By Shari Valenta
If you’re like many people, you love to spend hours watching home improvement shows but have no idea where to start. While pacing around your unfinished basement, it’s fun to daydream about installing a fancy wet bar–such as one with a wrought iron wine rack on top of a custom granite countertop. The vision fades upon realizing the job will probably never get finished.
Jessica Padilla relishes in supervising many of these kinds of projects at various locations at a time. You can tell from her office that she has the skills it takes to keep things organized. Her swatches are neatly placed and her papers are properly filed. Not a stray folder litters her desk.
She’s decorated her space in relaxing earth tones and with tasteful black leather chairs. The walls are adorned with her own artwork. At age 32, Padilla has seven and a half years experience doing interior design, remodeling and basement finishing. Her new company, Project Professional, offers these things and more. They install custom tile and carpet. They also create installations and additions. They’ll construct almost any type of indoor remodeling.
Costs can be a problem when it comes to embarking on such an adventure. Padilla is able to keep costs down not only by working out of her Highlands Ranch home but also by employing the same set of 45 subcontractors regularly. Padilla runs the business her way, which means she chooses contractors who keep set pricing for every job.
“It’s the best way not to get caught in a bidding war,” she says. It saves time and money and allows me to deliver a quote in as little as 24 hours.”
Padilla said she wants people to have exactly what they want even if that means occasionally reducing markup on an item.
“Maybe I’ll make less money, but I’ll have that client for life,” she said.
Prices are inexpensive, but what about the quality? Project Professional’s subcontractors are licensed and insured and there’s a lifetime guarantee on the work done.
Padilla has gone out of her way to learn from others in the business to hone her skills. She found her mentor, Charles Martin, while attending Arapahoe Community College in Littleton for interior design. Martin was a former professor who would occasionally return to do presentations.
“He has 25 years in the business as one of the leading kitchen and bath designers in the state,” Padilla said. “He’s amazing; we agree about so many things in the business. He told our class about a new industry called basement finishing. He said he was looking for somebody to run projects for him. He gave 60 to 70 students his email address. I think I was maybe one of ten who actually responded to him. Shortly thereafter, I had a couple of meetings with this very to-the-point kind of guy and we just hit it off.”
While attending college, Padilla worked for a high-production builder doing interior design for new homes.
“There’s one key thing that Charles and I both agree on to this day, and that’s that consumers are completely limited,” Padilla laments. “Today, homes come with standard packages and colors. If somebody buys a lower-end home, they can only upgrade maybe one, two and three choices of, for example, carpet. Customers are usually told they can’t buy an upgrade to a seven-carpet package because they can’t afford it. Charles felt like everyone deserved to have every design element they wanted, whether they wrote a check for the upgrade or whatever. That was something I had really struggled with in the industry. I always had to say, ‘I’m sorry but you only bought the $140,000 house, so you can only have standard carpet.'”
Padilla was able to enjoy the creative freedom of working as project manager for six projects with her mentor and his company, Charles Martin and Associates. When the jobs ran out, a plumber on one of the job sites said he knew of another company that needed a project manager.
“It was a local basement finishing company owned by William Kennedy. I fell in love with his concepts,” said Padilla. “He had the same ideas that I had and I felt he believed in the product. I asked him to hire Charles, so we ended up working together for another three and a half years.”
The young designer says she’s learned a lot working with both Martin and Kennedy over the years. At one point, the basement company became short-handed.
“They said, ‘Two of our project managers are gone; can you handle about 30 basements at a time by yourself?'” Padilla recalled. “So I hired my own team of people and I started replacing trades and bringing in guys who I knew from working at Charles Martin and Associates. The majority I worked with for almost six years. They bounced from company to company and kind of stuck with me so it’s been a really cool experience.”
Padilla enjoyed working for William Kennedy, and the company won a couple of awards while she was there. However, she decided to leave the basement finishing company after May of this year to fulfill the goal of owning her own company. Her longtime friend Martin is semi-retired but occasionally collaborates with her on projects.
Project Professionals officially opened its doors June 15. Padilla says it’s been a phenomenal success.
Project Professional serves the metro area. For estimates and general information, call 303-471-0057.