SMALL-BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEARA ‘change of heart' moved would-have-been lawyer Alisa Bowens to follow in the footsteps of her contractor fatherBy Linda G. MeleIn her wildest dreams, Alisa Bowens never imagined herself the president of a construction company.During college, she had worked summers for her father's construction firm, but both there and her family expected her to become a lawyer.The 27-year-old president of buy ambien online New Haven-based Brushworks Unlimited was enrolled in a pre-law course at Northeastern University in 1993 and had worked in the legal field as part of her studies when. Bowens expects to handle about $3 million worth of commercial/industrial, residential and government contracts statewide.
“I can't explain what made me do it, because it definitely wasn't in my 'life plan,'” Bowens says. “It just felt right at the time.”
In the beginning, Bowens wielded a paint brush and swung a hammer right alongside her employees. These days, however, meetings, contracts, engineers, architects and purchasing agents take up most of her time, she says.
“Every once in a while I'll get out there on the job, but there is so much else to do I don't have the chance to do that much anymore,” Bowens says.
Current Brushworks projects include a $1.2 million job in the Elm Haven/Dixwell area of New Haven through a
contract with the city's housing authority and HUD.
“Alisa patterned herself after her father,” says the city's HUD coordinator, Bill Jones. “They're both hard and conscientious workers.”
The company is also working on two new homes in the city's Hill section, and are at the tail-end of about $1 million worth of renovations at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in
Bowens says she's also bidding on 13 other property rehabilitation projects in New Haven and is in various stages of the bidding, negotiating and pre-construction process on several others.
“We have a good mix of projects,” Bowens says, “which is what keeps things interesting. Each job is different and challenging in its own way. Working for homeowners is totally different than working for government clients like the VA.”
Bowens credits a great deal of her success to government set-aside programs.
“The government sets aside a certain percentage of projects for small business and minority-owned firms,” Bowens says.
“It's hard to compete with the big companies, and giving smaller firms a chance to bid on and be awarded contracts is what allows us to grow,” she explains.
According to Bowens, her firm should have some job openings within the next 30 to 60 days because of pending contracts.
“When we get jobs like the dozen or so we've done at the VA, we can hire additional workers,” Bowens says, “which is one way we can contribute to the community's economy.”
Another way Bowens contributes her time and expertise is by working with civic groups and organizations as well as serving on committees that address the needs of small and minority business owners.
She's worked with the Greater New Haven Business & Professional Men's Association's committee on small business, the Urban Contractor's Association, and the mayor's committee to review set-asides for contracts for minorities.
“She's provided excellent insight because she's both a small business owner and a minority business owner,” says New Haven Development Administrator A. Walter Esdaile.
“She's very conscientious in terms of making sure there is an opportunity for small and minority businesses to get work with the city,” Esdaile says.
Past projects include work at the Groton submarine base, the Air National Guard facility in East Granby, the VAMC in Newington, and the Coast Guard complex in New London.
As the company has grown financially, it's also grown in areas of expertise and now handles general contracting responsibilities as well as specific construction jobs. Bowens says she has also been hired as a sub-contractor for additional projects by firms who met her on other jobs.
“I have a simple philosophy,” Bowens says. “The first job you do for someone is your audition. If you pass the audition, you'll get other work, but every bit of work has to be equally as good as your audition, because other contractors will see it.”
Walking the halls of the VAMC in West Haven with Bowens, it's not hard to see how proud she is of her company, her employees and her company's success.
“When I walk through here, I can say 'We did this' or 'We did that' and be proud of how it turned out,” Bowens says. “But it's taken a lot of hard work and effort to get to this point.”
Right now, her private life is on hold because all of her energy is directed toward the business. She does want to take the few courses she needs to finish her degree, but it's not a priority.
“I will eventually get my degree because I consider it a personal achievement, but since nobody is going to say they won't award a contract to me because I didn't graduate from college, it's quite far down on my list of priorities right now,” she says.
While Bowens considers herself a financial success in a non-traditional occupation, she says success is not measured solely in terms of dollars and cents.
“Construction can be a cutthroat industry,” Bowens says. “I believe I can create jobs, fulfill my contracts, provide an excellent product, and open doors for myself and others while upholding the ethical standards I was raised with.
“To me, that's success
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