“The trade industry was designed for you to appreciate what it takes to get work done. That’s what corporate America doesn’t understand. It’s a money racket, that’s the capitalism that we fall into. It’s all money, money, money. They don’t see the person anymore. They just see how much money they can get out of you.”
— Day Coker
“If you don’t follow your law career, it’s going to be the biggest regret of your life.” This was what Day’s father told her after she decided she no longer wanted to pursue a professional career in corporate law.
After graduating with a political science degree with a concentration in political law, Day realized her love for electronics was a passion and skill she could no longer ignore. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a tinkerer,” recalls Day. From taking a part hairdryers to making alarms to keep her sister out of her stuff, Day’s natural ability to understand the inner workings of machines gave her a sense of pride. And so, despite the wishes of her father, she set out for more schooling to find the right career path. “What’s the next logical step into a field that’s going to make me money fixing broken things?” Day remembers asking herself. After taking courses at her local community college and working internships, she went to work as a supervisor for an apartment complex. There she expanded her skillset into basic electrical and plumbing and most importantly, she was introduced into the world of HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). “Out of all the things they had me doing- painting, plumbing, electrical, changing garbage disposals, HVAC happened to be the part that I fell in love with,” recalls Day. The technology behind it involved so many different components that kept her challenged.
Despite her newfound love for this part of the construction industry, her wide skillset landed her various jobs that tapped into other parts of the industry. This included companies like Sears, where she repaired large home appliances. Day’s thirst for knowledge kept her open to exploring her options outside of HVAC and she embraced the diversity in working on different machines. However, one thing remained constant on every job: she was always the only woman working. “I was never treated poorly,” Day recalls, “I did what was necessary to earn their respect so that I didn’t look as though I was looking for any preferential treatment just because I was female.” Although this approach kept her safe from gender discrimination, it didn’t make her immune to what could be argued as a maternal nature that set her apart from her colleagues. “I always clean up after myself,” insists Day. She remembers a time when her son was doing “tummy time” on a blanket at her home when a maintenance worker walked all over her baby’s blanket with his muddy shoes. “It should look like you’ve never been there. I always end up wiping down walls and cleaning up behind me. The customers know that I care about the condition of their home.”
Although Day was able to carry out a high level of customer service surrounding her respect for people’s home, she had very little control over other nuances that left her frustrated. This largely included the markup costs that made her employers less about helping the customer and more about trying to figure out how to make more money off of them. “Ice is like crack in the South,” jokes Day, “people will pay whatever just to get ice and companies will take advantage of that. After seeing people get ripped off for so much money, I couldn’t in good conscience do it anymore...Sometimes I would go to a homeowner and all I would end up doing is flipping the breaker and had to charge them $90! I was stuck and had no say.” The lack of empathy from these larger companies to the community she was serving led Day to business ownership.
So after six years of working for others, she launched AC by Day C in 2016. “I had seen so much about what not to do in business. Don’t mess with the customer and be honest,” says Day. Word of her approach to customer service got around quickly and she built up a very loyal clientele in no time. Even her supply house sends her business because they know she does good work and will do right by their customers. “I’ve had a friend tease me before,” says Day, “that I took the longest route to the shortest conclusion but I really think it helped me develop my skills in customer service,” she argues. Instead of going straight to HVAC school and jumping in, Day has been able to expand her skillset into other appliances that come in handy when she has a loyal client in need of her services outside of HVAC. Additionally, she has been able to get a firm grasp on the market and how to create a sustainable business that is fair and honest. “I’ve had customers cry on my shoulder because they were so thankful to have me work for them. So many people are on their last dime or they have had a hard day or month. If I worked for a company, they want their money regardless. Since I work for myself, I can make it work for the mom who can’t go without a refrigerator cause she’s got kids.” Her company’s success has allowed Day to live very comfortably and in good conscience knowing she is making a difference to elevate industry standards and serve her community.
Her Dad even came around and admitted that he had never been more wrong in his life about his daughter’s career choice. “After I started buying my Dad tools and sending my parents on vacation, my Dad turned to me and said ‘You know what? I have never been more wrong in my life’ Hearing him eat his words was the single most happiest moment of my life, outside of my kids being born,” laughs Day. “It’s really true what they say, if you love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
All photos courtesy of Day Coker