Women in Building

by Feb 6, 2024Partners, People, South Brunswick

Betsy Braddock breaks the glass ceiling of the Brunswick County home construction industry — again.

In 2013, when Betsy Braddock accepted the STARS award from the North Carolina Home Builders Association for the best whole house renovation in the state, a colleague said, “I’m sorry your husband wasn’t able to be here to receive his award.”

Braddock, who considers that renovation on Ocean Isle Beach one of her most rewarding projects, replied, “I don’t have a husband.” Stunned, the colleague asked, “Who is the contractor?” Of course, Braddock is.

“I like demolition,” she says with a winning smile and a hearty laugh. “I take customers through the design process and hold their hands through the entire building process. I have a good sense of what they want and can translate their wants into a vision and then to a completed project.”

Cathy Brown Betsy Braddock

Photo by Megan Deitz

Braddock stands at the counter between the kitchen and the foyer of her home in Sunset Beach as her five-year-old silver Labrador retriever, Fig, roams the rooms with a soft stuffed toy crab firmly in her jaws. Braddock did extensive renovations to the home and received the Diamond Award in the 2021 Brunswick County Parade of Homes for her personal home project.

Although she employs subcontractors from the trades as an unlimited licensed general contractor, she is the one to relocate load-bearing walls, decide where windows will allow the most light and include special touches, such as wider doorways and grab bars in bathrooms. Braddock is on a mission to make grab bars sexy!

Braddock understands the process because she has renovated homes since 1999 when she joined the team at Braddock Built Renovations. Her father founded the company in 1994 in Atlanta as a second career after he retired, and Braddock became intrigued. She was working in commercial real estate, but says, “I reached the glass ceiling because of my age and lack of experience and being a girl — that was a thing.”

A difficult marriage ended in divorce when her daughter, Powell, was three. Braddock’s father retired again, and she became owner and chief executive officer at Braddock Built Renovations.

Betsy Braddock Built

In 2007 she moved Braddock Built Renovations to Brunswick County, where she and her family had vacationed over the years. Since then Braddock has won 26 prestigious awards for her work in Brunswick County.

Always an advocate of promoting professionalism in the construction industry, Braddock has served as an active member of the Brunswick County Home Builders Association. In fact, she was elected the first female president of the BCHBA in 2016.

Although Braddock does not have the telepathic powers of her namesake of Marvel Comics fame, Debra MacFarlane says she has a vision of how a place should look before the project begins. MacFarlane and her husband, Gregory Lipscomb, of Ocean Isle Beach hired Braddock to gut their kitchen, pantry and half bath and then enlarged those rooms with a 13×15 foot addition.

“Betsy is very flexible,” MacFarlane says and explains that she found hanging lights and cabinet hardware on her own, and Braddock accepted her choices. “Once she consults with the clients, she wants it to be a beautiful job.”
Braddock says another rewarding project was designing and building the columbarium at Shallotte Presbyterian Church.

“I had a vision of what the space would be,” she says. The brick around the memorial wall matches perfectly with the church building, as do the three cabinets that contain the niches and the circular base of the bubbling fountain, a focal point between the memorial wall and the cabinets.

Betsy Braddock Built Company

After nearly 25 years doing renovations, Braddock has decided to expand.

“She has a new division: Braddock Built Custom Homes,” says Cathy Brown, construction coordinator. Brown, construction coordinator at Ernest G. Crews Construction for 24 years, explains Crews recently built his last home and retired. “Betsy’s company is a high-end renovation business, and I intend to continue with a high-end custom home division,” Brown says. Brown directs the custom home construction of Braddock Built.

She says the hardest part of the industry remains the shortage of skilled labor. Braddock and Brown were instrumental in creating a scholarship endowment for construction industry careers at Brunswick Community College. “The workload has quadrupled, but the workforce has shrunk,” Brown says.

Braddock has not limited her interests to the construction industry. Two years ago she bought Petrea Imports, an Italian wine importing company. She frequently tours Italy to visit the nine wineries that produce the 60-plus varietals she imports. Her hobbies include golf, entertaining, reading, gardening and cooking, especially making interesting salads.

When Braddock was growing up in Atlanta, she planned to be a thoracic surgeon. She entered the premed track at Georgia Institute of Technology but soon realized, “I was afraid of the sight of blood,” she says. She switched to engineering then to management with a concentration in finance and filled the rest of her schedule with building construction classes.

Shallotte Presbyterian Church Memorial Wall

She still gets comments about being the only woman in the industry, but Braddock says, “Actually, I don’t think about it. Does it really matter that I’m female?” She believes she has instilled a strong work ethic and confidence in her daughter. Powell, 22, who graduated from North Carolina State University in May as an engineer. She lives in Raleigh and works for Sunoco Products Company while attending graduate school.

For now, Braddock says, “Both Cathy and I are happy about what we are venturing into, particularly to make a difference. Maybe we will inspire other women to get into this business.”

“We are the only female construction team in the county,” Brown says. That makes the third glass ceiling for Braddock, who continues to see through barriers.