For years, Marsha Greyeyes oversaw a major contract for the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board, tracking task orders, overseeing budgets, managing contracts and more.
One day, it dawned on her: She could do the same work on her own, and earn a lot more money.
“I was bidding on projects, managing projects,” she said. “I thought, ‘I can do this for myself. Why not start my own business?’ ”
In May 2010, she did exactly that. She started Greyeyes Supply Company, a full-service construction supply company. Based in Allegany County, Greyeyes Supply provides construction materials – everything from HVAC to roofing to electrical equipment – to builders.
Greyeyes Construction has contracts in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and all of the projects are commercial or government.
For example, the company supplied some $2.3 million in construction materials for the new Allegany High School, in Cumberland, due to open this fall.
Over the years, Greyeyes Construction’s revenues have increased steadily, with gross receipts climbing from $3,500 in 2012 to nearly $2 million last year. Greyeyes remains the sole full-time employee.
“I think I’ve been successful,” she said. “I’ve been blessed. … We’re continuously growing in volume (of work), and have increased our customer base.”
She leverages her status as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) for a good part of her work in Maryland. (Greyeyes is a full-blooded Navajo.)
“It’s really helped me out a significant amount,” Greyeyes said.
Although Greyeyes started her company with years of business experience and has benefited from her MBE status, she has faced her share of challenges – and still does.
One challenge, she said, is geographic: Her company is based in Cumberland, but so much construction is in larger population centers, such as Baltimore.
“The economics here are a challenge,” she said. “There are more contractors, more jobs in other areas.”
Another challenge, she said, comes from the fact that some contractors are suspicious of MBE-certified businesses. “Sometimes they assume you don’t have the experience,” she said. “But that’s wrong.”
Overcoming such bias and challenges, Greyeyes said, comes with the territory.
“Just as in life, there will be challenges,” she said. “You just have to work through them. My advice to a person starting a new business is to ensure that you have the education and the knowledge of the industry you want to open a business in and to work hard.”
Greyeyes grew up on the Navajo reservation, in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest. She earned her bachelor’s in political science, with a minor in business, from Fort Lewis College, in Durango, Col., and her master’s in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Colorado.
She still has family in the Southwest and, through her heritage as a full-blooded Navajo, also does some business there. Greyeyes has a Navajo Nation Tribal Gaming License and her company supplies equipment, such as tickets, to the Navajo Nation casinos.
She also has supplied tickets to the Rocky Gap Casino, in Cumberland.
Greyeyes also owns and operates her own consulting firm, Greyeyes Consulting, which does event planning and environmental policy.
In 2012, the company organized the Coastal Peoples Address Climate Change Symposium, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
This article is featured in the 2018 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunites Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities on this website or read the digital edition.