December 12, 2020
By Alyssa Lally
Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council
Brandy McCombs always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. The daughter and granddaughter of entrepreneurs, McCombs began International Builders and Consultants, Inc. in 2009. But McCombs did not always know she would end up the owner of a successful contracting business.
“I knew I wanted to own my own company. I didn’t know it would be construction until I got into construction and liked it,” said McCombs.
McCombs went to college for business management. Originally, she intended to become a restaurant owner, but she realized restauranteering was not compatible with her work-life balance. McCombs took a job as an interior superintendent for a general contractor and found her niche. Eventually, she opened her own business.
IBC is comprised of two businesses. IBC Carpentry is an interior finish contractor and IBC Traffic provides road striping and traffic control. IBC now serves the entire Greater Kansas City area. McCombs just opened a second location in Lee’s Summit and moved her headquarters there, but the road to success has come with a few speed bumps.
In the early days of her business, McCombs said growth came as both a blessing and a curse.
“I’ve always been told don’t grow too big too fast,” said McCombs. “We start growing and we’ve been reactive instead proactive because of that growth, so that has been the biggest hurdle… We’re now at a point where we can start being more proactive.”
McCombs said her gender has also presented its own challenges. As a woman in the construction industry, McCombs said she has had to overcome her fair share of gender-based discrimination. Ironically, she said she encounters more cases of discrimination now than she did when she first started.
“It didn’t take as long to break through in the beginning, but now as I grow it becomes more of a challenge,” said McCombs. “It’s [the construction industry] still a good ol’ boy town.”
As a female business owner, McCombs is eligible for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Businesses in the program get priority access to projects, something McCombs said some of her competitors could be resentful toward. But gender is not the only qualifier. McCombs said there are a range of other requirements and an annual re-certification in order to be eligible for the program.
“They don’t just give it to you because you’re a woman,” she said.
Despite the discrimination she has faced, McCombs said she has also had plenty of pleasant surprises.
“Once I sit down with them, I think it does change their mind a lot,” said McCombs. “No matter what, a woman coming into the construction industry, they’re a little bit nervous, but once they sit down and they talk and they realize that I do know what I’m talking about, it opens up a lot more and they understand that I’m not just here for that [MODOT] certification.”
McCombs said she has learned to not let naysayers have power over her.
“I don’t let them affect me, I just keep going, don’t listen, have positive self-talk.”