Editor’s Note: This article is part three of a three-part WAFB digital series about people who started a business in the Baton Rouge area during the coronavirus pandemic.
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Alonzo Evans and Patrick Richardson, both 33, have been friends ever since they were born three days apart at St. Tammany Hospital in Covington, La.
The two friends grew up in nearby Folsom, La., and now find themselves busy between their regular 9-5 jobs and managing a home renovation company in a red hot real estate market.
Both men currently have full-time jobs in the oil and gas industry but have been around construction all their lives. They credit their grandfathers for introducing them to the trade.
Evans says he was 11 when he started working with his grandfather, Gary Wayne Evans, who owned his own construction company in Folsom for 30 years.
“He used to pick me up every Friday [during the summer] to go to work with him,” Evans says.
It was during those hot Louisiana summer days that Evans explains he learned about the business and the value of hard work.
“My grandfather made it a priority to pick me up and show me that working was ok,” Evans says.
When asked about working construction as a summer job, Evans says he genuinely enjoyed it.
“I would feel good [about my work] because at lunchtime he [Gary Evans] would buy everybody lunch but bill them back at the end of the week,” Evans says. “But he never did that to me, " he laughs.
He says the lessons learned from his grandfather were invaluable.
“He showed me there was another way [in life other] than the streets or whatever else, you know,” Evans explains.
Richardson also learned construction at an early age. He says he was 9 when he helped his grandfather build a barn on their family’s farm in Folsom. He continued to work on odd jobs and build things on the farm into adulthood.
In his current job, Richardson works on construction projects on a much larger scale. His employer works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge and dig out waterways for vessels with the oil and gas industry.
“It’s like highway construction but for the water,” Richardson explains.
Evans originally founded Tru Consulting, LLC as a marketing company in 2018. He says it was a side business that helped him gain valuable business acumen he is using today.
“We decided to take [on] another sector, because of the demographics of Baton Rouge. And [we noticed] there were a lot of opportunities there. So we decided to switch over [from marketing] and go that route [construction],” Evans says.
However, the Baton Rouge real estate market was on Evans’ mind long before the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.
Evans was attending a watch party for a New Orleans Saints game in December 2019 at a family member’s house in Baton Rouge’s Seven Oaks neighborhood.
He says he was intrigued by the number of renovations at other homes in the neighborhood and noticed a lot of younger people were buying older homes and remodeling them.
“I didn’t think I would get into it [construction], but I did. It made sense,” Evans explains. “I know what I’m doing, I can read specs, it’s great. Jesus was a carpenter,” he adds.
In August 2020, Evans approached Richardson about expanding the existing company into the construction sector to specialize in the growing home renovation market.
“The country basically opened back up, and people were comfortable [with safely interacting with others],” Richardson says.
Richardson, who cofounded Tru Consulting with Evans in 2018, felt the expansion was a sound decision because it was a niche market and the services they could provide were in demand.
He also says he noticed “a lot” of new homes were being built throughout south Louisiana at the time and people who owned existing homes were remodeling.
“He [Evans] came to me with the idea of starting the company and he said let’s go for it,” Richardson explains.
The two men say they invested a total of $13,500 in start-up costs, which included training to get them both certified as home inspectors, as well as, tools, creating a website, and other marketing needs for the business.
Since launching in August, Tru Consulting & Contractors has averaged about four projects a month and have completed a total of 29 contracts for home renovations.
Each home renovation job takes about a week to complete but could take longer based on the availability of materials.
Tru Consulting & Contractors has a crew of seven skilled laborers; three are subcontractors and four are full-time employees.
Evans handles the customer relations side of the business, working to secure new clients and ensures the remodel exceeds customer’s expectations. Richardson handles all of the business’s financials, including payroll and invoicing.
However, Neither man is afraid to get their hands dirty. They both help out with the demolition process.
“Our crew is [made up of] skilled professionals, so we let them handle that [the skill-intensive work],” Richardson says.
Tru Consulting & Contractors offer remodeling, flooring, roofing, and concrete services. A majority of their jobs have been master bedrooms, master bathrooms, and kitchens.
“We felt that was a niche for us so we jumped into it and we had the people to do it,” Richardson explains.
When asked if the two men had any pandemic-related concerns about starting the business, they said they had plenty.
Both men said they were concerned about transmission of the virus and ensuring protection for both employees and clients. They say the implemented protocols, including mask-wearing and sanitizing.
Evans said he was concerned about the ability of banks to loan money to potential clients for home renovations. Richardson said he was concerned about the availability of supplies, which turned out to be a valid concern.
“A lot of the materials were slow from the manufacturer. So, we have a deadline with the general contractor and we’re trying to get the materials in and the warehouse doesn’t have them,” Richardson says.
They say they experienced delays in receiving the ceramic tile, which is used in all of their bathrooms remodels, and lumber. One job was delayed a week over its completion deadline due to delays with materials.
Both men were also concerned the coronavirus would prevent them from seeking out new clients. Fortunately, they received a lot of referrals from neighbors of clients noticing the ongoing renovations.
“Usually the neighbors would ask the homeowners who we were, or who was responsible for the remodel, or replacing their roof,” Richardson explains.
The two friends say they’re not just in for the money, they want to help people improve their homes and build something that lasts.
However, they don’t take what they do get lightly.
“Money is a sensitive thing,” Evans explains. “These people are working every day...and they’re putting it [thousands of dollars] in your hands. You have to be very good and precise about whatever you do,” he says.
The two businessmen say they started the renovation company to make extra money. They have already recouped their initial investment in startup costs and are pleased with the volume of business the company is bringing in right now.
Evans says if the company’s current revenue continues on its current trajectory and current market conditions remain the same, he and Richardson will have to make a decision as to whether or not to take on the business full time.
Tru Consulting & Contractors services the area known as the “Florida Parishes,” the parishes from the Northshore to those in and around Baton Rouge. They say they also do a lot of business in Ascension Parish.
“It’s been a blessing. The community really has embraced us. It’s been a good ride so far,” Evans says.
Tru Consulting & Contractors offers home renovation services in the Baton Rouge area. Click here to view their website.
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