice to be a business owner because I live, eat and sleep my business,” said Curtis. 


To learn more about Curtis Construction, visit the website at https://www.curtisconstruction.net.

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