How Parrish & Sons Became the First Black Woman-Owned Firm to Win the Mr. K AwardJake Slobe
Fahteema Parrish had a unique path into the construction industry and entrepreneurship.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Fahteema obtained an up close and personal view of what hard work really looked like. Her mother and father were entrepreneurs and owned their
own HVAC business. Growing up, she remembers going on service calls with her dad and learning math from her mom, who managed the company’s books.
Fahteema began her career working in the information technology industry for 20 years where she gained experience in process innovation, applications development, computer programming and systems analysis.
But that all changed when she and her now-husband, Clark Parrish, were dating. At the time, Clark was a construction worker and going through an apprenticeship. As Fahteema visited him on job sites and learned about his work, a new business idea occurred to her.
That idea was the construction company that would eventually become Parrish & Sons Construction.
Fahteema faced a number of learning curves and hardships when first starting the company, including struggling to find capital, learning how to compile bid packages and facing higher insurance costs. For Fahteema, starting a construction company meant working two full-time jobs for nearly two years while she launched the business.
“There was a transition period from 2015 to 2017, where I was doing a lot of planning, learning and retooling,” Fahteema says. “What is the first piece of equipment that I purchase? What is the budget that I need to have in place in order to purchase that equipment? Once I purchase a piece of equipment, how am I going to transport it to and from a job site?”
As she ventured further into the construction industry, she earned her OSHA 30, obtained her Class A Commercial Driver’s License and completed multiple construction management programs including the Turner School of Construction Management and the JEDunn Minority Development Program.
“In 2017, I started bidding on projects and going through all of the pages of documentation that are required in order to submit a proposal,” Fahteema says. “There were a few early bids that I ended up missing out on due to not including certain required documents that I didn’t fully understand at the time. So that was definitely another learning process.”
In 2018, Parrish and Sons landed its first big win – a bid to work on the Santa Fe Trail near Avila University. The company installed nearly 1,000 square feet of trail near the campus in South Kansas City.
Taking Full Advantage of Kansas City’s Entrepreneurial Resources
Since starting the business, Fahteema has received help and mentorship from several Kansas City resources including Missouri SBDC at Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC’s GROWTH360 program, the Missouri Apex Accelerator and AltCap’s NeXt Stage KC program.
“Through the GROWTH360 program, I was able to get do a health check on the business, talk about where I was with marketing and branding, where I was with the goals of the organization, and solidify a capability statement,” Fahteema says. “The health check was good because it really allowed to me to see the benefit in growing my team, and not always being in the field, but being able to step up into the coach’s box.”
Fahteema also participated in the Rising Trades Accelerator in 2022, a program supporting Kansas City construction entrepreneurs leading the region’s adoption of “green” construction methods.
Fahteema is currently working with the Missouri SBDC at UMKC to receive her 8(a) certification, which will qualify Parrish & Sons as eligible to compete for the program’s sole-source and competitive set-aside contracts.
Hard work leads to big results
Fast forward to today, Parrish & Sons has been a part of some of the biggest projects in the Kansas City metro including the new KCI Airport terminal, the KC Streetcar expansion, Three Light luxury apartment tower and Meta’s data center in Smithville, Missouri.
In June 2023, Parrish & Sons won the KC Chamber Mr. K Small Business of the Year award. In the award’s 36-year existence, it is the first time a Black woman-owned business has won.
As for what’s next, Parrish said the company is working to finalize a 10-acre land acquisition for a new headquarters, which would span 10,000 square feet. In addition to the headquarters, the site would house a maintenance facility for heavy equipment.
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