Natalya Cappellini’s journey to becoming a successful project manager, HGTV contractor, and CEO began with a love from being in the field and guiding a project to fruition. To her, it’s all about watching plans on a page become actual structures standing in real life.
The woman powering CURATO Design/Build, Natalya has shepherded the company over the last three years. The fully licensed construction management company is poised to achieve in 2020 what few women-led businesses have achieved.
This year, Curato Design/Build is on track to make $8 million. Only 2% of women-owned businesses break the $1 million mark, according to Forbes. With that experience in mind, Natalya shares with Ramon Ray her journey to become a successful project manager and business owner and chief executive. She also shares four business tips she thinks other entrepreneurs, not just in the construction and real estate industries, can use to build strong businesses.
Only 2% of women-owned businesses surpass $1 million in revenues
Journey to Business
In 2015, Natalya started her side gig and became a successful project manager for homeowners. She and her husband moved to California for his technology job then.
Her background being in architecture and construction, Natalya was working in a large commercial construction company. It’s in this company where her fire got lit. You see, Natalya was in charge of everything the company was doing in America.
She was basically running projects by herself, so she thought why not do it for herself. That was the seed that bloomed into Curato Design/Build. From there, she and her husband have expanded into real estate development.
The growth has been phenomenal, as shown by the company’s performance this year. Their work has also drawn attention. Natalya has been a repeat featured builder and a successful project manager on HGTV’s Build Me Up and Animal Planet’s Animal Cribs.
Trailblazing a Path
Natalya and Ramon also talked about being the odd person out in an industry. Ramon shared unintentional brushes with people who didn’t expect him to be a keynote speaker. Natalya has also had similar experiences, especially in the construction industry.
There are people who can’t believe she is a successful project manager and the general contractor of a project. Others wonder whether she could give approval on certain decisions in a job site.
However, Natalya says that some other women colleagues who have been longer in the industry had more challenges in the past. For that, she is grateful.
How about for instances where people are just including women or minorities in the project for the sake of it? Natalya says to treat it as baby steps but crush it. Make it a chance to show people what you’re capable of.
Lessons from Construction
Natalya says construction is all about project management. As one can imagine, there’s a lot that goes into building something. A successful project manager and general contractor is involved starting from a plan to negotiating every twist and turn along the way until a project’s completion.
In Natalya’s line of work, she is the go-to person for almost everything when she’s involved in a project. That includes managing the project, schedule, trades, and coordination with the city and inspectors. In her 10 years of experience in the industry, she has come across several areas of focus to build a successful business. These are:
1. It’s in the details
In a way, she says she and maybe women, in general, are more suitable for construction project management. That’s because she is very meticulous. And that’s a secret to building a good business. Making sure the details are taken care of and so that the timeline is smoothly followed. As a business grows, however, she also knows that she can’t be involved in everything in the company if she wants to expand. This brings us to her next tip.
2. Finding the unicorns
“Building the right team is tantamount,” Natalya says. This is because entrepreneurs base their hiring decisions on expectations that they have of themselves. Natalya adds that the secret is finding other “unicorns,” as her husband likes to say. These are the people who can build outstanding teams that will grow your business. It’s very important to pinpoint what you’re looking for specifically in teams and partners, Natalya explains.
The secret is finding other unicorns
3. Choosing the right clients
Natalya says that in her line of work, it’s important to choose clients she knows she can work with. She looks for people who understand and appreciate what she does. She is very specific in the projects she takes on. Maybe you may need to take on every project when you’re starting out. However, when you have a runway to do so, the key to choosing the right clients or projects is mainly trusting your instinct.
4. Taking care of clients
If you’ve got the team built and are taking care of the details, another pillar to success is taking care of client needs. “To the ends of the world,” Natalya says. A key part of this goal is communicating with clients. They have to be up-to-date on progress and even problems because they rely on that information to also do what they need to do.
Advice for struggling businesses
With the pandemic still raging, not every business is doing as well as Curato Design Build. Natalya has words of encouragement and advice for those business owners who are having a harder time.
“Lean into what’s working and pivot if you can,” she says.
For leaning into what’s working, Natalya says that this means taking care of clients that are still with the business. As for pivoting, maybe look at ideas that have been put off. Now that there’s more time, use that to try doing new things. Who knows if that new endeavor could boost or save the business.