Cheryl Osborn builds dreams, a career she is all too qualified for after spending her professional life architecting her own.
As the President and Founder of Casco Contractors, an Orange County based Commercial Tenant Improvement Construction and Design Solutions firm, Osborn has over 30 years of construction experience under her belt.
Today, the industry is still thought of as predominantly male. But 30 years ago? A female boss at the jobsite was almost unheard of. But Osborn knew who she wanted to be and what she wanted to do. Not satisfied with stopping at designing, she wanted to build from the ground up.
Thankfully, she had an excellent mentor in her early years. A father of daughters, this seasoned professional wanted to show to the world that women belonged in construction and he had the good judgement to recognize Osborn as the person to prove it.
“He ended up hiring me and giving me way more autonomy than I could have imagined,” she remembers. “I was basically thrown in the fire and I loved it.”
With that same fire lighting her way, she began collecting experience after experience, constructing her resume. When she was pregnant with her second child, Osborn got fed up with the gender discrimination she faced at other companies, so she decided to create her own: Casco Contractors.
“I call it my ignorance and persistence ‘thing.’ I was so ignorant about starting my own business, but I jumped in with two feet,” she says. “I started my company with a baby and a laptop in my kitchen and went from there.”
A very persistent person, she just put one foot in front of the other and began to build her empire. It’s grown organically from there.
“I think women are particularly good in construction because they are so organized and detail-oriented,” she describes. But don’t abuse those innate skills. “Don’t ask me to take notes because I have a uterus, I’m willing to do my share but I’m not going to do all of it.”
Does she feel that throughout her career, she’s had to work harder than her male counterparts?
“Absolutely,” she answers. “I constantly had to prove that I knew what I was talking about, had the experience that I actually had, and was qualified.”
“Even bankers and accountants were reticent at first to deal with me until I went the extra mile to prove to them that I was capable,” she furthers. “I got asked all the time ‘where is the man behind this business?’ I would reply – ‘it’s just me.’”
Her advice for all those starting out who feel they aren’t being heard?
“Don’t have a chip on your shoulder. People will figure out that you know what you’re doing, and you’ll earn their respect,” she advises. “You have to prove yourself, but you don’t have to prove it the first time you meet them.”