McKissack & McKissack Construction Firm, Deryl McKissack (L) and Cheryl McKissack-Daniel

Black Woman Launches Multimillion-Dollar McKissack & McKissack Construction Firm With $1K Investment

Deryl McKissack says she only paid herself $7,200 in the first year of operating her McKissack & McKissack construction firm.

At the helm of the multimillion-dollar construction management and design firm McKissack & McKissack stands Deryl McKissack, a 62-year-old trailblazer who launched her enterprise with a mere $1,000.

According to CNBC, the firm now generates between $25 million and $30 million in annual revenue, overseeing projects that BLACK ENTERPRISE previously noted valued at a staggering $15 billion. The firm’s impressive repertoire includes iconic projects like the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. CNBC stated the firm’s portfolio also includes repairing the Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson memorials.

McKissack’s journey was far from easy, as attracting clients proved challenging for the Howard University civil engineering graduate who left a six-figure engineering job to pursue her entrepreneurial dream. “It was touch and go because I didn’t have a bank that believed in me,” McKissack recalled. “It took me five years to get my first $10,000 line of credit. I probably went to 11 banks that told me ‘no’ … [but] I had this burning passion on the inside that I just had to do this, and it was going to work out for me.”

Undeterred, McKissack leveraged her networking skills, landing her firm’s first project at her alma mater. With a single employee, she immersed herself in the work, putting in 80 hours weekly. This initial success paved the way for more opportunities, allowing her to build a portfolio and secure jobs as a federal contractor, which included projects at the White House and the U.S. Treasury building.

Despite her growing success, McKissack prioritized reinvesting in her business over personal gain. She paid herself $7,200 the first year, $18,000 the second, and worked her way up to a $100,000 salary after roughly a decade while ensuring her employees were compensated.

Today, McKissack & McKissack, run in New York by her twin sister, Cheryl, boasts offices across major U.S. cities, including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Baltimore.

Committed to uplifting others, McKissack recently founded AEC Unites, a nonprofit dedicated to providing professional opportunities for Black talent in architecture, engineering, and construction.