DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The construction industry is highly competitive, physically challenging and male dominated. That explains why ONeill Contractors, Inc. an Illinois roofing company, is getting particular industry attention. Its female CEO, Kaney O’Neill, is a quadriplegic U.S. Navy veteran.
Her firm, one of 98,000 U.S. roofers, was selected by the Small Business Administration for their Emerging Leader’s Initiative, a training program for “businesses poised for growth.”
“I admire the firm’s insistence it be measured by its on-time, on-budget performance and not because its CEO is a female disabled veteran,” said Mark Steiner, another disabled veteran construction contractor.
CEO O’Neill grew up moving around, attending high school in the Netherlands and swam competitively dreaming of Olympics. When Kaney and her mother returned to the States, she decided to take the U.S. Navy up on its promise to see the world while earning money for college. She was stationed in Newport News, Virginia on the USS Nimitz to help refurbish the giant aircraft carrier.
On September 14, 1999, Hurricane Floyd, killed 57, forced evacuation of 2.5 million and cost $4.5 billion in business and home losses. Sailors had been sent home because of the storm. The hurricane blew Kaney off a balcony and she ended up on her back on concrete two floors below. A neurosurgeon, using power from backup generators, saved her life, but a severed spine left her a permanent quadriplegic.
After months of rehabilitation, she set out to rebuild her life. She attended community college and then Northwestern University earning a Bachelor’s Degree. After failing to find a job, she returned to Northwestern and earned a Master’s degree.
“I got interviews, but when I showed up, jobs didn’t materialize. So, I decided to become an entrepreneur to be a productive member of society,” she remembers.
Her family had experience in the roofing business so it seemed a natural place to start. “As a little kid, I would listen to the shop talk and my uncles told me they would help me get started,” she said. It took ONeill Contractors a year to get its first job because they had no track record.
Finally, the firm won a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers, well known for safety standards and quality control. Now, with her own roofing license and project management certificate, her company is securing other jobs and the SBA Emerging Leaders selection will provide mentoring designed for expansion.
“ONeill Contractors is proof that a small firm can be the architect of its own success, overcoming major hurdles,” said Jason Drennan, Vice President of Business Matchmaking, the leading initiative assisting women, minority and disabled veteran owned firms in securing public and private contracts.
SMALL AND MEDIUM BUSINESS - THE ALLIANCE (SMBTA) is a national organization dedicated to promoting, serving and educating small businesses.