Amy Pretorius of Elevation Home Builders originally didn’t have her sights set on a career in building. She started college majoring in architecture, but quickly switched to nursing in which she earned her degree. While working weekends, she picked up remodeling projects during her free weekday time. The first was a 1940’s farmhouse she moved into a subdivision in East Iowa City. After that, she was working on the unique Peninsula neighborhood doing small jobs when she was invited to join the project team. For two years she worked Monday through Friday all day at the Peninsula Development Office and weekends as a nurse.
“Working seven days a week was not sustainable long term and I eventually made the jump to leave nursing altogether and focus on construction,” notes Amy. “I spent the eight years I was at the Peninsula going from novice to expert in the construction-management field. I know the Peninsula would one day be done and decided I loved it so much I wanted to do it the rest of my life. I still keep my nursing license active, after all I worked hard for that, but it never thrilled me the way construction does.”
With the Peninsula wrapped up, she launched Elevation Home Builders with business partner Nate Knause. The company has done well, including capturing the People’s Choice Award in the 2019 Greater Iowa City Area Parade of Homes. As such their winning home will grace the cover of the 2020 Parade of Homes magazine. Amy said despite the progress that’s come with accepting women in building trades, men outnumber women and some misperceptions linger.
“It’s not that frequent when I see a female contractor on the job site working alongside men, but I am encouraged every time I see one. I feel surprised and proud and wish it was a more frequent occurrence,” Amy said. “Most of the trades I work with acknowledge me as a professional and treat me with respect, however sometimes when we work with a new trade I feel there can be a learning curve. No, my business partner and I are not married, no I am not the secretary, and no I am not the interior designer – but I can design. I am the builder!”
Amy adds that she thinks women clients feel more comfortable talking to and working with other women and women builders tend to be a bit more design conscious, but women and men each have their own strengths. “I think women can do what men can do and men can do what women can do. Some things come easier to men than women and vice versa.”
Nurturing girls to join the construction industry is something Amy feels is important, and at least as early as high school. “I remember being one of the only girls in my shop classes and it was a bit isolating,” she recalls. “I would tell young girls to pursue what makes them happy and if home building or some aspect of construction is it, then go for it.”