Denny Conner was “young and cocky” when he decided to leave his job with another contractor back around 1980. “I figured, hey, I could probably do this myself and make more money.” Instead, his income dropped to about $8,000 working on his own. “You grow and you learn,” he says today.

He's learned a lot. Not to undervalue his work, for one thing. How to estimate accurately, for another. And, after the events of September 11 crippled his cash flow, how to “do more than give lip service to the idea of growing the business.” For instance, working with Remodelers Advantage, Conner says he's “really learned how to analyze the numbers and identify our most profitable jobs”: kitchens in the $60,000 to $80,000 range.

To get more such jobs, Conner is building a showroom on a street populated by retail and commercial tenants, including some that sell remodeling-related products. Among other features, the showroom will include a working kitchen and a conference room where he hopes to be able to present 3-D design renderings.