Sharon Maxwell doesn’t mince words. “Men kicked me to the curb.”
Sharon Maxwell doesn’t care about busting stereotypes: “I am a black woman in a white man’s industry.”
Sharon Maxwell isn’t just dreaming: “We can literally rebuild our community.”
Sharon Maxwell, owner of Bratton Construction, is one of more than 40 small business owners in Oregon/SW Washington who are receiving a Comcast RISE technology makeover.
Comcast RISE is a national program created to assist BIPOC-owned small businesses which have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and social unrest.
Maxwell grew up in poverty in the very same Northeast Portland neighborhood where she currently lives and works. When she learned of a construction trades program at Portland Community College, a teenage Sharon jumped in with both feet. “I became a sprinkler fitter as the Rose Quarter was being built,” she recalled. “I saw a career for myself in construction.”
She took business courses at Portland Community College while apprenticing and had a vision that she could start a company “that would employ people who looked like me.” She went on to earn two bachelor’s degrees and an MBA.
Her business began in 1999 with a $50,000 contract, and despite some almost crushing setbacks, she persevered, eventually partnering in 2012 with the “big boys” like Lease Crutcher Lewis, Skanska, and Hoffman Construction on the PCC Cascade campus renovation in her “backyard.”
Today she is on pins and needles waiting to hear if her construction proposal has been accepted for a significant project, returning to the community a 1.7-acre vacant block at a site that was once was part of a thriving community that housed the majority of Black families in Portland. “This project will bring me full circle, participating in my community, while standing on the shoulders of my elders,” said Maxwell.
As for the technology makeover coming from Comcast RISE, the assistance is timely. “I had to furlough all my employees during Covid,” she said. “I’m so grateful that larger companies like Comcast are reaching out to keep businesses like mine economically viable. We’ve been left out. Disadvantaged. Unable to access capital.”
Sharon Maxwell will continue to meet every challenge and take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. “I show my kids everyday that if you commit, you can do anything you put your mind to.”