As an extension of Women in Construction Week (WIC) – The Construction Careers Council has a mission to celebrate, educate and promote the roles of women in construction. The Council set out to highlight the women who currently work within West Michigan’s industry through our “Women Who Build West Michigan Series”. The goal is to inspire and educate specifically young women but also those interested in being a part of our next generation’s construction workforce.
I sat down with women across West Michigan to discuss their career path, the work they do, what they like or dislike about their role, what motivates them and much more. Our conversations were authentic and the women I interviewed have a wealth of stories and tips to become successful.
Our first interview was with Camille Reed – I could tell right away that Camille was ambitious and had a wealth of knowledge. Camille started her career in real estate learning about buying and selling homes through her family business. During that time, Camille saw an opportunity to start her own business. In 2009 she started that first business – Cleancore Services, LLC – which provides painting contractor services to residential and commercial clients as well as construction management services. Cleancore has continued to grow and so has Camille – last year she started her second business: Reed Management and Construction.
During our conversation I was moved by Camille. I felt inspired by her story, and her determination to succeed. She was honest in saying she didn’t always know how she would be successful; she just had the drive to keep going and try new things. Her story is incredible, and her words are inspirational. Here are some highlights of our conversation and Camille’s outlook on the construction industry.
Questions (Q) – Mac Dodds
Answers (A) – Camille Reed
Q: You had a background in real estate, how did you get started with Cleancore?
A: Being around the real estate world and seeing how things worked really gave me a leg up. I took what I learned from the buying and selling aspects and incorporated those skills into starting Cleancore back in 2009.
Q: Growing up did you know this would be your career path?
A: Growing up my dad was a plant manager in manufacturing, and I knew I wasn’t interested in that. I knew I wanted to be on my own path. I knew I was going to own my own company, but I had no idea about construction at that age. I am glad to see that schools are making trades more of an option now.
Q: Tell me a little more about Cleancore and how that came to be:
A: So after 2008 and the market being in a tough place, I said “I’m going to start a janitorial company.” We started with a couple hundred dollars to buy a machine and then we started cold calling and going to different businesses – not letting them say no. We did that for several years and grew enough to start getting more commercial contracts for carpet cleaning such as Bigby Coffee and other businesses. Six years ago, we started offering painting – residentially and now we’re involved commercially. It was a lot of hard work. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: there’s no wanting to do this and just being on top. We had to work and put in the time.
Q: Do you think all that hard work, time and effort made you appreciate where you are now? What would you say to someone that wants to start a construction company or something you wish you knew?
A: Mac the biggest thing for me was: Never give up. I had so many no's for so many things, people saying we can’t compete, our pricing isn’t good enough… and I was able to say, “it’s just not my time.” Your no doesn’t affect me, because I’ll go to the next person until it is my time. You can’t give up or think it’s not going to happen. I would say continue to grind, continue to shake things off and keep going. Because here we are today. Competing.
Q: So, you have Cleancore and you mentioned you opened Reed Management and Construction management company. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
A: Yea! So, we opened Reed Management about a year ago, that is 100 percent women owned. We are looking to do government contracts and general contracting.
Q: I don’t want to go too far back in your journey, but were you ever intimated about entering a male-dominated construction workforce?
A: You know what, no I wasn’t. Going through walk throughs with general contractors it always made me upset - out of the 50 contractors, you may have three ladies, and maybe one African American person there. For me that was more me thinking, “Where are we?!” “Where are the women?” I want more ladies walking the jobsites. And that’s part of the reason I joined the National Association of Women in Construction. There are organizations out there trying to help. But I always went back to, “Where is everyone?!” But it was never an intimidation factor at all. For me it was, “Alright – I’ll be the first. I’ll break the mold. And I’ll keep going until someone says yes to working with me.” And at the end of the day, I just want more women in the industry. That’s what is most important to me.
Q: What is something you would tell a young woman currently in school that interested in construction?
A: I would say, first find a mentor. That is huge. Find someone in your industry, doing what you’re going to be doing, and ask for help. For me it was Rita Brown. She has been phenomenal in saying, “Hey join this organization or join this group.” Get someone who can put you where you need to be. It’s up to you to make it work, but having someone direct you is huge. I would also say to join a board and try to get others to join with you. Just try new things but finding that one person to help is important.
Q: We want students, teachers, and others to become more aware of opportunities in construction – what would you say is a reason someone should look into a career within construction?
A: Some of the jobs don’t need a college degree! You can be an apprentice or join a program and grow and learn. We’re all told to go to college, do this, do that, but school isn’t for everyone. Construction can give you another route. You can be in this industry and take care of your family. That’s crucial. And that’s a great point. Another one is – you’re breaking into an industry whether as a business owner or in the trades. But for me you can take care of your family. When you have a family, you must take care of them, and construction gives you the opportunity to do that.
Camille truly is a pioneer in my eyes. Her will to succeed and never give up is something out of a book or movie. Camille was inspirational and you could see her commitment to success and doing things properly. I was honored to be able to sit down with her for a half hour and hear her story. This is the first of many of the great women we have right here in West Michigan! I wish her nothing but the best.
Please continue to stay up to date with our “Women who Build West Michigan” series. If you know a woman in the construction industry you think should be recognized connect with me on our website Construction Careers Council | West Michigan Construction Talent Council