A decade after Lisa Chapman-Rosa launched the business that would become Total Site Services with $150, the Richland company has $107 million in contracts with Fairchild Air Force Base.
The company, a general construction contractor, got its start doing mostly Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory work.
But Chapman's goal has been to expand beyond federal government projects in the Tri-Cities, which only are as steady as the next federal budget cycle, to provide more stability for her company.
"It's been a lot of self-marketing," she said. "We try to stay out there in front of people."
She's also formed mentor-protege partnerships and made sure that her company's work merits repeat business from its customers.
Her first job after taking time off to raise her four children was as an evening janitor for Del Sol Inc., cleaning an 80,000-square-foot Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.
But after five months of carrying a 20-pound vacuum strapped to her back, she knew she needed to find a less physically demanding way to help support her family.
She looked to the experience she had working for her father, who owned a small Richland construction company that did work at Hanford, she said. One of her duties had been taking care of pre-employment drug testing, sending workers out in the morning for testing and waiting for them to come back in the afternoon.
"I thought there ought to be an easier and more cost-effective way," she said.
With $150 for supplies and business cards, she launched a company from her kitchen offering on site drug and alcohol testing to Hanford contractors and other Tri-City companies in 2002.
She'd comb through the want ads looking for job listings that said drug and alcohol tests were required and then call the business to pitch her company.
"I got shot down more times than I need to remember," she said.
But she was persistent, believing that she could save companies time and money, and reminding them of the service by delivering cookies and brownies.
Once she had the building launched and had hired workers to do the on-site testing, she used her free time to expand into general construction contracting, the sort of work her father had done.
She formed Total Site Services in 2007. Because of her heritage, a mix of Cherokee, Colville and Basque, the company was certified by the Small Business Administration as a woman-owned, small disadvantaged minority business in 2008.
However, most of the contracts she has won have not relied on the minority designation, she said.
Her first contract was for construction at PNNL, where she had worked as a janitor only a few years before, installing the Pretreatment Engineering Platform on the lab's campus. It included 16 pre-manufactured skids that were interconnected mechanically and electrically to be used to test processes for the Hanford vitrification plant.
Since then the company has worked on several more PNNL projects, including installing the lab's twin houses used to compare energy efficiency improvements; adding 3,400 square feet of new laboratory space; and demolition and renovation of contaminated laboratory space in the 331 Building.
At Hanford, Total Site Service projects have included design and construction of a 12,360-square-foot record storage building and construction of a labor and carpenter shop.
"I felt very fortunate to have started a business right before ARRA," the federal economic stimulus program, Chapman-Rosa said.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money paid for contracts Total Site Services won for PNNL lab modifications and for setting up temporary Hanford offices, showers and restrooms, she said.
She also was approached by Washington River Protection Solutions at Hanford to be a protege company as part of a Department of Energy program designed to create long-lasting relationships, share best practices and boost proteges' ability to win federal contracts.
To expand beyond Hanford, she started keeping a close eye on the FedBizOpps website, which lists federal business opportunities, she said. She also visited federal agencies in Washington state, including the Army Corps of Engineers office in Walla Walla and Navy, Army and General Services Administration offices.
Her big break came when Garco Construction of Spokane approached Total Site Services and the Richland company became a Small Business Administration protege of the Spokane company.
It received a $12 million contract for work on a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school facility at Fairchild Air Force Base, which provides survival training in case of capture, she said. The 30,000-square-foot building is being designed now and construction should start in 2013.
Total Site Services also has a contract for up to $95 million for several Fairchild Air Force Base projects to be assigned over five years under a joint venture with Garco.
The company Chapman-Rosa started in her kitchen now has 35 employees, she said.