Constructing Confidence

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SShelly Condra, owner of South TX Contracting (STXC), has worn many hats. Literally.

A single mother to 3 young children, Condra has paved her own way in an industry that is not traditionally known for having a lot of women. But she has learned everything she could, utilized the relationships that she cultivated, and has since gone on to enjoy the fruits of an incredibly successful and busy construction and contracting firm right here in Kendall County.

But, as she’ll explain, the journey is rarely on a straight road. Condra has had to learn fast, has had to overcome obstacles, and has had to keep her ultimate goals clearly in her sight.

A Boerne native and BHS graduate, Condra knew that construction and building was in her blood. She begins, “My dad (Guy Condra – Custom Home Builder) was a builder who worked for my grandfather who also was a builder, and my mom was a teacher. I graduated high school in ‘98 and went straight to A&M and entered their Architecture program. Everyone thinks “designer” as in the interior designer, but I was more into the design from the ground up – the blue prints, the actual concept creation. While in college, dad was still building and went out on his own and I thought that it would be so fun to work with him.”

And that opportunity came quickly for Condra who was finishing up her degree at UTSA. She continues, “I finished up at UTSA and got my architecture degree. I immediately started with dad in 2003 at his company. I was the architect for the homes, and yes, I loved it as much as I thought I would. I loved making the clients happy and I enjoyed the creation part of the process. I would have clients come to me and give me ideas, pictures, and drawings of what they were looking for and then we would go to the job site and pick the location and design according to what they’re wanting and accounting for the sun, wind, and moon and we’d start there. There was a lot of back and forth until they liked it and I just loved the entire process and learned so much.”

As Condra’s love for her job grew, so did her knowledge and experience. Her father saw her leadership skills and quickly began to give her more responsibilities. She says, “After my first 5000 square foot design, dad asked me if I wanted to project manage the construction. This was amazing because I could then create the home and concept and then go be on site every day to see it come to life. It was probably 2006 when I started doing the project manager role. I loved every minute of it. I loved the interaction with the people, I loved our subs, it helped me to design better because I would see things that I designed become real and it helped me make better decisions. I learned more about the materials we used and how to work better within budgets. But the people were just my favorite part. Have I said how much I loved it?”

But just when things couldn’t get any better, things got a lot worse. The 2008 recession happened, which decimated the construction industry, and Guy Condra Custom Homes was no different. She continues, “I’m doing the design build with dad until 2008 when the market crashed. Everything dried up – there was no work at that time, so I needed an income. I went and got a job with Journeyman Construction in San Antonio as their Project Manager, which was primarily commercial construction. I worked on projects at UTSA, the Ann Marie Tennis Center, built an apartment complex, and a whole range of other things. I liked the commercial end of things. I liked the structure of the process – it was far more organized and far less emotional with a commercial project. You had to finish on time and you had to be on budget and that added to some of the challenge, but I really enjoyed it. It’s a totally different ball game from residential custom construction and I learned so much with them and am very grateful.”

By this time, Condra is a mother to Marisa (‘05), Quattro (‘11) and Benjamin (‘12), and has begun to envision a different future for her family and has started the mental process of planning for self employment. She explains “After Quattro was born and before Benjamin, I started having the thoughts to do my own thing and start my company. I knew I needed to learn more so that I could have the experience and knowledge, but I began to create the goal of doing it on my own. I was a single mom of 3 kids and it was super scary, but I needed the flexibility to be the best parent for them, and I knew that I could do it. My clients came to me as the designer due to my relationships, and less about the company itself. That’s when I knew I could make it, because they were trusting me as a person. At the same time, someone was always sick as a single parent or I had their extracurricular activities, and it was so hard to take time off and be a great project manager and professional and to balance being a good mom. That was a huge motivation for me to break out on my own.”

And that motivation to respect the needs of single parents has continued to guide her today. She explains, “The reason I wanted to be on my own was because I wanted to employ people just like me. My employees are single parents, they have the drive and ambition, but they needed the flexibility and ability to live great lives with their kids and their needs. Not many employers can offer that, and I remember how much I needed that, so I try to offer it to my employees.”

And just like that, South TX Contracting was born in 2018.

Condra had an agreement to come work with local builder Shawn Baird when she was ready to strike out on her own, and she did so. He referred business to her and it was a great start for her and got her busy quickly. However, make no mistake, the learning curve was steep. Condra says, “When I finally made the leap is when things got really stressful and scary. Dad was helping me and I was able to bring him on board and that’s one of my favorite parts. He’s just such a great man, he’s so well respected, and he’s so respectful of others. He’s just amazing and it’s been such a blessing working with him. I was wearing about 20 different hats of being our chief salesperson, meeting clients, designing, building, bookkeeping, accounting, social media, websites, all of it. I wanted to hire but was too scared to do that yet.” She laughs, “I was only able to afford my dad cause he was super cheap!”

