Alisa K. Bowens learned the nuts and bolts of the painting and remodeling business while working as a teenager in her father’s firm in New Haven, Connecticut.
In 1991, after deciding to leave a legal career in the New Haven public defender’s office, Bowens parlayed these skills into her own full-service construction company, Brushworks Unlimited. The firm helps to rehabilitate and renovate commercial and residential properties.
The 18-employee company has grown from painting one-bedroom apartments to dealing with virtually all aspects of construction including roofing, electrical wiring, masonry and window replacement.
Bowens, 27, has worked on projects for the New Haven Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, Yale University School of Medicine and the National Guard. Revenues last year were $1.5 million. Earnings should top $3 million this year.
In the beginning, Bowens, like most new business owners, was unable to secure a bank loan. “They saw me as a start-up, a black female in a nontraditional industry,” she says. Nonetheless, in 1993, she set up shop in her father’s former office. She also used $5,000 in personal savings to print stationery, design a logo and obtain her contractor’s license.
Soon, Bowens began competing for contracts and landed a $412,000 government subcontract to renovate a New Haven housing complex.
To promote the business, she visited local companies and attended industry seminars, which resulted in a stream of residential projects. In 1995, Brushworks received 8(a) certification from the Small Business Administration and completed 28 government contracts that year.
“We hired Brushworks two years ago for a project and, because of the quality of their work, have continued to hire them for various commercial jobs,” says Sgt. Karen Havens, contracting officer for the Connecticut Air National Guard. Brushworks is currently working on a $1 million urban revitalization contract to build housing projects in New Haven.
Brushworks Unlimited, P.O. Box 3692, New Haven, CT 06525;203562-3322