This article was originally posted on Trim-Tex.com.
As anyone in the industry can tell you, there’s a real shortage of skilled labor in drywall and the trades in general. What most people don’t talk about, though, is how few women work in this industry – and what an untapped resource they represent.
The fact is, construction is not an industry that has historically been very friendly or welcoming to women, and if we want to get more women involved (and we should want that) we need to make the industry a place that appreciates, respects, and welcomes them. One of the best ways to do that is look to the women who are already doing a great job and use them as role models to encourage the next generation of young women to get into the trades.
In this edition of “Women in Drywall” we’ll introduce you to Joyce Nieves, a relatively new drywaller who’s quickly making a name for herself and growing her business in Florida while raising a family and managing a successful social media group for women in the trades.
Thanks to a bubbly voice and unmistakable enthusiasm paired with a strong work ethic, it’s no wonder that Joyce Nieves is seeing success despite having been in the business for only five years and getting into it somewhat unexpectedly.
“I had a neighbor, a good friend of mine, and her husband was getting dropped off [at the jobsites] because he, because none of the guys on the crew had a driver’s license, but I did, so I started dropping them off. And I got to learn from them, you know? And James, [my partner] was working for them and that’s how I met him! And they were teaching me to do a patch and then I found out what it paid to do a patch and like ‘Are you serious?! Why doesn’t everyone do this?’ And everything just kind of fell into place and it was perfect,” Joyce says cheerfully.
Joyce’s love of her work shines through constantly. Ask a question about her job and she’ll answer several more before there is even a chance to ask another one. Her passion for the work lights her up and she shares her excitement openly. This is one of the reasons for her success, she says.
“Word of mouth – no advertising whatsoever. Since at least three years ago. At first, I paid to put a few ads on Facebook, but it just seemed like after we started doing stuff for 6 or 8 months, contractors were talking about us. Other contractors were calling. My partner has been doing it a lot longer and he’s faster than I am. But they were calling me, and I told him you don’t stand out in anyone’s head, so he lets me be the face of the company!” she laughs.
A Family Tradition
Joyce frequently brings her children to help out on the jobsite, she says. That’s no surprise, though, since she helped out her own father when she was young.
“Anyway, it’s always been at the back door. When I was a kid, my dad was a drywall framer, finisher, electrician – you name it, he did it and he did it well! But he didn’t do construction for a living; it was just on his own properties. I remember hammering 2x4s together when I was young and calling them airplanes and we changed an F-150 from a six speed automatic when I was about seven years old. We did all that!”
Her kids may not be building transmissions but they love to work, she says, and she finds ways to encourage them.
“They don’t have to do that after school if they don’t want, but I’d like to work with them a little. [The boys are] going to be ginormous. They’re both starting boxing here in January after school. Sometimes I’ll take one of them with me now. I give him like a little job spotting nails or cleaning the floors. He loves to work, they both do. They can do more pushups than most grown men. If they want to play video games or on the phone, pushups until you drop, whoever quits first doesn’t get it. But they love to do hard work!”
A Growing Business
Nieves is focused on doing high-quality work on residential properties and in addition to word of mouth, she relies heavily on repeat customers.
“When I first started, I was doing some commercial jobs, but I don’t like being in the same place for so long. I like seeing things get finished…We used to do a lot of big custom homes in Citrus County. At first, it was really exciting to get those big contracts, but then being in the same place for 2 weeks or more…Now, for the last couple of years, we’ve been working for the same contractors and we’re doing the whole development…It takes on about 5 days per house, depending on the size.”
Her reputation for good results coupled with a sunny personality makes it easy to want her back on the jobsite. Nieves has enough work now that she’s thinking about breaking off and starting her own business, which she plans to call “Mom’s Drywall Truck”, the name was given to her vehicle by her kids.
“I’m looking to launch in March. That’s another reason I’m moving. James is staying more on the Citrus side, and I’ll be more on the Marion side with Mom’s Drywall… We’re not breaking off in any bad way. He’s proud of me for wanting to do it on my own. We’ll still help each other out,” she explains.
Despite the success of her current business partnership, she says that finding good workers is a real difficulty, and one she wants to address in a specific way with Mom’s Drywall.
“I’d like to have a few women working for me. Or working with me. We work together. There’s no boss. We’re a team. At least a couple of other women working with me,” she says. “And my daughter. She likes to do it with me. She plans to join the military, but if she wants to do it when she comes back, I’d love that!”
Part of that, of course, is about creating a way for more women to get into the trades. The best way in, says Nieves, is to be confident, to have a good work ethic and to stay curious.
“There’s going to be a lot of pushing against the grain you’ll have to do. It’s going to be uncomfortable… It takes a little while to get confident because at first it’s like, ‘how many other people want this job?’ [but] put all of your effort into it and ask questions. Always ask questions. People will always get more annoyed by fixing mistakes than by answering questions. Listen to everyone and filter what works for you. Never say “I know” even if you do, because they might tell you a detail you didn’t know.”
Curiosity and a Generous Spirit
Nieves’ trademark attitude of always asking questions, not being afraid to connect with people and a generosity of spirit towards newcomers has led her to find a successful Facebook group as well.
“It began as a drywall group, but we changed it to just ‘Women in Trades.’ Any woman in any trade. I haven’t been as active on it lately, I’ve had so much going on, but it’s taking off. That came from one of the guys’ groups, and some guy jumped one of the girls’ throats and I said ‘why don’t we just have our own group? We can just help each other out,’ you know? It’s 153 members, just women. I only have 11 friends on there, and I’m one of the ones who made the group! Some of it is jobs, but a lot of it is just questions, a place where we can ask questions and not get any negativity.”
Kindness, professionalism, and boundless enthusiasm for the job is a recipe for success in nearly any industry and we can’t wait to see where it takes Nieves and Mom’s Drywall Truck.