Porters find a career and a business by building their own house
In 2007 Porter and Sonya Ross began Family Place Builders, a Jackson-based remodeling and construction company. Porter, who has a degree in computer science from Jackson State University and an electronics background, put his skills to work serving Mississippi residents in need of home rehabilitation work, and Sonya handles office duties. Family Place Builders enjoys operating from downtown Jackson’s Venture Incubator. Porter and Sonya attend Greater Deliverance Church of God in Christ in Byram and have three sons and a granddaughter.
(MBJ interview with Porter)
Q — How did y’all get the idea to start Family Place Builders?
A — It really evolved over time. Initially, we started with purchasing investment properties. We had intentions of growing that business. About four or five years ago I decided I wanted to build my own house. I had met so many subcontractors and had learned so much that I wanted to build my own house, so I got my license. One year, I was doing my taxes, and I told my accountant, who is part of the FIED Foundation, about what I wanted to do. One day the foundation called me up and said we’ve got this repair project in rural areas and wanted to know if I wanted to be a part of it. I guess you could call it chance or good luck.
Q — What kind of work does Family Place Builders do?
A — Primarily because of the economy, our biggest business is rehab work. I work with a non-profit agency (the FIED Foundation) and under a contract we are repairing 72 homes in Mississippi this year. The work is mostly in rural areas, and we’re serving some very severe needs of some of the residents of Mississippi who can’t afford to do these types of repairs and have applied for aid.
We do everything from roof replacements, floor repairs, plumbing repairs, structural type things. And we have a year to do it. Last year we did 73 homes. This year we’re doing 72. It’s a really sort of thing that’s more of a service to the community. There’s not a lot of money in it, but we’re helping people.
Secondly, I’m a service provider for the Hinds County Human Resource agency in Jackson. With them we do the same thing. We provide services for elderly and disabled citizens. Those jobs are smaller and typically something like a floor repair or replacing a furnace or an A/C unit. It also includes work at some of the Head Start centers in Hinds County.
My pastor got wind of what I was doing, so through his connections I’ve actually started doing work at some of the churches here in Jackson – electrical-types things, installing lighting, minor carpentry work and painting.
With these 72 homes it’s impossible for me and my guys to get to all those houses, so what we’re doing is partnering with other subcontractors who are in those areas. We work as far away as Mound Bayou, Clarke County. … It’s an opportunity to work with contractors in those areas to put people to work. For a handful of guys, this was the only opportunity they had to go to work.
Q — You had a serendipitous wrong fax that helped you out?
A — I was trying to get into weatherization, and I faxed over some (paperwork). The purchasing director (of the Hinds County Human Resource Agency) called me back and said I faxed information over to the wrong number, but they were looking for contractors to do minor repairs in homes for people who had applied for aid.
Q — What are your future goals for expansion?
A — Our plans are to reach out to the USDA.
Q — Has the Venture Incubator been helpful?
A — It’s been very helpful. I met Wes Holsapple with the Incubator (in downtown Jackson). Wes is my success coach and business mentor. Through him I’ve actually met a lot of very important contacts in terms of banking and CPAs and lawyers. I’m in the process now of getting my business more organized from a financial standpoint. We’ve had a few counseling sessions where I basically explained to Wes what I wanted to do. He’s made suggestions and helped me to make contacts.
Q — How did you become an electronics technician?
A — I applied for a control room operator position (at a manufacturing company) and later moved into working on the equipment that I was controlling. I had an interest in that. The company began to send me to various schools over the years.
Q — You learned construction on your own?
A — I knew the electrical (aspect). That is the part that I do. Whenever I have structural work, I have a group of guys that I work with and I call on the experts. Then when they need electrical work, they call me.
More on Porter:
Favorite movie: “The Matrix”
Favorite food: Lasagna
Favorite books: “Wisdom for Crisis Times” by Mike Murdock
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