Lasenta Lewis-Ellis had her first child when she was 22 while living in a low-income apartment. She recalled her struggles in an interview but said she did not allow them to weigh her down. She defied all odds to emerge as one of the finest contractors in the U.S.
Lewis-Ellis attended Midlands Technical College where she obtained a degree in architectural engineering technology. After college, she started off renovating offices at the University of South Carolina. She later returned to college to obtain a degree in construction.
This opened opportunities for her in the construction industry which is still male-dominated. “I wanted to learn construction. I like seeing the deliverable, the finished product,” she told Cola Daily. In 2011, she founded her own construction firm, LLE Construction Group, providing general construction and facility maintenance.
More about this
Lewis-Ellis said she went into general construction and facility maintenance because she saw a market gap in the area. She explained that many companies were not interested in smaller jobs and renovations. Besides, it was also the perfect way for her to begin operations as she didn’t have the capital to take on the big jobs.
Today, LLE Construction Group brings in between $1.1 to $1.4 million a year building and maintaining facilities. Lewis-Ellis enjoys working with small businesses although one of her biggest clients is the Richland School District One.
“We can handle anything outside or inside. We bring in outside contractors to help with electricity, plumbing, HVAC, painting, and paving,” according to her.
Lewis-Ellis recently obtained another professional specialty after passing her real estate license last December and works with Coldwell Banker focusing on commercial properties. “I can help small businesses understand their lease options,” Lewis-Ellis said, “and also help them with their renovations. Many times they assume the property owner will handle that, but they’re usually on their own.”
Lewis-Ellis, who once lived in low-incoming housing, undertook a major project, constructing affordable housing at Swinton Pointe in Columbia.
LLE Construction Group supervised the project for the small cul-de-sac of 1,200–1,400 sq.-ft. homes. Construction began last April and all the homes were sold at prices from $128,000 to $163,000 by December.
She told WACH that seeing families moved into the homes rekindled her. “I started working on that project and just to see the families that were going to be moving in, just to see their excitement rekindled me.”
Lewis-Ellis had at some time in the past watched her mother suffer after their home was foreclosed. After enrolling in college, her goal was to buy her mother a new home at some point in the future, but her mother died before she graduated. She was subsequently inspired to help others with housing.
For others looking to take her steps, Lewis-Ellis has these words of advice for them. “Always know your trade,” she said. “You’ve got to know the pieces and parts. Knowledge is power, and applied knowledge is even more power.”
She added, “You have to build a good team. That’s one of my strengths. My team makes my business possible. My doors would be closed without them.”