Leading with confidence seems like a simple task but, for a lot of women in construction, it is an acquired skill that takes overcoming significant obstacles and biases before being able to implement it on the job. “Accepting that I know more than I think I know and that whatever I don’t know I can figure out, was a game-changer,” says Sara Bendrick, Landscape Designer, Contractor, and T.V. personality. Being on television with her hit shows such as Build It Like Bendrick and Lawn & Order, self-confidence has been a necessity for her. “When I started on television, they encouraged me to be hands-on and step out of my comfort zone. It was a blessing that made me really push myself,” recalls Sara of her early years on camera. Her first television show came after an audition in 2012 that she found in a local newsletter from the DIY network. They were looking for a landscape expert. Being new to the industry, Sara jokes that she wasn’t an expert at the time but was up for the challenge and so she applied.
After a successful audition, she began her pursuit to showcase her love of landscaping to the world. “I’ve always been an extroverted person,” says Sara, “but I don't need to be in front of the camera if it’s not something I am passionate about.” Not coming from a family in construction, her profession was entirely by her choosing - something that through the years she learned came as a surprise for a lot of people.
There was one summer in particular where Sara says she realized that she had taken on an unconventional career. “I remember working at an apartment complex as their maintenance manager, and a resident came outside with a question and initially asked, ‘Do you speak English?’” In complete confusion, she responded yes to the man and asked him why he asked. His response, “I just figured you were a migrant worker.” “It was so crazy!”, Sara continued to laugh, “like it’s that hard for people to believe, I chose this line of work!” Although this instance is a great example of people’s biases against manual labor, Sara admits that she has had to check her own judgments at times. Recalling an instance where she was having to collect trash in her truck while running into an old high-school friend. “I actually felt embarrassed and self-conscious about how I looked collecting trash.” Thankfully, a fleeting insecurity, Sara quickly shook it off and continued to stay on the grind doing the work she honestly loves to do. “It really is difficult, and my advice to young women is to expect it to be difficult when they get started, but also expect it to be so rewarding!”
Another piece of advice, Sara says, is to “find opportunities in every situation you’re in.” This includes learning from men willing to share their trade. “I have had mostly positive experiences with men on-site,” insists Sara. “A large portion of my success comes from men who have been willing to take me under their wing and teach me their trade.” Jumping into opportunities to learn has always come naturally to her having started her journey going to school for a degree in Landscape Architecture. One of which included traveling abroad to Prague when the opportunity presented itself. “The teacher basically told us where to be and it was up to us to find our way there; it was such an amazing experience,” she recalls. This fearless attitude when approaching uncharted territory is very much why Sara has been able to accomplish so much within the industry she loves. Even when opportunities weren’t readily available for her, she has always found ways to stay in the game including a bit of grassroots marketing. “I remember walking through neighborhoods and just leaving my business card on people’s doors,” she reminisces. “Eventually, while in the field you meet enough people who pass around qualified leads, but that first year on my own was really tough.”
Now, with over ten years in the industry, leading with confidence comes easy to Sara. “The best spot to be is when you’re confident enough to know you can do it but that you don’t have to do it anymore.” Without having to constantly feel like she needs to prove her abilities, she can grow her business and work alongside subcontractors who at times might underestimate her but who learn very quickly that she is in control and extremely knowledgeable while on the job. “I have mixed feelings sometimes,” Sara laughs, “because I think people have good intentions and occasionally, I’m like, ‘You want to help me with 50lb bags of concrete? Okay!’” It’s this laid-back and easy-going attitude that makes her passion for her work shine through no matter what she is doing. Whether she is shiny on camera or working in the dirt, Sara is always giving one hundred percent to every project and opportunity that comes her way!