This artical originally posted in the Pugit Sound Business Journal (issue 39086), published September 29, 2023 in Small Business Voices, a forum for sharing best practices.
AmyWorks owner capitalizes on home remodeling trend
By Neetish Basnet
The four-story house in Pennsylvania where Amy Ecklund grew up always had something that needed fixing. If there wasn’t, Ecklund’s father, who was a plumber, would create a home improvement project. Ecklund (who uses the pronoun they) became the apprentice. They ran down the stairs to the basement, grabbed tools and learned the nuts and bolts of carpentry in the process.
Ecklund, 59, had an early career as a chemist and laboratory manager but returned to their fix-it roots after being laid off during the Great Recession.
The Business Journal visited Ecklund at the modest yet cozy Amy Works office in Georgetown to learn more about how it’s grown and what’s next.
How did you start AmyWorks?
It started in 2010. It was just me with my Subaru and my tools. Less than a year later. I hired my first employee. We did handyman senices for the first seven years, until 2017. That’s when we switched over to doing remodels. And now we’re doing mostly remodels.
What helped accelerate the business growth the most?
I needed to have marketing. I needed to have networking avenues. That was really helpful in getting AmyWorks going. Building relationships and passing referrals all the time – it just worked. I’ve never missed a payroll for my employees and I’ve never missed payments for vendors. I didn’t think about it hard. It was just something I needed to do.
When did you realize you finally achieved success as a small business owner?
I haven’t gotten to that point yet. It used to be that I’d be incredibly ecstatic if the business banking account had $500. If it got below that. I’d really freak out. Then it was $5,000, we’re doing good-, if below. I’d dwell over it.
Now it’s considerably higher. But I still freak out.
You operate in a male- dominated field. Does it make any difference to you?
As far as clients go, they really appreciate the fact that it’s a woman coming in to do the work. We do have men working out in the field. But there’s me and then my project manager is also a woman. And it’s typically the wife or the female partner that schedules the work. There’s that instant trust because we’re a woman-owned business.
During the early days of the pandemic, many people sat at home wanting to remodel their homes. Is that changing?
We haven’t seen much of a decline.
We’re still getting the leads. We’ve got potential work all the way to the first quarter of next year and probably doing about a 30% increase of what we did last year.
Do you find more work coming from homeow ners of aging homes or new homeow ners wanting to add value to their homes?
It’s a combination. But. with the interest rates right now … people who have been in their house for 10 years can’t buy anything close to it. So it’s like. “Well, what’s it going to take to add a bedroom or to expand the kitchen?”
How hard it is to find capable workers?
It’s a little bit easier right now because some of the new-build stuff has slowed down because the interest rates have gone up. But it’s always been the pain point of the company.
Any expansion plans?
I’d like to see us double in size. A lot of people would like us to go to Vashon Island and Kitsap Peninsula. Every time I drive my truck over there, they’re asking me do you work over here…. The big thing would be for us to build a relationship with subcontractors that are available over there. The relationships that we have here in Seattle are long term but they’re not going to travel over there. I need a plumber and an electrician, a drywall company.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.