In 1994, two couples, Anthony and Kendall Fullard and Kenneth and Joan Moore, decided to open a small home remodeling, repair and light commercial iron business in Philadelphia. The company took its name from their initials-KKAJ Inc. But after a couple of years, Kenneth, Joan and Kendall decided to cash out their interest in the business, leaving Anthony
to parlay his 15 years of experience as a union ironworker into a full-time business venture.
Fullard, 36, had no time to ponder the sudden loss of his partners. KKAJ had just been awarded its largest contract: $50,000 with the School District of Philadelphia. He quickly forged ahead with a new plan for the business. In need of a major investor, he brought in a partner for his company in 1996. Jeffrey White, 36, assumed the three previous partners’ 49% stake for $40,000 plus $200,000 in assets to secure project financing. Today, White is vice president, controller and co-owner of KKAJ. So what began as a boutique steel business, which mostly installed outside lamp fixtures and stair railings for a client list of family and friends, within five years has grown into a full-service structural steel company.
“On commercial buildings, you have the superstructure or the frame of the building,” explains Fullard. “We specialize in the fabricating, assembly and erecting of steel beams and columns from our manufacturer for these frames.” With the help of four full-time employees and 15 to 20 skilled union laborers per job, KKAJ can handle jobs of 1,000 tons, with plans to expand to 2,000 tons in the near future. KKAJ’s client list includes Marriott Hotels, Philadelphia Interna-tional Airport and Albert Einstein Medical Center. Earnings in 1997 were $800,000, and reached $1.2 million in 1998. This year the company has projected $2.2 million in receipts.
“It’s been a learning experience,” says White. “Basically we went from doing projects for $10,000 to $20,000, to projects for a million dollars. That demanded more personnel in the field and on the management side of the project to keep up with that growth.”
Other demands include maintaining a professional image and being one of the few African American-controlled companies in the structural steel industry. KKAJ tries its best to stay away from the perception that it is awarded contracts because of required set asides for minority- and women-owned businesses.
“We believe that the quality of our product, our ability to meet schedules and the professionalism of the company is most appealing to our client’s bottom line,” says White. He says there are few African Americans in the structural steel industry because of a lack of training and direction in the field.
“Steel erection is so very crucial to a project, because if there’s anything wrong with the steel, it actually affects the whole project,” says Fullard. “Also, ironwork is one of the most dangerous trades in the construction industry. You actually have to walk the steel and climb the columns.”
Because there are so few African Americans entering the industry, KKAJ has developed a plan to increase their