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Freedom to Choose
There are many reasons people opt to become small business owners. Some individuals choose business ownership because of the freedom it provides: Freedom from a boss who may not believe in you, freedom to fail or succeed by your own efforts, the freedom to design your own destiny. The woman at the helm of Haass Construction, Colleen Haass, started the company in the late seventies in her garage for just that reason. Colleen wanted the freedom and opportunity to show what she was capable of doing despite the fact (and perhaps even because of) she is deaf. Although Colleen was born deaf, she wasn’t diagnosed with profound sensorineural hearing loss until she was ten years old. Determined to succeed in life, Colleen taught herself to speak and rather than learn sign language, she has developed her lip reading ability almost to a fine art.
Haass Construction developed at a slow pace in part due to the fact that many people grew impatient when trying to communicate with Colleen or chose not to use TTY phones or relay operators because of the perceived inconvenience. In 2004, Colleen applied for and was accepted into the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8a business development program for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. “The 8a program has been a huge benefit to my company,” said Colleen. “Deb Farris, my Business Opportunity Specialist, personally took the time to introduce me to each and every contract officer at one of the annual procurement conferences. Being able to communicate with the contracting officer face to face was important to me and I believe the jobs we were awarded as a result of some of those interactions have proven to be extremely valuable to Haass Construction.” As a result of Haass participation in the program, the company has been awarded numerous federal contracts and Colleen’s bidding and estimating ability has been honed to allow Haass to be more viable in all competitive opportunities for small businesses.
Haass Construction has built everything from custom homes to the First Interstate Bank in Mills, Wyoming. They’ve accomplished remodeling at federal buildings and completely demolished a bridge for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Haass has built restaurants and horse tanks, cabinets and custom homes. Colleen conducts most of her business with the use of email and the help of her husband, John and son, Adam.
A Woman Owned Small Business Haass Construction is registered in the SBA’s repository for woman owned small businesses. Colleen also sought out a Mentor for her company and developed and submitted the required documentation for SBA’s Mentor/Protégé Program, so that her company could be mentored by a much larger construction firm, AP Mountain States.
In November of this year, Haass Construction will successfully graduate from the 8a business development program. The program served as a catalyst for Colleen’s determination and Haass Construction’s reputation for quality work. Colleen said, “Participating in the 8a business development program has provided me another tool to expand and grow my company. I would strongly recommend that any small business that believes they are socially and economically disadvantaged apply.”
Not only is Colleen an advocate for small disadvantaged businesses, she is a passionate advocate for hearing impaired individuals. She has appeared on local television commercials encouraging people to use relay operators to improve the communication experience for those who are hearing challenged. Colleen is an incredible example of what can be accomplished with determination and commitment. Rather than accept the limitations former employers so easily offered, Colleen, knowing she had so much more to give, chose to be an independent small business owner.
The SBA does not endorse the opinions, products or services of any private individual or business entity.