A year after opening, she hired her interior designer, Sarah, and that’s been a great help to her. Caitlyn (her little sister) does the books, Guy Condra is still on board, Justin (project manager), Harvey (Controller) and Rick (Superintendent) all came on board quickly as her company blossomed and the growth consumed her day to day duties. She continues, “We’re slammed at this point. I’ve got 10 residential projects going at this point and a huge job at Albany Engineered Composites in Boerne in the works. Things were going way better than expected and by the end of 2019 I had hired 2 more people and we were going crazy. 2020 has been good. We’ve enjoyed continued growth with a lot of residential remodels right now. The commercial work hasn’t taken off yet because it’s a very difficult industry to break into. I’ve been leaning on the residential work and getting all the experience I can, so that now I can begin bidding commercial government work.”

And one can’t mention 2020 without considering COVID and its impact on all business. She explains, “Corona has been scary. I’ve wondered at any given moment if all my clients are going to cancel all their contracts and I’ll have to let people go, but fortunately, that hasn’t happened. We’ve all been safe in terms of our construction standards with working from home as much as possible and maintaining distancing on job sites, so we’ve navigated that. People have more time on their hands right now and it’s motivated people to handle projects and remodels that they’ve ignored for years. They like our team, they like our company, they like that we’re responsive, and we’ve managed to keep projects moving forward and we’re so thankful and blessed.”

As Condra takes a breath for this interview, it’s clear that she has many irons in the fire and some serious goals, both professionally and personally. She continues, “This job we’re doing at Albany is a great project for us and I bid against some huge contracting firms and got the bid. It’s a 20,000 square foot expansion and it is for their airplane manufacturing division and for their large equipment. It’s designed from the slab all the way up. It was a design/ build job so we were able to hire out the design for the engineering and it has been a huge job for us. Because of that job, I’ve been able to branch out and do some different things. We have tons of residential remodels going on. One new construction going up. I’ve purchased now 2 houses to flip and am pushing to make that grow and do some town-homes in the first of ‘21. I’d really like to focus on small developments. My ultimate goal is to be a developer, not necessarily a huge one, but I’d like to start working with them. I’d also like to invest in some rental properties for the kids’ future. And, I really want to build my own house – that’s a major goal for me.”

With the success has come attention. Currently, Condra is being considered for a construction reality show with HGTV. She continues, “I had a repeat client – their daughter works in a production agency – and they were talking about how she and the producers had an idea of pitching an idea for a show about women in construction. They did some research about this area, and fell in love with what’s going on out here. So the daughter referred my name, and they ultimately reached out and asked if I’d like to be considered. They called, we made contact, and have done 2 Zoom interviews with me. They want to bring in some other woman-owned construction people, including some of my subs, and create an entire concept around women in construction. HGTV has been receptive, and they’re in the initial pitch step right now in the process. Nothing set in stone, but just being considered to do something like this is very humbling to me. If nothing happens, ok, but it’s exciting nonetheless. I should know decisions by the 1st of the year.”

Condra continues to stay equal parts busy and focused. She has lofty goals and a full calendar, but she also balances her responsibilities as “Mom” and continues to tip-toe the balance of meeting everyone’s needs. Doing all of this in her hometown has also been a blessing for her. She explains, “Kendall County has been amazing to me. To get to work in the town that I grew up in has been so much fun. I’ve had so much support, and Kendall County has really come together so much on shopping and hiring local, and that’s what sells people on me as well. They feel good knowing that they are hiring local and I so appreciate that. I know this area better than most any builder, and it’s so fun seeing this area grow with the good growth”.

Condra will admit that her father’s relationship and standing in the community has benefitted her tremendously, but she also knows that ultimately her success will depend on her ability to carry on those standards her father taught her, and she has enjoyed giving it all she has. She finishes, “I didn’t know anything when I rolled on the scene in this job. Working in this industry has been great, but being a woman in this industry has benefited me. Working for my dad helped me a lot because he was so respected, and I received the same respect.

I’m not afraid to ask questions and I wanted to learn so I would ask questions. There’s been moments where subs will discount me because I’m a woman, but it’s rare and I can normally re-earn that respect quickly. The subs always think I’m the new homeowner, so I have to overcome that quickly with most of them – once they figure out that I’m the boss, they think it’s great and I’ve got great relationships with all of our guys and it’s been wonderful. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I hope I never have to.”

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