Brandy Whitley at one of the many Whitley Contracting job sites.
Brandy Whitley embraces equity as her concrete business pours it on
Brandy Whitley and Whitley Contracting have grown a successful concrete business with the help of John Deere compacts.
Whatever the obstacle, Brandy Whitley, president of Whitley Contracting, Smithfield, North Carolina, always finds a way. When she was selling real estate in the early 2000s, she realized she could earn more by building her own houses and selling them. Then when the housing market went south in 2009, she pivoted to highway construction. “It was just me and four other guys, including my husband,” she recalls. “To meet payroll until we had regular work, we’d pour footings on weekends for a homebuilder.”
Her husband Steve Whitley learned the housing business from his parents, who were in the mobile-home industry. During the early days he gained valuable knowledge about estimating projects and running machines that he was able to apply to the concrete business. “We started doing footings and driveways because that’s what we knew. I just needed to sell highway contractors on how we could do the job correctly and efficiently without holding up the large paving crews.”
Word of mouth eventually spread, and work from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and local cities and municipalities began pouring in. “Once we got our foot in the door, it’s been nonstop,” says Brandy. “We’ve been really blessed.”
From underdog to overdrive
Over the last decade, the company has grown substantially, today employing 23 workers. Brandy attributes the growth to hard work. But as the owner of a woman-owned business, she believes hard work in and of itself is not enough. She has to trust her instincts and persevere. “There are not many women in this industry, so I consider myself an underdog. I’ve never been afraid to go against the grain. And don’t tell me I can’t do something. That’s what really drives me. I’m not sure what the future will hold, but I just keep grinding and growing.”
When she shows up at a job, she feels she’s sometimes overlooked. “People don’t always believe I’m the contractor. Honestly, I don’t really care. I come up with ideas and find people to carry them out. That’s what I do.”
The majority of the work Whitley Contracting does is for the Department of Transportation (NCDOT), including sidewalks and handicap ramps. City and municipal work include bus stops and bus shelters. “We did the bus stops for the City of Raleigh and were approached by the City of Durham. They had never done it before, so we guided them through it. It was a learning process for them. They were very grateful that we went above and beyond.”
Other city work includes streetscapes, with cobblestone walkways, trees, and lighting. “We really enjoy it,” Brandy says. “It’s less like highway work and more like beautification.” Steve is particularly proud of the streetscape in Goldsboro in 2015. “We did all the curb and gutter work and installed brick pavers for the sidewalk. It was really nice.”
Brandy is optimistic about the company’s future. “The sky is the limit,” she says. “It’s a matter of how big we want to get. We’re always go, go, go. We knock it out, get it done, and roll on to the next job. But right now, we’re focused on keeping overhead low and pushing forward.”