In the City of Brotherly Love, a scrappy sisterhood of remodelers is building a foundation for future growth using project types that speak to the hearts – and livelihoods – of its principals and their staff.

“Our big systems push has been targeting our marketing and doing a lot of it,” says Diane Menke, co-owner, with Tamara Myers, of Myers Constructs, a 12-year-old Philadelphia design/build remodeling company with six full-time staff and a niche in urban rowhouses. The company took a hit of at least $200,000 in cancelled or downsized projects in 2008 – impetus for starting 2009 with a blitzkrieg of new business-generating models based largely on professional partnerships and “networks of buyers.”

Thinking Outside the House 

Besides ongoing refinements to its lively and detail-rich website, for instance, MCI has hired a public relations professional and dipped its toes into co-marketing waters, including teaming up on a catalog mailing with a local real estate agent and furniture company. A hopeful result of these and other efforts will be expansion into areas outside of residential remodeling.

To that end, the company was recently awarded a job worth about $150,000 to replace 35 windows in the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, the historically sensitive home of the nation’s oldest tuition-free art school. Myers and Menke, both of whom went to art school themselves, learned of the opportunity through personal connections with the school, including a former employee who exhibited there and board members familiar with the company. Further leveraging their position, Myers is not only deeply knowledgeable about windows, but attends frequent art events and participates in historical societies and city boards.

“We were awarded this project outside the bid process,” Menke says. “Tamara worked with the board as a paid consultant to put together a strategy and product list, and to analyze the problems that needed solutions."

“There are more large sections of work ahead” at the Fleisher, Menke says. And despite the lengthy review and approval process typical of nonprofits, they see this project as a strong step toward becoming a “go-to solution” for issues that arise at this and other historic institutional properties.

Capitalizing on Gender

Looking ahead, MCI is gearing up for “city projects” – and possibly those at the state and federal level – as well, Menke says, noting Philadelphia’s piece of the economic stimulus package. They’ve already done some of the paperwork. “We had to file our ‘certified woman-owned minority business’ application as part of the qualifying process” for the Fleisher project, she says.

Besides, the city is moving in a pro-business direction. The new mayor, Michael Nutter, is “smart, super green-focused, budget focused, and committed to moving into the 21st century.” The general application process is online. There’s even a real person who answers the phone. Progress, indeed.