The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to many individuals, including jobs losses and businesses coming to a halt. Those affected include a group of long-time friends in Houston by the names of Eva Wyatt, Aisha Taylor, and Kendra Murray. Kendra was forced to quit her job as a schoolteacher to reduce COVID exposure for her daughter, who was at high risk. Aisha’s projects in the oil and gas industry were put on pause. Then, Eva saw a deep decrease in work when schools closed down, greatly affecting the school safety software company she worked for. With so many elements in flux, the group was in search of a solution.
“We came up with the idea to go into business together, combining all of our strengths under one business. That was born out of us wanting to create a legacy for our children,” Eva says. This is how the construction business, Four Eleven was created. Four women (including one silent partner, Trudy), eleven total children, and a dream to become more independent of environmental factors, while building something meaningful in their community.
Eva explains, “We are working to build homes and do landscape projects in the neighborhoods where we grew up, Sunnyside and South Park.”
As a team, they had all the skills they needed to grow their company. Aisha was put charge of project management and finding projects to bid on, having managed multi-million-dollar projects implementing systems for oil and gas companies. Being a software engineer, Eva was tasked with implementing the software needed to handle processes, crew, and payroll. Eva laughs saying, “Kendra, being that she’s so good with children, she handles our crew.”
The team combined all their savings, bootstrapping, to get their business going. However, when they moved to bid for their first big contract, they found they needed more capital.
Eva says, “We knew that was not going to be enough to be able to carry the business through until we actually started getting paid by the contract. So, we all had assignments to go find funding.”
Against their luck, most lenders at the time were focused on supporting existing businesses affected by COVID-19, not businesses trying to get their start during the pandemic.
“Then Aisha was like, ‘I’m gonna start looking for unconventional ways to fund the loan.’ That’s when she came across Liftfund,” says Eva.
With LiftFund’s assistance, Four Eleven secured the $1 million contract and solidified the foundation of their business.
“The funding was all it took for us to get in. We were already women trying to win landscaping jobs, we stuck out like a sore thumb. But when we were able to show that we could afford to do it, because of the funding and the credit to do so, it was a no-brainer,” says Eva.
While they are a woman-led team in a largely male-dominated industry, the team won the contract when they were able to prove that the business was well-funded and sustainable.
“The loan from LiftFund allowed us to be able to show those financials. Once we showed those numbers and those documents and being funded, we literally went from ‘Uhhh, don’t call us, we’ll call you,’ to, ‘hey, can y’all start tomorrow?’ It was a huge impact.”
Looking into the future, the team aims to become a full-service construction firm not only in Houston, but across other major cities. They strive to be of service to their community and give back to the areas that made them who they are.
Eva says, “What motivates us is to show our children, our other family members, other women of color, and other women, period, that you can absolutely step into an industry that you don’t see anyone like yourself in, and you can do well in it.”