Homewood resident’s family electrical business turns 100 – Chicago Tribune

This is a landmark year for Homewood resident Kendra Dinkins and her family. Taylor Electric Company, of which Dinkins is president and CEO, celebrates its 100th anniversary in business.

The fourth-generation, black, family-owned electrical contracting services business, which she co-owns with her sister, Karen Michele Dinkins, and their first cousin Bryan Taylor, employs about 80 people. The Chicago-based company is expected to generate nearly $20 million in revenue this year, a record, Kendra Dinkins said.

This entrepreneurial story began with company founder Sam Taylor, Dinkins’ great-grandfather. He only had a sixth-grade education but a strong entrepreneurial spirit, shared Dinkins, who is president of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs.

“He got a job as a janitor at a trade school,” and then asked a white friend to order some trade books for him, Dinkins said.

He studied and “begged and begged the school to let him take the (electrician’s) test, and he took the test and passed it,” Dinkins said.

Initially, “he worked for free for subcontractors because no one wanted to hire him. Then he became a licensed contractor and went into business for himself,” she said.

How was he able to build the company at a time when discrimination was prevalent and widely accepted in the industry without large-scale efforts to combat it?

“Basically, a lot of persistence,” Dinkins said. “He would start working on projects, go home and come back, and the wiring would have been removed from the building. Materials would be missing. He should start sleeping on the construction site with a shotgun to make sure he could complete his own projects.

Gradually, he built up his clientele. Initially, the company focused on small and medium-sized jobs in the commercial and industrial sectors. Sam Taylor’s son, Rufus Taylor, began contracting with large companies to provide electrical services for new construction and rehabilitation of multi-unit and special-purpose residential facilities, which helped accelerate the business growth.

But it wasn’t easy for him either.

“The major challenge was to be accepted by white corporate America. They thought we weren’t qualified or competent enough to do the job,” said Bryan Taylor, the son of Rufus Taylor, a foreman and journeyman electrician at the company.

But Taylor Electric has earned a reputation for quality work “and it’s opened doors,” Bryan Taylor said.

Today, the company completes commercial, residential and multi-unit hotel projects and facility maintenance projects. Customers also include schools and churches. The company has worked on electrical projects at O’Hare International Airport, University of Chicago, 900 Shops on Michigan Avenue, Willis Tower, and Michaels and Marshalls retailers, and provides outsourcing services electricity at Soldier Field and Guaranteed Rate Stadium, Dinkins said.

Kendra Dinkins, who grew up in Chicago Heights, worked part-time in the business during her youth, as did Karen Michele Dinkins and Bryan Taylor.

Karen Michele Dinkins, who holds a master’s degree in project management and a bachelor’s degree in communications and human relations, is executive vice-president and chief operating officer. During her first years in the company, she worked as a secretary and office manager.

Kendra Dinkins has a bachelor’s degree in biology and worked for many years as a teacher. Before coming to work full-time at Taylor Electric, she was employed for several years in North Carolina at an all-girls boarding school. There, she held several roles, including athletic trainer, dorm mom, and community service program manager.

In 2007, his father, Kenneth Dinkins, who was vice president and director of field operations at Taylor, asked him to become an accountant. She rose to controller, took construction management courses, started managing projects and succeeded her cousin Martha Taylor, Bryan Taylor’s sister, as president, CEO and co-owner. in 2015.

The early years were difficult as the company had to weather and recover from the Great Recession. At one point, revenue dropped 50%, Kendra Dinkins said. The recession prompted the company to restructure. He eliminated divisions including one that installed and maintained large signs and a data, telephone and fire alarm division.

“The owners and all office staff have taken a salary freeze so we can stabilize our overhead,” she said. “We did this for about two years. We always got together as a family and decided that we were going to do everything we could to keep the doors open.

Amid the pandemic, she said the company’s business continues to grow.

“We had a lot of contracts booked and we were in the middle of contracts,” she said.

But they faced higher prices for materials and had to start and stop work because of COVID-19.

“We took some serious hits due to material price differences,” she said. “We are definitely in a better place now. We’ve changed the way we bid for work and made sure to incorporate language and parameters into our bids and contracts that protect us from those types of surges you see happening with material prices or incidents where you see your stuff stuck on a ship somewhere or in another country for additional weeks.

Sam Taylor could never have imagined that 100 years after the company was founded, his great-granddaughter would be running the business and working with other family members to continue building a successful legacy.

“It’s unreal sometimes to realize the impact the company has had on so many different people, so many different families,” Kendra Dinkins said. “Charles Stewart was Sam Taylor’s first employee. His grandson just retired from Taylor last year. He worked for Taylor for almost 28 years. Although we’ve been here and employed generations of Taylors, we’ve also employed generations of other people.

The warehouse manager has worked there for at least 15 years and his father was an electrician there for almost 40 years, she said.

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Karen Michele Dinkins said: “I honestly don’t realize how important it is sometimes.”

She shared the story of attending a recent conference and introduced herself as being from Taylor Electric.

“There was someone from another electric company who rang ‘They’re celebrating their 100th anniversary’, and everyone started clapping. I didn’t think to say it. But it’s really amazing.

“My dad and my grandfather would be proud,” Bryan Taylor said. “They would be smiling.”

Going forward, Kendra Dinkins said, their goal “is to continue to grow, to continue to be able to help other families earn and earn a living and expand our name beyond the Chicagoland area.”

Francine Knowles is a freelance journalist for the Daily Southtown.

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