The Sentinel is been recognizing businesses in the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce and the exceptional work they do for the Los Angeles community.
This week, the focus is on business owner Sharon Coleman, CEO and founder of Coleman Construction Inc., and president of the Southern California Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors. In an interview with the Sentinel, Coleman discussed the trajectory of her career, her experiences, and her vision of the future for minorities in the construction industry.
Coleman’s career kicked off when she was in college where she did many project management jobs “to get her foot in the door.” These activities resulted in her discovering her love for construction.
She did project management for about two years before moving into the corporate world. While she learned the ins and outs of many companies and worked in many different positions, she always figured out a way to be in construction.
She explained that her mother-in-law was a firm supporter of ensuring that women had benefits at any job they were working at, which then took her to her next gig at Xerox. After working at Xerox, she obtained her construction license, which launched her fruitful construction career.
After getting her construction license in 1995, she founded Coleman Construction Inc., where she began with residential construction, then commercial and governmental construction. Coleman Construction is a building and engineering firm that has been doing in Southern California since 1995 offering services in construction management, structural engineering, and design–build.
The company also performs new construction and renovations including tenant improvement projects for commercial and industrial buildings, demolition, building and selective site development, excavation, site work underground utilities, and retail construction.
Explaining her the factors that attracted her to construction, Coleman said, “I love the concept of change, our daily life is changing. We have to get used to different areas of our lives because our world is in a constant place of movement.
“Being able to take something from point A to point B. When I was in the field I enjoyed seeing every stage take place. I loved the concept of making something, new and modern.”
Along with her love for construction, Coleman added, “I love my community, I’ve been here for almost 30 years. I’ve had my house here for 23 years, lived with my grandmother who lives down the street for five years.
“When I moved to California from New York in the 1970s, I was still here and I have been able to watch the mall become the Crenshaw Mall, Kaiser, see the movie theater be built, the train, and most of the things happening in this neighborhood I have seen change.”
Coleman has this word of advice for young people that are interested working in the construction industry – “It takes patience, and for construction, you’ve got to put in some work somewhere. Whether you graduate and become a project manager somewhere, stick it out for four-to-five years before you cross this threshold.
“The beauty of construction is that there are so many ways to get into this business now. Trade Tech, community colleges and community organizations have many programs that offer training. LAUSD also has training for those ages from 18-24 to get into this field as well,” she said.
“Just know there is training available all across the city that you can do. Every union has training and bootcamps; there is plenty of opportunity, we need more minorities in construction because we are going to come up on a shortage and we need people to fill that void. You’ve got to get in there, pay your dues so you can move up.”
Coleman hopes to continue expanding her business, gaining more commercial work with an emphasis on governmental construction. Also, she wants to hire as many people of color as she can.
In her role as president of the Southern California Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors, Coleman has similar goals. NAMC is dedicated to fighting for the rights of our local minority construction community, forming successful partnerships and negotiating better employment and procurement opportunities in all areas of this industry.
NAMC-SC is working to increase the number of minority construction workers employed in Southern California. By providing solid career paths for thousands of adults, both women and men, from minority communities in need of stable employment, NAMC-SC can effectively change the trajectory of their lives.