WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION: BLAIR FREEMAN
Blair Freeman is the only 100% woman owned, 100% minority owned Class A Contractor in the state of Nebraska. Blair Freeman Group President Ashley Kuhn and Vice President Maranda Adams shared their insights with Avenue Scholars on what it’s like to be a woman in construction.
What led you to pursue a career in the construction industry?
ASHLEY: I grew up in North Omaha and had a fascination with the differing conditions of real estate in the neighborhood that I lived in. I found myself asking questions like why was the huge factory building a block away seemingly vacant? The corner store across the street from the neighborhood gas station was historical and beautiful yet boarded up, why? What makes my parents take care of their house/yard but the neighbor across the street has a home that is bordering on condemnation? This intrinsic curiosity about Real Estate as a child continued into my adulthood and drove me into the Real Estate industry. I have had a lifelong passion for ensuring that real estate is appreciated and used for its highest and best use regardless of location.
MARANDA: My mom was in the real estate industry my entire life. When you are around real estate, it typically leads you to be around construction. As I moved in to my adult life, my husband and I started investing in real estate which required construction work. I fell in love with the process.
What are the challenges, if any, that you face as a woman in a male-dominated field?
Surprisingly, once we got to the industry, there are not that many challenges that we run in to that would differ from that as a man. We definitely run in to the following standards things from time to time:
- Men on job sites oftentimes think that we are administrative assistants and don’t realize that we are the Owners of the company that is paying for the work they are doing.
- When we are physically working on a job site, people try to treat us like we are delicate and can’t lift heavy things or use tools, etc.
- In meetings with people that have been in the industry for long periods of time, you can tell they doubt your knowledge and question you a lot.
We don’t get easily offended by these moments because we recognize that women are rare in construction and even more rare in leadership positions. It’s nice to be the first example to others so that they think twice before they show bias toward the next woman they encounter in a construction setting.
What inspired you to create Blair Freeman?
In 2018, Maranda and her husband purchased a historic building in North Omaha to be the new home to their ice cream business. Maranda hired a contractor to do the construction work required to restore the building. The process was a nightmare, the project ended up costing 150% more than expected, the contractor went missing mid project and worst of all, despite spending more money and time, the project was not exactly what was envisioned from the beginning. Maranda contacted me, already working full time in the Real Estate/Construction world in Omaha, to get help. We worked together to complete the project successfully.
That project served as an example of how difficult it can be to move real estate projects through development and construction, if you don’t have the right re. We realized that there was a significant gap in the construction industry…..a gap that both of us had the unique skills and combined 30+ years of experience to fill.
Realizing that we could be the answer to this gap, Blair Freeman was born. A company formed solely to provide a transparent construction and real estate process that puts the owners back in the driver’s seat.
What’s special about working in construction that many people don’t know about?
Construction is special in so many ways but most important because you have the opportunity to build things that will be here long after you leave this earth. There is something powerful about using your hands to change the face of the City. Our industry builds everything that you see attached to land.
What advice would you give to young women in the Avenue Scholars program who are interested in a career in construction?
- You are in an incredible industry, don’t be intimidated by the lack of women in the industry. The industry is male dominated because our mothers and grandmothers were encouraged to be teachers and nurses. This industry wasn’t an option. We are the first generation that truly have had the opportunity to get in the industry with no push back.
- Find a mentor, whether male or female, to help you navigate your career. Mentors can help in every stage of your career.
- Network, network, network…….every opportunity you have to be in a new room, with new people, take it! Meeting new people will grow your circle and grow your career.
- That voice in your head, that tells you that you aren’t good enough, aren’t skilled enough, don’t know enough, etc……ignore it! You can do it. No one knows everything and its ok not to know things, not knowing doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be here, it just means you have more to learn. We will likely be learning things until the day we die. Don’t let that voice (imposter syndrome) hold you back from going after your dreams.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY! Call us if you need help, a shoulder to lean on, a voice of reason, A JOB! We are here to support you in the industry.
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