Construction community leaders: The Emma Touch’s Katie Liles focuses on social mission

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Special to North Carolina Construction News

Taking that and turning it into this. This is what The Emma Touch is all about. Katie Liles is a contractor who puts social mission at the heart of all she does. She is also touching lives in the community.

It all started with a real estate purchase more than a decade ago and Liles hasn’t looked back.

“I bought and flipped three homes in one year and realized quickly that my passion had turned from hair after 10 years as a licensed cosmetologist to home remodeling,” she said, reflecting on her career.

“I thought about it all the time and enjoyed it to the point that it didn’t feel like work – and I could make money!”

With her husband encouraging and supporting the new exciting endeavors, she kept puhing ahead with her dream and that meant taking on new and different projects.

“Once I started repairing and building a two-mile road I realized that my hold, most of the time, up with bigger projects was because of permitting and my lack of a general contractor license so I decided I wanted to get my license,” she said.

That realization was the push Liles needed to let go of her former career and take the big leap into contracting.

“I stopped doing hair and dedicated my work life to developing a team and getting my license and making The Emma Touch a real thing,” she said.

That was about two years ago and the entrepreneur says she couldn’t be more excited about how her new career and business has unfolded. Today, The Emma Touch Professional Construction Services serves a growing client base of people looking for a contractor who supports second chance hiring, treats housing projects “like it was our own home”, and – of course – offers a great price.

“I love it and my coworkers so much,” she said. “I continue to want to grow my company and recently became a licensed Real Estate broker. I am passionate about homes and land development as well as my community and ALL the people who work with me.”

In her personal time Liles focuses on volunteering at nursing homes and caring for the elderly in the community. She and some of her team members also volunteer their time at Habitat for Humanity Builds. With the vision of her company “ladies build too!” she represents the female construction community very well.

“I wouldn’t call the work volunteer work, but more of an accessible employment opportunity for a group of individuals who often find joining the workforce to be their number one problem. This enhances my success because the people I work with are generally a happy appreciative group. So the work atmosphere is fun and happy employees means a happy company.

In business, Lile focuses on fair chance hiring practices. She doesn’t ask for a background check and hires many employees for her team that might not even get a second look on a project because of their criminal record or because of their background. She wants her projects to be good for the community and to hire local community members.

Despite the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the industry, business owners and workers, Emma Touch has been busier than ever – with two times the average number of jobs each month.

“Yes the pandemic brought forth all types of hardships and heartaches, but in the construction/rehab world we were able to continue to work on our projects for the most part which was a huge blessing,” she said.

“As a result of the necessary changes, we found a new skill set in regards to mobile home moving and set up that we didn’t possess before the pandemic as well as permitted home additions-which was a new thing for us.”

That blessing – and new focus – will continue in the future, long after the pandemic is over.

“Now that we possess these skills we are eager to take on new jobs and feel comfortably bidding on new projects,” Liles said. “Our goals have grown and now include doing more jobs per month – actually double what we were doing last year!”

Do you know a construction community leader who is deserving of coverage in an upcoming issue of the North Carolina Construction News? Send your nominee to chase@ncconstructionnews.com and watch our next issue for continuing coverage.

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