Kenya Simmons: Crafting Success, Shaping Futures - A Black Woman’s Journey of Triumph

 

In the vibrant streets of Atlanta, Kenya Simmons, a powerhouse entrepreneur, defies the odds with her multifaceted empire — T & J Industries Development & Contracting, Inc., Kenya Simmons Real Estate LLC, Last Supper Music Group record label, Municipal Pipeline Services, Inc., and Ruby’s Place, named after her late husband and maternal grandmother. This Black History Month, we delve into Kenya’s extraordinary journey, from being the first African American woman in various roles to managing multi-million-dollar projects globally, and how her resilience and trailblazing spirit continue to shape the narrative of success.

Please enjoy our interview!

Can you share the key factors that contributed to your success in managing multiple businesses simultaneously?

Kenya: Surrounding myself with qualified and competent management and team members. Additionally, being organized and not micromanaging my team and allowing them to “play” the position they were hired to do. I hire people who are well qualified and on top of their game in their respective roles. I do not want to be the smartest one on the team, but I ensure that each person on my administrative and management teams are competent and some of the best in the industry. I am also very big on continuing education and leadership training for my entire company.

How do you approach the development of all-inclusive projects like the winery with a unique twist, considering your diverse business portfolio?

Kenya: While it is my desire to develop the 111 acres we have purchased into a winery “with a twist”, ultimately it will be a mutual decision that my husband and I will make together based upon the best use for the property. However, my idea of what a “twist” on what the winery concept looks like would be, adding a “Top Golf” like facility on the property as well as an equestrian center. Along with retail shops and a restaurant.

Being the first African American woman in various roles, what challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them in your career journey?

Kenya: Being a woman and a woman of color in an industry that is not only predominantly Caucasian but male, I received a lot of stares and even had some people that were bold enough to ask me, “what are you doing here” to which I respectfully replied, “bidding on the contract just like you”. I certainly had to go the extra mile to “prove” that I knew how to do the work, but I just let my work speak for itself and eventually I gained the respect of most of my peers in the industry and at minimum, they realized that I deserved a “seat at the table”. But overall, it has not been anything too bad that I have encountered because I work alongside some very amazing fellow contractors in the industry.

With experience in both real estate and utility contracting, how do you integrate these skills to enhance the success of your projects?

Kenya: I have utilized my experience and knowledge in the water pipeline industry to give me expert advice that I can pass along to clients in particular that may be building a home or building from the foundation, and I can offer my advice on the infrastructure portion. My real estate knowledge does not particularly coincide with the water pipeline industry.

Managing multi-million-dollar projects in various locations, what strategies do you employ to ensure effective project management and timely delivery?

Kenya: I have project managers, superintendents and foremen that manage the projects on a day-to-day basis and ensure that it is kept on schedule, and we also have a safety team that oversees the safety of the jobsites to ensure we are always in compliance.

Could you elaborate on your involvement in updating water infrastructure in the Caribbean and the challenges you encountered in such international projects?

Kenya: The Caribbean most definitely had its challenges! Finding housing that was comparable to what we are used to was one of the first challenges because the area that we worked in had no running water. The residents gathered water from a central location that was a few miles from the housing units. Additionally, there are no local restaurants to run to where we worked, and they relied on the local farmers and villagers for food. The terrain in the Caribbean is completely different than what we have here and therefore we had to equip our tractors and loaders with special tires to handle the sandy soil.

As a top producer in the real estate industry, what advice do you have for professionals striving for consistent excellence in their careers?

Kenya: You just said the most important word, consistent. Consistency is key to being successful in anything that you do. You have to be reliable and do what you have marketed yourself to be able to do. Clients choose us based upon what we say we can deliver and how we can assist them, so it is very important to provide the service that you have promised them. Additionally, for me I believe another key component to my success in real estate is that I am personable. For me the relationship with my client does not end when we leave the closing table. For me that is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment to that client. Earlier on in my career I had a client that said to me, “YourRealtor4life” and that stuck with me, and I adopted it as my tagline and incorporated it into my branding, “YourRealtor4Life”.

Being a licensed utility contractor and Realtor, how do you balance the technical aspects of your work with the interpersonal skills required in real estate?

Kenya: It is not that hard to do. Both industries require me to be “hands on” and work alongside my client, whether it is the water pipeline business or real estate.

Can you share insights into your role as Chairwoman of the Political Action Committee and the impact it has had on the Georgia Utility Contractors Association?

Kenya: Under my leadership and with the help of my team members in my position as Chairwoman of the PAC committee, we successfully passed Senate HB449 which pertains to various areas of the utility contracting industry in 2021 and this was a major win for our industry. I assisted in raising money for candidates and in my position, I would oversee fundraising efforts for these candidates and the disbursement to their campaigns. We also supported several candidates that ran for office during my tenure who went on to win the seat they were running for.

How do you envision the future growth and diversification of your business, considering your extensive background and accomplishments?

Kenya: I am often asked if I will ever retire and the honest answer is, yes but not in the traditional sense. I will always have my hand in the various businesses that we own but I will slow down a lot and enjoy the fruits of my labor. We have trained our children that work in the businesses with us very well and they are equipped to one day takeover the day-to-day operations of those businesses and I have complete confidence that they will continue to grow them and hopefully take them to even higher heights!

More About Kenya Simmons

Kenya Simmons is the owner of T & J Industries (Certified, LSBE, MBE and WBE). She is a State licensed utility contractor and licensed Realtor.

She was the first African American horse-drawn carriage company owner licensed in the City of Atlanta in the late 1980’s. Some other “firsts” include: Being the first African American woman to be appointed to the Georgia Utility Contractors Association Board of Directors, the “first” to be Chairwoman of the Political Action Committee [PAC] and the first African American woman to be the Treasurer of this association and the first African American woman to be the 2nd VP of the Georgia Utility Contractors Association the title she currently holds.

Kenya’ s company is currently working on multi-million- dollar projects in several local municipalities and have even worked in the Caribbean, updating the water infrastructure there. Kenya has also served as a committee member on the Georgia Association of Realtors. And she has been a top producer all but one of her 21 years in the real estate industry earning her numerous awards and she was recently featured in Atlanta Agent magazine and inducted into Metro South Board of Realtors Lifetime
Million Dollar Club.

Follow on Instagram @yourrealtor4life

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