By Chris Schroder
Meredith Leapley’s Moment happened when the phone rang in 1999. Having moved to Atlanta from Maryland just a year earlier to run a branch of her father’s construction company, her heart sank when he called with some disappointing and life-changing news.
“My father called me and told me he was going to close our business and I was going to have to come back home to Maryland,” she said.
Still in her mid-20s, Meredith felt as though she was just establishing herself in Atlanta. In that year, she had grown so fond of her new city that she resolved to make a bet on it, deciding instead to stay and start her own construction business here.
Not that she wasn’t nervous.
“I remember walking down to the city of Atlanta and writing a $75 check to get my business license,” she said.
With that $75 commitment to open Leapley Construction in 1999, she approached several previous clients and former team members – many of whom agreed to continue working with her. In those early months, she was to able to establish some traction – but by no means easily.
“It was a struggle for a good year and a half,” she said. “It was an uphill battle.”
Leapley was forging along in 2000 when an RFP (request for proposal) arrived from a famous Atlanta brand – The Coca-Cola Company.
The RFP would be a dream come true for her new firm. It would be the type of recognition and confirmation Leapley Construction’s needed to get over the hill and attract new clients.
As Meredith recalled in our Moments HD video, “Atlanta is Coca-Cola.”
She called her father – back home in the Washington D.C area – for some advice. He wasn’t very encouraging.
“He said, ‘You’re crazy, there is no way you are going to get this contract,’ ” she recalled. “We went after it anyways.”
Meredith walked nervously into the first pre-bid meeting. Looking around the room, she was intimidated by the more than 25 reputable general contractors vying for the same business. Meredith didn’t mention it, but she was probably one of the only women in the room. Construction, after all, is a male-dominated industry in 2013. It was even moreso 14 years ago.
She was a contractor at heart and, having worked in her dad’s construction firm since she was 19, didn’t mind a little bit of conflict. She wasn’t sure Leapley Construction would be able to land the contract, but she had no problem trying, despite her father’s initial assessment. He helped her with estimating the proposal’s costs – his specialty.
The RFP process wound Meredith through five or six interviews until she got yet another life-changing phone call – Leapley Construction landed the deal for the 2.2 million-square-foot project on the Coca-Cola Atlanta campus.
“We blossomed because of that,” she recalled.
The credibility that accompanied landing Coke as a client brought in other big Atlanta company names such as Turner Properties Inc., Verizon, and Kaiser Permanente. Not only has Coke positively influenced other client contracts for Leapley Construction, the beverage giant remains a loyal client 14 years later, awarding Coke’s Partners in the Promise award to Leapley, recognizing their shared commitment to diversity.
Leapley has been named a Top 25 Interior Commercial Contractors list, secured a position as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and recently, spurred a new business venture, LCG Real Estate Services. The company was formed in response to another Coca-Cola venture providing project management services. LCG recently partnered with Colliers International Atlanta, providing the real estate giant access to a WBE firm while offering Leapley introductions to more potential clients.
Leapley’s commitment to community has also led her to chair the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. On her desk are photos of her neice and nephew, as well as a picture of her “little brother,” Andrew, whom she has mentored since he was just three years old. She said the relationship has been special and rewarding for both of them. She sponsors his tuition to private school.
Today, Leapley continues to enlist the help of her dad and as an estimator for her company, providing her a chance to “toss back the opportunity.”
“I am so glad that I was able to stay here in Atlanta, invest in Atlanta, give back to Atlanta – it sure has given back to me.”
Next week in Moments: Dennis Creech, who started one of the more successful environmental nonprofits following a Moment in graduate school at Emory.
Video by Mehran Moin. Research and writing assistance by Bailee Bowman of Schroder PR.
Don’t miss previous 2013 Moments: Jay Smith, Jennifer Johnson, David Geller, Cynthia Jones Parks, Lee Katz, Keegan Federal, Brandi Helvey, Alwyn Fredericks, George McKerrow, Wright Mitchell, Shawn Wilson, Bill Bolling, Tracey Jackson, Fran Tarkenton, Drey Mingo, Andy Cash, Fred Northup, Wendy Binns, Ann Curry, Bill Clarkson, Alicia Philipp, Dennis Creech, Meredith Leapley, Raymond King, Jerry Farber, Larry Gellerstedt, Sally Bethea, Ken Thrasher, Herb Nelson.
Don’t miss previous Moments from 2012: Solon Patterson, Charles Ackerman, Santa Claus, Mark McDonald, Frank Skinner, Tom Murphy, Matt Arnett, Kasim Reed, Alana Shepherd, Charles Driebe, Hank Aaron, Kevin Rathbun, Larrie Del Martin, Mike Luckovich, Dan Matthews, Arthur Blank, Doug Hertz, Thomas Dimitroff, Jenny Levison, Brad Cunard, Joe Roberts, Plemon El-Amin, Bob Williams, Gary Price, John Dewberry, Bill Tush, Milton Little, Hope Arbery, Bo Jackson, Lisa Borders, Tom Key, Bob Voyles, Joyce Fownes, Joel Babbit, John Pruitt, Noel Khalil, Chuck Leavell, Bill Nigut, Eveylyn Winn-Dixon, Steve Nygren, Chris White, Josh Starks, Ryan Gravel, Shirley Franklin, Sam Massell and Clark Howard