When a local construction business owner wanted to sell his business to Traci Yates, she figured it was finally time to go out on her own.

The year was 2011, and she was working for Astorino.

Still, Yates was hesitant to buy someone else’s business, and owning her own business had only been a dream. Then the local businessman told her. “‘Traci, whether it’s my platform or not, you can do this on your own.’”

“What he said to me stuck with me for the next nine months,” says Yates. “He was right.”  Friends expressed the same level of confidence in her. One woman said, “You can do this and you can take space in my office.”

That December, she founded T Construction & Consulting Services.

Yates grew up in the Mon Valley, attending California High School and California University of Pennsylvania, then moved to the North Hills. Since 18, she has worked for general contractors, beginning as an administrative person, then helping with project management and marketing.

“It was a man’s world, and I was probably one of the first women in business development to enter that market,” she says.

“I realized people were beginning to buy services from companies I represented because I had relationships with them. Having board members of colleges calling you up, telling you you’d be receiving an RFP [request for proposals] and you’d be the only one receiving it—that’s when I began thinking about starting my own company.”

She spent her first year creating the structure of her business and trying to get her message out—the Traci Yates you’ve relied upon and trusted is now on her own.

Today, having her own company has only cemented those relationships. I found that I would meet with people and just tell them what we were doing. I didn’t have to sell them on my ability. It actually has been great, she says.

“A lot of these relationships have become great friendships,” she adds. “I’ve always been a firm believer that people buy from people they know and can trust.” She also attributes her success in part to being knowledgable, detail-oriented and hands on.

The results have been impressive. Beginning in 2012, T Construction & Consulting has already done 5,000-, 10,000- and 25,000-square foot office renovations for Millcraft, and a 14,000-square-foot office renovation for a Goldman Sachs subsidiary at Southpointe that involved her crews working second shifts and nights and gaining background clearances. She is now working on Duquesne University law school’s moot courtroom and lecture hall renovation and recently completed an AT&T stores with two more under construction.

Photo by Brian Cohen.

“There are a lot of untapped opportunities” here, she says. “We win contracts because we respond in one or two weeks. We develop confidence in them making their decision and confidence in working with them. I think there is a nice niche for construction in the small to mid-level marketplace” of $10,000 to $1.5 million projects.

Yates suggests other startup or new business owners seek the free help of Duquesne University Small Business Development Center

“Another businesswoman gave me advice when I started my new company and it would be the same I would offer other entrepreneurs,” she adds: “Spend money where it is important. Don’t try to save money on important stuff, when you ultimately will spend more money in the end to do it over. Spending money to do it right the first time is saving money.”

Also, she cautions, “Prepare for financial stability not just for the business but for personal survival during the start-up period.”

As for working in a man’s world, she says that women are common in the workforce and no one is complaining about taking men’s jobs anymore. “It’s a lot easier than it used to be!” she adds.

Marty Levine

Marty Levine's journalism has appeared in Time, Salon.com and throughout Pennsylvania and has won awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, The Press...