NAHB Remodeler of the Month

Jamie Hsu

Lakeville Homes, Bellevue, Wash.

Founded: 1985

Number of Employees: 6

Q: How did your company begin?

A: When my parents built their first house in a Seattle suburb, a jogger ran by and said he’d like to buy it. They sold the house to that jogger, and a light bulb clicked. My mom realized this could be a business, and Lakeville Homes was born.

Q: What did you do before becoming a remodeler?

A: I worked in commercial architecture for eight years, but working for corporations wasn’t giving me the personal satisfaction I was looking for in a career. I ended up coming to Lakeville Homes, working with my mom, and dissecting our relationship to figure out a way to work together not only as mother and daughter, but also in a mentor/apprentice-type situation.

Q: As you were growing up, what did you want to be?

A: An astronaut. A ballerina. I floundered between all those different things you do as a child. My dad was an architect and my mom had an architectural background, so I had been exposed to the field my whole life. It always came back to architecture. I graduated with an architecture degree, and it gave me a basis of knowledge for what I do now. I don’t feel like I’m a stereotypical general contractor. When someone calls a construction company, they don’t expect a 36-year-old Asian woman with multiple college degrees to get out of her sedan. They expect dirty boots and a truck.

Q: What have you done to grow your business during this economy?

A: It has been a challenge but also really exciting. A lot of our business and stability can be accredited to our strategic business partnerships with design firms, architecture firms and even other remodeling contractors. Networking within my own community and with my HBA has played a vital part and I think will have a bigger impact later on. The mentality now is still to be project hoarding where everyone is trying to work on anything they can get their hands on. As things get more comfortable, I think there will be more cross-referring. It is already happening among a few of my colleagues and myself.

Q: What does being part of NAHB mean to you?

A: It’s an integral part of being a relevant player in the industry, and the people I have met through NAHB have helped. The camaraderie that comes from it as we’ve gone through this economic hiccup is great; it’s nice to know you’re not alone. We celebrate each other’s successes and help each other when we’re down. I see us more as colleagues than as competitors even though we can go up against each other for the same job. When we’re together, there’s no sense of competition. Everyone is patting each other on the back and happy the job is going to someone who is qualified. The education and exposure I get is much more targeted and relevant than if I was studying on my own.

Q: What motivates you every day?

A: I like to be successful; it’s how I was brought up. My parents said they didn’t care what I did. If I wanted to be a garbage collector, that was fine. They told me to be the best at it I could be. I’ve always had that attitude and now do it not only for myself, but also for my employees who need to support their families. I don’t define success as winning awards. I define success as really being able to find a balance and accomplish what I need to without letting any of the balls drop.

Industry Involvement

  • 2013 MBA King & Snohomish Counties Remodelers Council Chair
  • 2013, 2010, 2009 MBA K/S board of directors
  • 2012 MBA K/S Remodelers Council Vice-Chair
  • 2012, 2011 MBA K/S Remodelers Council, Public Outreach Chair
  • 2011, 2010 Building Industry Association of Washington Director
  • 2011, 2010, 2009 MBA K/S Professional Women in Building Community Outreach Chair
  • NAHB PWiB for Outstanding Community Outreach Program, 1st Place
  • 2010 NAHB Director
  • 2009 MBA K/S PWiB Co-Chair NAHB Council of the Year

Community Involvement

  • 2001-02 Make-a-Wish Foundation Wish Granter
  • 2003-06 Anna’s Ride Home board of directors
  • 2009 Multiple Sclerosis Society Seattle Walk, Rookie Team of the Year Captain
  • 2009-12 Rampathon Ramp Captain