Two young Charlottetown entrepreneurs took an idea they had a few years ago to build a custom house and turned it into an award-winning full-time job.
Brothers Nick and Cory Jay own and operate Craftsman Construction in Stratford, which has just been awarded the Best of Houzz 2013 by Houzz, the leading online platform for residential remodeling and design. It was the second year in a row the Jay’s took the award.
The Jay brothers launched the business in 2005 when Nick was a second-year business student at UPEI and Cory was on the cycling circuit.
“The first house we built was a spec house. We had a few clients come through it that liked the work so much that we were hired to do their projects right away and we never looked back,’’ Nick Jay said in an interview on Thursday.
“We ended up going from one client to the next and the next . . . and just kept building our clientele.’’
The business has had inquiries from all over North America and visitors from 57 countries to its website www.craftsmanconstruction.ca.
Choosing to build custom homes wasn’t exactly a stretch for the Jay brothers. Their father made a living in the business as did their grandfather.
Becoming an entrepreneur is very satisfying, Nick says, but it isn’t easy by any means.
“It is hard (but) it’s interesting. At UPEI, you study entrepreneurship but until you’re actually out there trying to do it it’s impressively hard to get financing or help from a bank. We were six years in business before a bank would loan us anything.’’
It may have taken the banks a while to notice but Houzz has had its eye on the pair for quite some time. Houzz provides homeowners with an in-depth, 360-degree view of building, remodeling and design professionals through images of their work, reviews and an opportunity to interact with them.
“We’re delighted to recognize Craftsman Construction among our ‘best of’ professionals for exceptional customer service as judged by our community or homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes,’’ said Liza Hausman, vice-president of community for Houzz.
That’s what the Jay brothers will say when asked what separates them from their competitors - their hands-on approach on every single project.
“We try to be,’’ Nick Jay said. “Where I think we excel (is that) we’re both young (Nick is 27, Cory is 30), we have a great online presence . . . and we communicate with clients.’
Nick is also quick to credit their staff for the company’s success.
“Much of our success has come from surrounding ourselves with a great team of employees and subcontractors. (They’ve made) our business what it is today.’’
As the company grows, Nick says it will get harder for he and Cory to be as ‘hands on’ as they have been. That’s where their staff will come in handy.
“They’re almost at the point where they can replace us on the job.’’
Nick says he and Cory spend at least four hours at each site per day.
As was stated before, they are getting calls from all over the world - calls about their designs, ideas and finished product (Hulk Hogan’s next door neighbor in Clearwater, Fla., was one of them) but Nick says it’s not an easy to serve a global clientele.
“We haven’t agreed to take anything on. It’s asking your staff to start travelling when they have kids. We’ve been asked to do some design work for clients and that’s probably as far as we need to go at this point.’’
They’ve been especially busy this year as everyone tries to get their homes finished before the HST takes effect April 1. Any work that takes place after that is subject to the new harmonized sales tax.
“So far, we’re seeing more inquiries this year. We figured (the cost of building a new home) goes up a little over two per cent (on April 1).’’
Regardless of the challenges, Nick wouldn’t change a thing.
“I enjoy working for myself and being a young entrepreneur. There’s not many people who get to do it.’’