Holly Stevens grew up outside of Chicago in Edison, Illinois, in the backyard of North Western University. She graduated Edison Township Highschool and then landed at the University of Illinois Chicago, where she majored in communications. From there Holly Stevens married into the military and moved to the East Coast where she attended law school at North Carolina and graduated in 1998. Holly Stevens is currently the owner and general contractor at HCS Inc.
HCS Inc. is both a commercial and residential builder primarily focused on creating affordable, and safe housing throughout the state of Arkansas. Holly Stevens’s passion lies in real estate and throughout her impressive career has always been tied to real estate in one way or another. Holly currently educates families and individuals on the home buying process, as well as provides help with understanding credit and credit repair. Holly Stevens educates her clients to understand the particulars with homebuying and the responsibilities of being a homeowner. HCS Inc. has moved on from education to providing their clients with safe and affordable housing for low to moderate income families.
Outside of her career, Holly Stevens is the mother of two grown sons. Holly spends her free time reading, and at her local church. Holly Stevens is an animal lover and enjoys spending time with her two dogs.
1. Where did the idea for HCS Inc. first come from?
About 20 years ago I noticed that there weren’t a lot of women, especially black woman in the construction industry. I didn’t really feel like I had a place in the mainstream where my skill set, and experience would be valued as highly as they should be. I knew that as my own boss I would be able to create the company structure, take on the challenge, and formulate the compensation package that I needed.
Around the same time that I noticed a lack of black women in construction, I also noticed there was a shortage of affordable housing in my area. With my experience in realty I wanted to provide people with something more than a place to rent. I wanted to give people who do not have the opportunity to purchase a place to be proud of and call their own home, the chance to buy something they are proud of.
2. What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day typically starts at the job site, where I collect information and make sure that all the materials we need for the day are available on site. I will then go to my office and work with families that need help understanding not only the mortgage process but also in what is to be expected and what it means to be a homeowner. I spend majority of the day at the office, and I end my day by going back to the jobsite and inspecting the progress of the day.
3. How do you bring your ideas to life?
I have a group that I work with, we generally use a roundtable set up and discuss ideas. My partners and coworkers all contribute in these sessions and we determine what our plan of action will be. In our community it is a lack of education that has created a marginalized community that makes it difficult to assimilate into the mainstream, what we try to do is think of different ways to connect with those who may need extra help reaching their goals. We participate in education that is offered through our government and try to bridge the gap to bring more families out of marginalization.
4. What is one trend in the contracting or real estate industry that excites you?
One trend that excites me is definitely energy efficiency. I know it is a bit of a weird topic, but having a home that you are able to maintain and not give all the money to electric company each month will make a big difference in whether a family will be successful in owning a home. If you look at what has happened with the mortgage crash of 2008, it wasn’t just the interest rates, but it was the inability to be able to pay that mortgage and be able to maintain that property that caused issues for many. I have seen families walk away from a home because the air conditioner was broken, or because there was a major renovation needed, where they could not meet and maintain their monthly expenses. When you can provide a product that is going to last and endure it makes it better for the family.
5. What is one habit of yours that makes you a more productive?
I try to listen and be present in every situation by attentively listening to what someone is trying to communicate with me, and I digest that before giving back a relevant and proper answer. A lot of times in conversations people are so ready to say what they have to say that they are not actually listening to what is being said.
6. What advice would you give a 20-year old Holly Stevens?
I think I would have encouraged myself to be more active in the community. It takes a minute to realize what is actually going on in your community before you can begin to make any positive changes. I would advise myself to spend more time with my elders in the industry to gain knowledge from someone who has been through the trenches as opposed to taking on everything on myself. While learning through trial and error is great, we can always use the advice of our elders.
7. Tell me something that is true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
I think it is true that you can have it all. Once we decide what our purpose is in life we can go after that purpose and attain our goals. We can grow relationships whether interpersonal, professional, or familial, which sometimes fall by the wayside, but while growing these relationships we can also attain the American Dream.
8. What is one thing that you do repeatedly that makes you successful?
To be a successful entrepreneur you have to stay up on industry trends and be aware of what is happening in your community. Not just how it impacts your particular industry, but because everything is so interconnected you need to look outside the box and determine how it affects the bigger picture. For example, in the housing industry you need to look at what companies are coming to town, and what type of housing their staff will require. You need to find out what will be impacting the economy in your area and stay aware of what is going on in your immediate surrounding.
9. What is one specific strategy that has helped you grow your career?
As a black female I needed to continuously knock down doors and barriers. In order to do this, I had to be confident in myself to make a lasting impression and I needed to stay ahead of what is going on and exceed the norm. I have found that what helped me grow was to go beyond what is commonly accepted as the industry standard and provide a better product than what is typically given.
10. What is one failure you have had throughout your career, and how did you overcome it?
I know that in my past I have failed to stand my ground and make my voice heard. As a young woman when I found myself being marginalized or if people were coming against me I would back down. If I had to do my career over, I would stand up for myself, make my voice heard and fight.
11. What is the best $100 that you have recent spent professionally?
Professionally I use a program that helps me organize my day and my projects. Repaying this subscription is always the best money I can spend.
12. What is one piece of software or online service that you use daily, and how does it make you more productive?
I use Builder Trend every day. What this does is allows me to enter all of my costs for a project and it helps the team to stay on track financially. It also ties everyone on the project together, which lets me send messages to everyone. It helps everyone be on the same page and operate efficiently.
13. What is one book that you would recommend to our readers?
I would strongly recommend the Bible because it provides the answers to any situation and any problem, all in one book.
14. What do you love most about the construction and home renovation industry?
I love giving a family the keys to something that they can pass down for generations, the feeling of joy is overwhelming. I also love being able to provide people with the opportunity at owning something more than what the market would traditionally offer them.
15. How do you motivate others?
I am an encourager and nurturer; I always tell people to not be afraid of failure. If we try one path that doesn’t work, we can take a step back and find another way that does work, whether that be breaking down a door or not. I always say to press your way and continue pushing!
16. How has your company grown throughout the years?
When I first started 20-years ago, I was just flipping homes to make them better and more pleasing before I sold them. Now HCS Inc. has transitioned into building homes from the ground up, which allows me to be more hands on and creative during the process. When you renovate an already existing home, your creativity is limited by the space that exists, with new home builds you do not have this issue. As I previously mentioned, we also have developed a very strong educational program that helps our clients immensely.
17. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I do a lot of spiritual listening and studying. I enjoy talking with other women and learn their various stories, it has taught me that if we keep our nose to the grindstone, we can achieve anything.