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Being a woman entrepreneur in a man’s world – Interview with Kristell Tremblay

Guest Blogger | July 23, 2015

Where some people see a risk, Kristell Tremblay sees an opportunity. What we could consider to be a disadvantage, she turns into an asset. This 33-year-old young entrepreneur, with a strong character and candor, is one of those who know where they are going. When told she was crazy to start her own company in the construction industry considering the unfavourable market conditions, Kristell didn’t get discouraged. As the head of Construction KT Inc. for nearly three years now, Kristell is part of the small community of 2.9% of female owners of small and medium sized businesses in the construction industry in Canada. Being young and being a women business owner in an industry largely dominated by men is not common and may seem challenging. We had the pleasure of speaking with Kristell who shared her journey and her day-to-day life as an entrepreneur with us.

 Entrepreneur by nature

Daughter of a business owner, Kristell always knew she was an entrepreneur by nature and it didn’t take very long before she followed her engineer father’s path. After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, she worked in a factory where she realized that it was hard for her to practice leadership in this male-dominated environment and eventually decided to switch to the construction industry. She first ventured in civil engineering at CIMOTA Inc. Here experience was very education and allowed her to learn a lot about construction. It was only after another job where she realized that she was able to run her own business, so she decided to take the plunge and start her own company, Construction KT Inc.

“We are general construction contractors that renovate schools, works on renovation and repairs as well as redevelopment projects, mainly in the Montreal area,” explains Kristell. “We specialize in structural concrete repair, underground parking lots, condominiums, concrete balconies, surface coatings, and more. “

Being an entrepreneur in the construction industry is not easy. One of the greatest challenges for Kristell is to stay informed and understand the many laws that govern this industry. The construction industry is not performing very well but this doesn’t mar Kristell’s optimism, or her determination. “In 2012, many businesses had to close their doors, I saw this more as an opportunity than a threat,” Kristell shared. “It eventually opened up space for young people and even if this year is hard for everyone, we hope to continue and to see a progression. We don’t allow ourselves to be discouraged.”

Kristell can count on the support of mentors to guide her on her entrepreneurial journey, but also that of her father, who acts more like a coach and who gives her advice on risk taking and emotional aspects.

Paving her own path

Kristell also owes her success to her strong character. When asked if she sees the fact of being young and being female as a disadvantage, her answer was categorical. “I have always seen this as an advantage because I don’t pass unnoticed. When I pitch my business, I want everyone to remember me and my business,” she said. Kristell admits that her strong character also contributes to this: “If you want to be heard in the construction industry, don’t let people push you around. You have to make your mark and work hard to keep it.”

Although her position as a business owner makes it easier to practise leadership, this young entrepreneur knows that nothing can be taken for granted. “You must be familiar with your records, come prepared to the meetings and know what to say to your team. I put myself on the same level as everyone else. I don’t try to impose myself as the boss. I ask for their opinion, arguments, and suggested solutions.  At the same time, this allows me to hear about their needs.”

For Kristell, honesty is a key element of her credibility. “When people ask me questions to which I don’t have the answers, I respond by saying I don’t know, and tell them I will check and get back to them with the information,” Kristell shares. “This is very important, especially in construction. Guys tend to ask trick questions, so if you provide them with the wrong answer they will find out.” Kristell also tells us that humour is the best weapon when working in construction. “Keep smiling, have a good attitude and voila!”

Volunteering, social and community involvement

After lots of talk about the importance of networking with her mentors, Kristell decided to get involved as a volunteer in many organizations. Alternating contributor to the vice-presidency in entrepreneurship of the young Chamber of Commerce of Quebec, manager of networking at the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, and recently joining the board of l’Association patronale des entreprises en construction du Québec. In addition to the opportunity to directly influence changes in the industry, it is a great way to make contacts and benefit from the expertise of more experienced peers.

Kristell also believes in the importance of mutual support within the small community of women entrepreneurs in construction. She is a volunteer in the network Les ELLES de la construction which aims to promote the role of women in the construction industry.” Les ELLES changed my life. I make contacts, I network. There are also women who are business owners like me, who have the same journey and exactly the same questions that I have,” Kristell shares. “Some have started their business before me, others are younger than me, so we can support each other.”

It is clear that Kristell is an entrepreneur engaged in the issue of gender equality within her industry, and is constantly pushing the boundaries. She notably gave a speech “Gender equality: beyond the prejudices” during which she stressed the importance of women to hold a position in which they excel and feel comfortable. Futurpreneur is proud to support the journey of this young entrepreneur and is hoping her story and her persistence will inspire many people.

Written By: Claire Gendron, Bilingual Marketing Content Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada

Photo Credit: ellesdelaconstruction.com/revue-presse