dollhouse design and build hamilton home renovation

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Jessica Deyong has heard it all.

Princess. Buttercup. Sweetheart. Honey. Dear.

All of those pet names used against her in conversations at previous jobs — the last of which included working at and managing a Hamilton-based construction company.

“I wasn’t treated the way I should have been treated,” said Deyong. “So I said, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Deyong quit that job in April 2020 and immediately launched her own business, dollHOUSE Design + Build, a women-led contracting and design firm located on Myrtle Avenue in the central city.

Her goal? To create a safe space where women could feel supported as they work to build their careers in trades and construction and combat the barriers that prevent women from doing so.

“Some of the things I saw enraged me and made me realize how important it is to be supportive of the women who want to show up,” said Deyong. “If this is something that they want to do, they should have a space to do it, without being called a princess.”

Fast-forward to nearly two years later, and dollHOUSE has seen an “explosion” of growth since its start at the beginning of the pandemic, she noted.

What launched as a crew of four has since swelled to a team of more than a dozen workers and counting — a majority of which are women.

Getting there hasn’t exactly gone according to plan, but it has informed how the company plans to forge ahead.

Deyong said when she originally launched dollHOUSE, she had hoped to primarily hire women with previous experience into all of the roles.

But when she went looking for workers, she was hit with the reality that few women fit that bill.

“They’ve been discouraged, bullied and shut out of the workforce,” said Deyong. “They didn’t have the kind of fostering that would allow them to not only get into the industry, but also make it to the senior level.”

Deyong said to ensure women can get their foot in the door, those hired now start in junior roles where they can be mentored and have their work overseen by other women — all in the hope that they’ll eventually land in a senior role.

“It’s incredibly important that we provide that kind of safe space where women can gain confidence,” she added. “Any of those microaggressions are enough to derail someone’s dream of what they want to do.”

Deyong is also hopeful that the company’s existence can both encourage women to make the leap into trades and combat the existing stigmas around construction.

“Women are absolutely welcome in this industry,” she said. “If you can use a hair dryer, you can use a power tool.”

‘We just can’t keep up’

Deyong said despite the venture initially feeling like a risk, business quickly “exploded” for dollHOUSE, which specializes in renovations to century homes.

Home makeovers boomed during the pandemic — all due to a “perfect storm” brewed by people staying home and the value of houses skyrocketing, she added.

The company completed more than two dozen projects over the first two years of the pandemic and is already booking large-scale projects, such as additions and structural work, for 2023.

“We can’t keep up with the requests for walk-throughs,” Deyong said. “Pandemic renovations have been like sticking to Mentos in a Diet Coke, it has just exploded.”

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