Conceived by the Utah chapter of the National Association of Home Builders’ Professional Women in Building Council, The House That She Built brand aims to show women and girls that there is a place for them in the housing industry. Originating with a 3,200-square-foot home in Saratoga Springs, Utah, which the group built using skilled tradeswomen and women-owned companies for all stages of the project, the house build also served as inspiration for a children’s book about the many, varied opportunities for women in construction. The book’s author, Mollie Elkman, of Group Two Advertising, in Philadelphia, which was also the marketing agency for the house build, talked with Pro Builder about her inspiration and goals for continuing this story.
Mollie Elkman sat down with Pro Builder to talk about the inspiration and goals for continuing the story.
PRO BUILDER: Tell us about your book, The House That She Built.
MOLLIE ELKMAN: The book is written primarily for children in kindergarten through second grade to introduce them to the housing industry and, in particular, to careers in construction.
PB: How do you present those careers?
ME: The book illustrates 18 careers—but there are so many more that go into building a home. We selected the logical steps that would make sense for a child to understand and would get them looking around and thinking about the spaces they’re living in.
PB: What inspired you to write it?
ME: The book was inspired by a real house project [of the same name] created and completed earlier this year by a group of women led by my friend Kristi Allen, the owner of WoodCastle Homes, in Lehi, Utah. Their idea was to build a home using all-women labor and women-owned companies. Kristi had asked my company to help with marketing and promoting the project. We created the brand, The House That She Built, and helped secure product and materials donations and national publicity about the project.
More than 100 women from all over the country participated in The House That She Built construction project because, when it comes down to it, there aren’t enough women in any one market to do a job like that with only local women. That’s really a big part of why we need a book like this and why we need to share this story.
PB: Was a book always part of the plan?
ME: As building the house was coming to an end, we realized so many people were moved by its story and wanted to participate and hear about it. We needed to keep it going, and that’s where the idea for this children’s book came from.
PB: Beyond reading your book to their children, how can parents offer girls broader choices about careers in our industry?
ME: I think we have to shift the conversation away from thinking that college is the only path for children. With the house build, I was exposed to so many women who have successful careers that didn’t necessarily require a college degree, and many of them took a unique path to get there. As far as I’m concerned, every child is unique and every path is unique, and there are so many great opportunities in the housing industry.
- Watch a video interview with Mollie Elkman on Horizon TV
- Girl Power! The House That SHE Built
- Marketing Tips for Women in Residential Construction
PB: What are your goals for the book?
ME: I think cultivating curiosity and conversation is important, and the truth is, it’s not just the kids who are learning from this book, parents are learning, too. They’re having conversations about all of these amazing careers, and so are teachers. So the audience is much broader, and I’ve had many adults reach out to me saying, “I had no idea about all of the pieces that go into building a home.”
We wanted to tease out all of the logical steps that would make sense for a child to understand in the process of building a home and get them looking around and thinking about the space they're in. For parents, just thinking about your child’s interests and skills and encouraging them to continue discovering the areas where they feel most confident is a win.
PB: What is your background?
ME: I joke that I was born in the housing industry, and I'm a second-generation business owner. Group Two was founded by my dad, and I've been around home building my entire life. And the longer I've been in the industry, I've realized that most of the women I come across were brought into the industry by a father or a grandfather. So, while I feel like there's nowhere else I would ever be, and this is home to me, it's where I'm comfortable ... I also feel a desire and a need, as a woman, to help other women who may not have a father or grandfather in the industry find a path in home building. They should have that same opportunity to see what an amazing industry we have and what great careers there are here. So I think yeah, housing really is for everyone, and for me, starting those conversations at a young age is essential.
PB: Tell us about the illustrations in the book.
ME: The illustrator is my dear friend Georgia Castellano, who is also the creative director at Group Two. We work very closely together doing marketing for home building companies around the country, and we make an amazing team. We did the branding together for the Utah house project, so both of us were excited about the idea of continuing that story.
What we wanted to do was, of course, inspired by the project in Utah, but we also wanted to take it a step further and talk about diversity and inclusion. So as we go through the different careers in The House That SHE Built, we show many different women in the illustrations, and we highlight different skillsets, too. In the book, you'll see that all of the women have different abilities, different skin colors, and different body types.
We want anyone who picks up the book to feel like they see someone they can identify with.
We want anyone who picks up the book to feel like they see someone they can identify with. Georgia is a phenomenal artist. Beyond that, she is naturally an activist and both of us are very mission-driven. All of the proceeds from the book are going to home builder association workforce development programs. We're really invested in the industry.
As I said, I was born in this industry, and I want to see the industry continue to grow and be a leader when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
The support for the book has been off the charts. You can see we have our main sponsors, 84 Lumber and Andersen Windows & Doors. Without them we couldn't have brought this project to life. NAHB’s BuilderBooks has been phenomenal to work with, too. This is everyone's story in housing, not just women. It's about sharing the successes of the different careers in construction. To see people post pictures on social media and be proud of this book that shows all of the careers that contribute to the finished product of a new home has been truly amazing.
To learn more or to order The House That SHE Built book, go to builderbooks.com and search by title or New Releases.