In hardhat and heels, Weeks earns respect
As founder and owner of Blue Spruce Design and Construction Co., Weeks rarely sees other women working on job sites and even fewer full-fledged female general contractors.
Weeks built Blue Spruce from the ground up. The construction company specializes in tenant finishes, remodels and residential renovations in Boulder and along the Front Range with an emphasis on green building and sustainability. She founded Blue Spruce in 1997 after losing her position at someone else’s construction company.
“I loved my job. I had established a lot of relationships. I knew how to write and negotiate contracts already, and it seemed like a logical progression,” Weeks said.
Blue Spruce has completed work for iconic Boulder businesses and restaurants, including the Flagstaff House.
At a current Blue Spruce project — a complete remodel for Boulder Brands Inc. at 1600 Pearl St. in Boulder — Weeks paused to assess details, offer input and check in with her team about communication with subcontractors. Dan Cooper, Blue Spruce’s project supervisor for the Pearl Street remodel, said he feels comfortable working for Weeks.
“She’s very nice but also very thorough,” Cooper said.
Melding attention to detail, interesting design elements and creativity into something functional and practical sparks Weeks’ interest and is the hallmark of much of Blue Spruce’s work.
“I enjoy the construction process,” Weeks said. “You start with a concept, then you create this vision ... and at the end you have something to show for it.”
Weeks began her construction career in the 1970s as a single mother and fresh Boulder transplant. An economic downturn prompted federal programs pairing skilled workers with unskilled trainees. Weeks applied, then apprenticed with a skilled carpenter, learning woodworking while renovating a Boulder preschool.
“It was a successful stimulus for me,” she said. She worked her way from cabinetry up the construction ladder to general contractor. It took time to hammer out her role as a woman and the president of Blue Spruce.
“When I first started showing up as a woman for a walkthrough, I was basically dismissed,” Weeks said. Many men didn’t know what to make of her, she said, and it took a while to acquire the confidence, comfort and knowledge to ask the right questions and contribute to the conversation. Once she did, Blue Spruce took off.
Weeks said she sees more women in construction today, especially as project managers and estimators. Women are still a rare find on project sites, however.
Weeks said she never tried to capitalize on her gender as a selling point.
“I didn’t want to be different. I just wanted to be an individual competing in a man’s world, and I wanted to be treated equally,” she said. She resisted taking advantage of government programs meant to promote minority-owned companies, but she is in the process of becoming certified through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, a nonprofit tasked with promoting women-owned and operated businesses.
With Weeks at the helm, Blue Spruce often accepts jobs that mesh with her values, such promoting women’s issues. Blue Spruce worked on the Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center and the Community Table Kitchen for the Bridge House, which offers support services to homeless and the working poor. She serves as president of the YWCA of Boulder Valley and Colorado Green Building Guild.
Almost a decade ago, Weeks delved into sustainability – initially by attending brown-bag lunches. She’s taken green building to heart. Her Boulder Brands renovation — an 18,000-square-foot space expected to be completed this fall — should merit a LEED Gold certification. The renovation includes reclaimed beetle-kill wood paneling, excellent energy efficiency and a NanaWall opening onto a deck.
“It’s turning out beautifully,” Weeks said.
Blue Spruce also completed renovations for Wilderness Early Learning Center, transforming a commercial office space into a warm, inviting environment for children.
“It was wonderful working with Sandy,” said Emily Dusel, development director for the Acorn Preschool Project. “We always had really great communication.” Weeks’ communication skills, especially when relating to women, set her apart from her competition particularly during residential jobs.
“From my perspective, women tend to be more comfortable, more open about asking question of me,” Weeks said. Women can feel intimidated asking similar questions of Weeks’ male counterparts, she said. Weeks’ ability to empathize and listen helps meet her clients’ expectations. She brings a delight for customer satisfaction to every job.
“If I do a job that turns out well, and we come in on or under budget, and on or under time, and the clients are happy, that’s my ideal situation,” Weeks said. “There’s a real sense of accomplishment.”
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