Here at the e2e, we like to make introductions.
It’s really a part of our mission. We want to bring together our community to support and strengthen entrepreneurship.
Consider this your first of many coming introductions to local people contributing in their own unique way in our entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Today, we would like you to meet Chris Callen, CEO of Builders Plus Construction.
Chris is a little hard to define. Is he an entrepreneur, an intrapreneur or something completely different?
What we know for sure is that Chris has made a personal investment in the future of Wichita’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
It may not be surprising that Chris is hard to define. During our conversation, the word nontraditional came up several times.
Chris grew up alongside his father, Hal, who started Builders Plus in 1985. He spent weekends and school breaks working for the family business.
Chris chose a different path and studied Management Information Systems at the University of Kansas, but did eventually make his way back to construction.
In May 2013, Chris rejoined Builders Plus full-time and became CEO by April 2014.
With Chris at the helm, Builders Plus continues to challenge the traditional construction firm mentality. Its staff is young, inventive and open to almost any new idea or challenge.
Technology is everywhere in its office, but thinking outside the box doesn’t end there. The upper level of its new downtown office wasn’t needed for the operations of Builders Plus, but also wasn’t accessible from the outside of the building. So Chris expanded on a previous idea and created a co-working space called GroundWork Startup Hub.
In its previous office, Builders Plus had shared space with a freelancer in return for his help with some of its IT issues. In the new space, some of the GroundWork occupants have missions and talents that fit closely with Builders Plus; others do not.
When we spoke, GroundWork housed three startup companies and three freelancers. Since then another startup has joined the group.
Chris picked GroundWork’s newest occupant through a contest called Pitches and Pints held last Thursday. These shared-space occupants not only have a place to grow, they have a mentor in Chris.
Still, there is another nontraditional element to Chris’ story, and it revolves around those startups and freelancers who were able to work alongside Builders Plus. Chris was interested in building information modeling (BIM), but his imagination went beyond its traditional uses to “What’s possible?”
Within GroundWork, he had people who could help him find answers to that question, and the answers they have found take them far beyond the work the Builders Plus of the past had ever done.
In fact, those answers and the way they could modify the building process in terms of time and cost efficiencies – and the ability to better meet the owner’s needs and expectations – have changed Builders Plus. In February, Chris will announce a new division of Builders Plus – GRIT, a Virtual Construction Company.
GRIT will immediately offer two new services to the construction industry, and other related services may follow soon.
Although these new services are still within the construction industry, they are applicable far beyond the work that Builders Plus has traditionally provided.
The new division is a risk, but also innovation at its best. Chris’ change in thinking and willingness to answer an underserved need in market is definitely entrepreneurship, even if done in a different, nontraditional way.
Brandy Willett is manager of operations and the e2e Incubator at e2e Accelerator. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in writing for “Business Perspectives”? Contact Tom Shine at email@example.com or 316-268-6268.