Meet Craig Williams, entrepreneur and owner of two businesses with Penn contracts. Pride Enterprises, founded in 1996, is a general contracting and construction management firm that has been a Penn supplier for four years. Craig also operates American Power Electrical Supply Company, a full-service electrical supplier that has supported Penn facilities and maintenance for the last few years.
Craig’s businesses, originally started by his parents three decades ago, have led a series of projects with Penn across construction and renovation, He also has a number of specialty construction projects for several campus buildings in fall of 2021. He got his start with Penn by observing the business landscape (quite literally) and making the first move.
“You have to be deliberate, you have to be diligent, and you have to be prepared. The opportunity may not come as quickly as you hope or expect… but when you do get the opportunity, you need to show up, do your best, and build on that.”
As the nation recovered from the Great Recession, Pride Enterprises had reached a point in its growth and development where diversifying from the public sector into the private sector was an important strategic shift. Locally in Philadelphia, building activity at anchor institutions like universities and hospitals had stalled – leaving cranes dotting the skyline. As they slowly came back online, Craig determined these institutions would be a great place to start. After contacting Penn’s Facilities Department to request a meeting, his pitch was well-received, and his company started the vetting process.
It’s not lost on Craig that large institutions like Penn are making a deliberate decision to address areas where they have diversity deficits and engage with businesses owned by people from underrepresented backgrounds. He also notes that in general, supplier diversity and small business incubation initiatives have played a key role in Pride Enterprises’ growth and development – primarily in helping to identify and navigate projects to pursue even in lean times.
One such period was the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The construction sector was deemed a vital industry, and while there were fits and starts in the early months of the pandemic, Pride Enterprises never had to shut down. While they count many institutions as clients, work from Penn, in particular, was steady, and 2020 was Pride Enterprises’ best business year so far. L
ike so many of Penn’s suppliers, Craig emphasizes that for a large and decentralized entity like Penn, perseverance and dependability are keys to getting your foot in the door. “You have to be deliberate; you have to be diligent; and you have to be prepared. The opportunity may not come as quickly as you hope or expect… but when you do get the opportunity, you need to show up, do your best, and build on that. The University of Pennsylvania has contractors knocking on their door every day. You can never underestimate the power of doing what you say you're going to do and finishing what you start.”