By Reah Nicholson Moore | Published Mon, December 02, 2019
Barbara Anne (B.A.) Eagles, ’93, is a rarity. As owner of Total Construction Solutions (TCS), a general contracting company based in Apex, N.C., Eagles has built a successful business in a male-dominated industry. She credits Meredith for providing her with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to succeed as an entrepreneur.
“Meredith College has always been a place where young women can go and learn that there is nothing you can’t do,” said Eagles. “My time at Meredith prepared me for success as a business owner. I learned to be resilient, strong, and not to back down from problems. I learned to be a solution seeker.”
With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and more than 20 years of experience in the custom home building and remodeling business, Eagles launched TCS in 2004. However, when she graduated from Meredith, she never imagined being an entrepreneur.
“I felt business administration would give me a wide variety of opportunities across many different fields,” said Eagles. “It seemed like the best way to build a strong foundation for my future career.”
How Meredith Prepares Students for Entrepreneurship
Meredith’s business administration program prepares students to pursue careers in human resource management, sales and marketing, international business, management of nonprofit agencies and government service, and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is offered as a minor.
According to Nathan Woolard, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and director of entrepreneurial programs, the entrepreneur curriculum explores predominantly why businesses succeed and why they fail. The curriculum is supplemented with additional business classes to allow students to receive a fundamental education in general business, management, accounting and finance, and marketing.
“The foundation for most good business is solving a problem. It’s about identifying a problem that people have and providing a solution to that problem that people are willing to pay for,” said Woolard. “A mistake that entrepreneurs make is not having a full understanding of their market.”
Eagles saw a problem in the construction industry and found a solution. One of the reasons she established TCS was because she saw that many larger construction companies were reluctant to take on home remodel projects. And Eagles felt she could fill that void.
The Path to Construction
Eagles started her career in restaurant management, where she learned how to manage people and time. That experience also taught her about customer service and how to meet a variety of needs quickly and efficiently. All are skills that have translated well to the construction industry.
“I rely on these skills daily, whether it’s meeting with potential or existing clients or my employees on the job site,” said Eagles.
Not only did Eagles never dream of owning her own business, but she never imagined working in construction. It was an unexpected opportunity that turned into a passion and career.
“I did not always want to work in construction and I didn’t have experience in the field. The opportunity just fell into my lap,” said Eagles. “It was challenging, and I enjoy stretching myself and learning new skills, so I decided to jump in.”
Eagles started in the construction industry by serving in the permitting division of a local municipality office before becoming a project manager for several local custom home building companies. While working for a custom home builder, she was encouraged to start TCS.
What started out as a side job while gaining industry experience quickly became a full-time commitment for Eagles.
“It wasn’t until six years ago that I went into business for myself full time,” said Eagles. “I saw a huge need in the construction industry for someone who is highly organized, good at managing time and people, and can keep projects on track to meet the needs of the clients.”
TCS specializes in new additions and remodels, such as kitchens, bathrooms, decks, basements, and attics, to name a few.
As owner of TCS, Eagles’ day-to-day responsibilities vary significantly. In the field, she is managing projects, meeting with homeowners, assessing needs, meeting with her workers, creating schedules, and fitting together a lot of moving parts to deliver multiple jobs on time and on budget.
In her office, Eagles is doing a lot of behind the scenes work, including invoicing, making sure checks are delivered, answering emails, and troubleshooting problems as they arise.
“What I like most about my job is the flexibility. I enjoy being the leader and not having to answer to anyone else,” said Eagles. “I also enjoy bringing people’s visions and dreams to reality. This business is extremely difficult, and I love helping people better their homes and lives.”
An Award-Winning Business
Eagles has turned TCS into an award-winning remodeling company. TCS has won a total of 19 STAR Awards from the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County Remodelers Council, with five in 2015, and seven in 2018. This year, TCS was awarded seven Home Builders Association Remodeling Awards (formerly STAR awards).
“We have had the privilege of winning in numerous categories, such as Best Kitchen, Best Bathroom, Best Basement, Best Attic, Best Screened Porch, and Best Overall House Renovations,” said Eagles. “However, our most prized accomplishments are the many repeat customers who welcome us back into their homes time and time again. Their loyalty and trust mean the world to all of us at TCS.”
Facing Challenges in a Male-Dominated Field
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Eagles faces many obstacles, but her Meredith experience prepared her to face those challenges head-on.
“After working in construction for more than 20 years, I do believe the glass ceiling exists,” said Eagles. “It is rare to find a woman in my role in this industry; however, I believe my work ethic, organization, and high expectations shine through in my work.”
Though Eagles is faced with challenges and problems every day, she tries not to let them get in her way. She enjoys tackling challenges head on and finding solutions as problems present themselves.
“Being a Meredith graduate is synonymous with someone who can do anything she sets her mind to,” said Eagles. “That strong foundation in problem solving and building relationships helps me overcome every complication that comes my way.”
Mentors have played a significant role in Eagles’ success as a business owner and a woman working in a male-dominated field. After all, it was a mentor who encouraged her to start TCS.
“I’ve had a lot of mentors in my life. My parents taught me I could do anything I wanted to do – it was never a question of if you were good enough but how hard you needed to work to make something happen. There was no whining – you just did whatever it took, whether it was with schoolwork, sports, or a job. Coaches have always been mentors throughout my life as well.”
One of her main goals when Eagles first established TCS was to build long-lasting relationships with her customers. And she has achieved that goal with a very high repeat customer count, which is something she takes great pride in.
“My biggest success will be if someone thinks, at some point, I have been a mentor to them and have influenced them in a positive way – then, I will know I am a success.”