Vicki Gray, Founder/Owner, New Chapter Home Improvement Services, Cambridge, MA
Vicki Gray is the Founder / Owner of New Chapter Home Improvement Services (NCHI) in Cambridge, MA. Her story begins with two women who inspired Vicki to bring a lifelong dream to reality.
Vicki’s grandmother emigrated from Barbados and worked at MIT, without knowing how to read or write. Her mother was a Phlebotomist who owned their home and some other properties. Growing up, Vicki loved helping with work on the house and watching contractors do larger jobs. She watched as unscrupulous contractors took advantage of her mother’s trust and faith in what they told her needed to be done. From these experiences she learned that women are often seen as being prey for price gouging and unnecessary work by unscrupulous contractors. These lessons formed the foundation for her business promise, to provide potential commercial and residential clients with a highly ethical, excellent quality, and competitively priced painting and/or property maintenance option. “Our goal at New Chapter Home Improvement Services is to stand out as the exception in an industry known for unkept promises, poor quality and overcharging,” shared Vicki.
In the Beginning
NCHI officially launched in 2013. At that time, they only had a cell phone and knew nothing about email marketing. Gray shared that she was struggling to adapt to the changing construction market and noticed that hiring contractors was happening mostly on the internet. “Our sales actually started dropping at one point during the peak months of Spring and Summer,” reflected Vicki. “Connecting with organizations like the Center for Women & Enterprise about why our sales were declining really hit home for me. This was how I learned the distinction between working ON my business and IN my business. My business coach worked with me to draw out each person’s responsibilities within the company. From that came a checklist to help the staff become independent and accountable. It also redistributed responsibilities, which freed up my time.”
Q & A
I chose CWE because of their track record of success with businesses and their history of serving women-owned businesses. When I first started out, I went to CWE to learn to form and run a business. CWE provided me with exactly what I needed to learn how to structure a business and put legal and accounting systems in place to grow a substantial business. CWE gave me the foundation I knew I needed, and they have the resources and ability to help grow my business to the next level. Being in an all-women environment is also really important to me, more than I ever realized. I find CWE to be a nurturing and reassuring organization.
CWE’s network consists of like-minded business owners and that speaks to another area where CWE has been so helpful - they provide connections. Connections are what lift a company from one level to another. Whether one needs a mentor, referrals, or partnerships, building a business relies on who you know. CWE has provided me with education at different stages of my company's development and connections to people who have helped with that growth in one way or another.
What have you been able to achieve since working with CWE?
I have recently become certified as a woman-owned small business by WBENC through CWE. This builds on the education CWE has provided me throughout the development of my business. Through CWE, my understanding of core business principles and structures such as accounting and legal matters has grown and solidified. The education I have received has given me confidence and from confidence comes courage - courage to not only be a business owner and face the challenges any business owner must face, but also courage to own a business in a male-dominated sector like Construction. My time serving on the Strategic Planning Committee for CWE played a big role in building my confidence and made me determined to give back to an organization that has given me so much.
What has exceeded your expectations since working with CWE?
Being invited to serve on the Board of Directors of CWE exceeded my expectations tremendously. Serving on the Board is another way I've developed courage and confidence and it has given me such a sense of belonging. I have had so much to say since joining the Board and I know that I have been heard. I happily provide a lot of time to CWE because I am eager to give back. There is no other feeling like the one that comes from helping people. I'm reminded of a quote, "The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not plan to sit."
What would you say to others like you who want to start and/or grow their own business?
I have learned that women are more willing to help other women. That sisterhood support is so foreign in the male construction industry. When dealing with CWE, I feel like I'm valued, people understand, and they want to support me in my dreams. And that in turn makes me want to contribute the same way to other CWE members. They support me and feed me as a business owner. As important as that human support and encouragement is, CWE also provides scholarships! I was able to apply for scholarships to take core classes while I was still working a full-time job and trying to get the business up and running. I would encourage others to follow their dreams and know they are not alone. There is support and education available from women who understand your hopes and dreams.