Kimberly Campbell turned layoff into opportunity by starting a construction company and building a strong reputation within the community
One thing continues to make Kimberly Campbell chuckle. A previous article written about her described her as a “petite blonde with delicate doll-like features” which she’s even put to memory quoting it verbatim. Her friends rib her all the time about it, but hey, any press is good press, right?
“It was great and very funny,” she laughs. “I cannot tell you how many times people call and ask for ‘the petite blond with delicate doll-like features.’ I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it.”
As if she needs it. As the owner of Campbell Custom Construction, she may not be the typical face of a construction company, but that doesn’t make her any less effective. And it all started a decade ago when she was doing her own renovations.
“I didn’t ever wake up thinking I would be a contractor,” she says. “I was laid off from my job and started doing stuff for myself. Then friends would ask if I would do work for them. Before I knew it, people started calling. When that word of mouth happens, you kinda know you’re in the right business.”
Campbell says the advantage of being a woman in her position is that clients remember her quicker. But she can talk up a 3-inch PVC Hardibacker with the best of them. In a male-dominated business, she finds herself on the management end of several construction workers and contractors who immediately may not be keen on the situation.
“Men do not like to be bossed around by females,” she says. “I’m not the kind that bosses people around all the time either. Who wants that? At first they try to feel me out but when they figure out I run a tight ship and don’t put up with nonsense, it works out for everyone. I think being organized also gives me an advantage.”
Her company’s core business is interior finish-outs — mostly kitchen and bathrooms because that’s what most of her clients tend to go for. She has been branching out into multi-family developments and property management as well as retail spots such as the renovation of La Calle Doce in Lakewood after a fire destroyed it. Campbell even has started a second company that does roofing. She’s humbled by her success because for her, it’s just about getting the job done.
“It’s amazing to me in this business that if you just do what you’re supposed to, you’re a hero,” she exclaims. “This is the only business I’ve known where that happens and perhaps so many contractors don’t. We show up when we say and leave when we say. I don’t want to leave any client hanging. It’s important for me to start the job and work every day until the end.”
That’s what she stresses to potential clients. And with a strong LGBT clientele, Campbell says her entire business has been based on referral. Her reputation grew fast and her business has been mostly via referral, especially among her queer friends and clients, but she has found having a penchant for gay men, whom she finds to be practically the ideal clients.
“Oh my God, they like color, tend to have a higher income and love to remodel,” she beams. “Plus, we mesh well and both have high expectations. They always have good taste. All my clients want a perfect job as do I, but they really get into the design of the finished product and I love that. That’s the fun part because most contractors don’t get into that area.”
She felt that particularly with Jim McCoy and Paul Cross. In order to branch out more into the community, Campbell donated a complete bathroom remodel at a $20,000 value. McCoy and Cross won and she says they called her right away.
“The remodel was a different kind of donation and Ken Moore [of Black Tie Dinner] told me that with some 3,000 gay men there, who wouldn’t bid on it,” she says. “I got all my suppliers to pitch in and Lowe’s even gave us materials. We added a custom vanity, faucets, new countertops and even had some left over to put in their other bathroom.
They had an idea of what they wanted and I think they should be very happy with the product.”
For every other client, Campbell strives not only to do the best job, but to keep their best interests in mind — notably their wallets. As someone who started doing this for herself, she’s more than aware that costs can run high and quickly on renovations. She extends the best deals on quality products to and for her customers.
“Every client wants more than they can afford,” she says. “When I was doing this myself, I always had to have a most-bang-for-my-buck attitude. That stuck with me when I had to do it for myself. So I try to treat them the same way and pass my discounts on or tell them where they can find the best deals. I think that makes an impression and they’ll tell their friends and so on.”
When Campbell isn’t busy remodeling, you might find her on the golf course or riding her scooter with the local Dallas Metros group, but you won’t find her at home watching home renovation shows.
“People ask me if I watch all different programs about that and I’m just like ‘Really?’” she laughs.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 20, 2012.