Helen Stanley is a woman who knows first hand the power of community. Her story is one of resilience, of which she has taken complete charge of the happy ending. No doubt there were many challenges, twists, and turns, however today she stands as a business owner and proud mother to four daughters.
Helen’s journey into construction wasn’t your typical entry through the front door. Rather, it was through the back office, to be exact, working in the accounts department for a trucking company after her youngest daughter fell ill. With plenty of demand in both bookkeeping and responsibilities working in the field, Helen was able to find flexibility in her schedule which allowed her to prioritize her daughter’s recovery which included several doctor’s appointments and surgeries. Whilst balancing the numbers, and meetings with inspectors, she acquired valuable real-life experiences on construction sites. Before she knew it, the demand for her growing, diverse skillset landed her a job at a property preservation company. It was right about this time, that she fell absolutely in love with the construction industry.
“I’ve always been very hands-on. I don’t have a problem getting dirty or getting super involved with stuff,” exclaims Helen. Always being up for new demands within her industry, she dove head-first into learning all about renovation work and in no time, began running her own crew. As her knowledge and skills grew over the years, so did her passion for the industry.
Never missing an opportunity to network and grow, Helen found additional resources through communities online through Facebook. Her virtual connections with other women in the construction industry resulted in not just friendships, but also job offers. She was working hard, making progress in her career, and had what she thought was a really secure job. And then, Covid hit, cutting her revenue to one-third of what it had been previously. In July, she was let go by her employer and was left jobless with four daughters to support. Not one to be defeated even for a moment though, within 24 hours Helen found herself with a multitude of job offers from the connections she had made in the industry.
This became a pivotal point in her journey. During what could have been seen as a pure moment of crisis, Helen made an admirable decision that would set her entire life on a new path. She was going to work for herself. Before being terminated due to Covid, Helen had already had an LLC set up. She bit the bullet and took on her first client. Since launching her own construction company, the work has been non-stop. By August 2020 she had started taking on more work and over the next four months had completed over 100 jobs and was even able to purchase a new home for her family.
In addition to the many rewards for her hard work, there are many aspects of working in construction that Helen absolutely loves and says “seeing the transformation of a house when it all comes together” is one of them. As a self-proclaimed history buff, Helen’s company now focuses a lot on historical restoration work. Her day-to-day sees her working and refurbishing houses that are 200 or 300 years old. As well as giving older houses a second lease on life, Helen says that she also loves the people that she meets and the connections she makes. Her clients are more than ‘just another customer’. She puts an emphasis on developing genuine relationships with people, resulting in on-going work and a real community.
Although she has successfully built the foundation of her professional career over the last two decades, she has always put family first. Looking back almost twenty years ago, when Helen was just a senior in high school, she gave birth to her first daughter. She made the difficult decision to quit school, give up the scholarships that were offered to her, and fully commit to being the best Mom that she could be. This includes leading by example when it comes to following her dreams. So, decades later, Helen has started her degree in construction management to show her daughters that you can go back to school and achieve your dreams at any time in your life, no matter your age or what society says is ‘normal’.
Walking confidently onto job sites hasn’t always been easy. Being a blonde, blue-eyed female Helen has experienced her fair share of stares and comments. Her recipe for dealing with this is simply being stern and as direct as possible. She says “once anyone has a conversation with me, there’s mutual respect”. Her learning process never ends, if there’s something she doesn’t know about a job she will be the first one to ask questions. “If I don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, I’ll ask. I want to learn from that.”
Her advice for women who are considering getting into the construction industry is to absorb as much as they can. Listen, learn, and don’t take things too personally. Finally, don’t be afraid to put people in their place when they’re out of line. You’ll gain more respect and confidence in your own abilities for it. Helen is an absolute trailblazing leader who has proven that resilience and relationships can get you through anything.