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Posted Aug 15th, 2016

Case Study: Women in Homebuilding

Women Epcon Franchise Builders Have Leveraged Company’s Strengths to Develop Formidable Businesses

From top left (clockwise): Bonnie Weaver, Sherri Meyer, Kim Kreidler-Thonn, Lisa Scarmazzi
From top left (clockwise): Bonnie Weaver, Sherri Meyer, Kim Kreidler-Thonn, Lisa Scarmazzi

Lisa Scarmazzi
Principals, Hawthorne Partners
Franchise Builders since 1999
Epcon Homes built: 414
Epcon Communities Completed: 9
Sherri Meyer
Property Group One Ltd.
Franchise Builders since 1996
Epcon Homes built: 500
Epcon Communities Completed: Six
Kim Kreidler-Thonn
Kalan Homes, LLC
Franchise Builders since 2004
Epcon Homes built: 187
Epcon Communities Completed: Two
Bonnie Weaver
Weaver Homes
Franchise Builders since 2002
Epcon Homes built: 500+
Epcon Communities Completed: 10

Bonnie Weaver of Weaver Homes in Mars, PA, has worked in the construction industry for 30 years and still remembers the early days.

Weaver, an Epcon Franchise Builder since 1999, originally went into the homebuilding business along with her husband, Bill,.. Bill would take care of everything from the “ground to drywall” while Bonnie took it from “drywall to closing.” There were times early on when Bonnie would walk onto the construction site and a sub-contractor would ask her if she was the homeowner. “They just assumed, since I am a woman, that I must be the owner of the house. Not the owner of the company, but the owner of the house,” Bonnie laughs.

Homebuilding plays to women’s strengths

Thirty years ago, women in construction were a rarity.

The examples of Bonnie Weaver along with Lisa Scarmazzi, Sherri Meyer and Kim Kreidler-Thonn, all Epcon Franchise Builders, might indicate a gradual shift in the landscape but data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the share of women workers in construction is still exceptionally low: in 2015, only 9.3% of total construction employees were women, compared to the overall participation of 46.8% across all industries, making it by far one of the most gender-imbalanced fields.

This is a shame, say Weaver and Kim Kreidler-Thonn of Kalan Homes in Lafayette, Indiana, also an Epcon Franchise Builder, because they believe women are a natural fit for the industry.

“By the time you get to the picking and selection phase, it just appears that many customers are more comfortable working with women,” Bonnie points out. Why? “I just think sometimes they have a better understanding of where somebody’s coming from. We’ve been there, done that. We’ve made selections for our own home. We’re just a little bit more sensitive and open to customer needs and that’s a good thing,” Bonnie adds. Even if certain customer requests can be difficult—or downright impossible—to accommodate, a little gentle nudge often yields better results, she points out. “I will sometimes say, ‘I’ll tell you why I personally probably wouldn’t do it that way but my personal reasons could be the exact opposite of yours,’ and that will have them thinking. If at the end of it all, they still want it that’s fine, but we have at least gently guided them toward their options.”

Epcon Franchise Builders leverage market research

Gentle guidance and options were exactly what Sherri Meyer of Property Group One Ltd. in Fishers, Indiana, was looking for. She started in the business as a real estate broker but found out about Epcon Franchising through a magazine article.

A single mother of two children ages 5 and 6, Meyer decided to jump all in and became Epcon’s second Franchise Builder. Since her start in the mid-90s, Meyer, who learned all the processes along the way, made easier by Epcon, has built close to 500 homes in six communities across Indiana. Even better, daughter Nicole Newkirk now works with Meyer as a business partner executing estimating and purchasing decisions.

Kim Kreidler-Thonn’s career path mirrors much of Sherri’s. She too started out in real estate and got a license to flip houses, gradually moving over to construction by working for a builder. Early on, Thonn learned how not to build homes, knowledge that has served her well in her homebuilding career which she launched in 1999.

Thonn started out by building custom homes, but knew she wanted to diversify her construction business into production building. She didn’t quite know what shape that would take until her business partner at the time drove past an Epcon community in Dayton, Ohio, and fell in love with it. “The minute he saw that Epcon community he said “That’s it!’.”

Since then, says Thonn, being an Epcon Franchise Builder has helped greatly with processes and logistics and allowed her to become a significant player in her market area. Most important is Epcon’s investment in market research and all the marketing that goes into a homebuilding business. “They identify what the demand is ahead of anybody else and that gives us Epcon Franchise Builders the edge,” Thonn says.

Epcon Provides the Right Tools

With Epcon by their side, homebuilders like Meyer, Thonn, Weaver and Scarmazzi have indeed gained an edge over the competition and sharpened it to impressive results.

Their advice to women who want to follow in their paths is mostly just to learn every aspect of the business, A to Z. “What do you mean when you say foundations, what is rough framing, you need to have an intelligent conversation, if you don’t understand what you’re talking about, people can figure it out pretty quickly,” Weaver says.

Epcon Franchising helps smaller-volume builders by providing market research and sales guidance to them. Kim Kreidler-Thonn, an Epcon Franchise Builder, says the corporate leadership team and support staff are incredibly helpful and that she feels she’s part of a larger Epcon family.
Epcon Franchising helps smaller-volume builders by providing market research and sales guidance to them. Kim Kreidler-Thonn, an Epcon Franchise Builder, says the corporate leadership team and support staff are incredibly helpful and that she feels she’s part of a larger Epcon family.

Epcon Franchising’s marketing materials and sales and support team are always just a phone call away, reminds Thonn, who says she has always felt like she belonged to part of the family at Epcon. She loves working in a mostly male-dominated industry, as does Lisa Scarmazzi who says she never felt singled out because she is a woman.

“It’s a male-dominated industry, sure, sometimes whether a linen closet is next to the bathroom or not is kind of irrelevant to guys whereas it’s pertinent to a woman,” Thonn says, “Building a home is an emotional thing so if you’ve got a field manager who’s worried about sticks and bricks, and you’ve got a salesperson here who’s concerned only about the emotional side of things, it helps to have someone in control of the whole thing who sees it as one whole package.”

“When you put a strong-willed woman with guys who are wonderful tradesmen, you end up with a great product in the end.” And by all indications, the results delivered by these Epcon Franchise Builders attest to just that kind of winning business partnership.

Become an Epcon Franchise Builder

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Disclaimer: The offer of a franchise can only be made through the delivery of a Franchise Disclosure Document. Certain jurisdictions require registration prior to the offer or sale of a franchise. We do not offer franchises in jurisdictions where we are not registered (or exempt from registration). Epcon Communities Franchising, Inc. 500 Stonehenge Parkway, Dublin, Ohio 43017. Minnesota Franchise Registration No. F-3531.