#SWAAYthenarrative
BETA
Close

#Excerpt: RHONY's Barbara Kavovit Addresses Sexism in the Construction Industry in New Novel

4min read
People

Heels of Steel follows the journey of Bridget Steele, the Bronx-born, tough-as-nails and sexy construction company CEO, who is determined to be the first woman to get a contract to build a New York City skyscraper. Fighting for her life and career in the male dominated world of the Big Apple's real estate industry, Steele also finds herself falling for her biggest rival, who could impede her rise to the top. In this summer's hottest beach read, Kavovit gives readers a look into the cut-throat business of hardhats and hammers, delving into the sexism, corruption, harassment and how far people will go to land a contract.


In the excerpt below, Bridget has a shot at signing her first major commercial construction project. This job would catapult her career in construction and give her the break she needs to compete with the Boys' Club of the industry. Her first assignment: negotiate with the misogynistic union delegate who shut down the project to begin with. Bridget has to think on her feet to navigate the sexist comments and ridicule that comes with being one of the only women in the business, because if she doesn't, she'll have to start again at square one.

Excerpt from Heels of Steel:

It was odd, Bridget thought, where life takes you. If she hadn't been mugged, her father might not have brought her a model to build, and if she hadn't built that model, she might not now be standing dockside in the middle of a dead construction site, waiting for the union delegate, Sal Delmonico, from the Local 6, to show up.

Once a site bustling with hundreds of carpenters, electricians, and masons all working like ants to build an ultra-exclusive condominium development for the mega-rich, now all that remained were stacks of rotting wood, moldy drywall, and crumbling bricks strewn across the ghost town that had been advertised as the new premiere private community in downtown Manhattan. Bridget shook her head at the abandoned garbage dump this priceless piece of property had become.

"It's a real shame, eh?" said a voice behind her.

Bridget turned to face a man wearing a blue polyester suit and what she was pretty sure was a fake Hermes tie. He was smoking a cigarette and his mustache put Sam Elliot to shame.

"You Steele?" asked the mustache.

"You must be Delmonico," said Bridget. She put out her hand to shake.

Delmonico waited a beat before he took it. His grip was so tight and clammy that Bridget could swear she heard a squelching noise as their hands parted.

"A girl, huh? What's Hannity's game here?"

Bridget shrugged. "No game. I was asked to negotiate a deal so we can move forward and get this project built."

Delmonico stared at her for a moment and then casually spat off to the side. "Let me paint you a picture," he said making a sweep of his arm toward the water. "Women who look like a young Cindy Crawford sitting on the decks of their husbands' 200-foot yachts, which are strategically docked smack dead in front of their condos that jet right out over the river. 360-degree views, floor to ceiling windows, plunge pools and gold plated faucets. Chefs kitchens that actually come with their own personal chefs." He paused to inhale from his Marlboro and then blew the smoke out of the corner of his mouth. "It was going to be a candy land sprinkled with diamonds, mink, big dicks, fake tits, and cocaine."

"Sounds nice," said Bridget.

"It would've been."

"And you ended it all," said Bridget.

Delmonico smiled a big, satisfied grin. "And I ended it all. Kicked `em in their balls so hard that they're still down on the floor crying like little girls. They came whining to me about how they couldn't afford to hire union labor. Wanted to make a deal so they could bring in a bunch of scabs. Said the whole job would go down if they couldn't cut costs. So I pulled the plug. One hundred percent union or no deal, I always say."

Bridget nodded thoughtfully. "How about fifty percent union?"

Delmonico's face scrunched up. "Did you not hear what I just said?"

"It sounded to me like you said you killed the chance for a whole lot of your guys to get some solid work. I wonder what they thought about that?"

Something passed over Delmonico's face and Bridget knew that she'd hit a nerve. "My guys got more work than they can handle."

"Yeah? Because at the very least this is a two-year contract, and if the client likes what your guys and my non-union guys can do, there'll be plenty of future projects for everyone."

Delmonico sneered. "What makes you think there will be future projects for you? I only brought you here to set you straight. You want to work with me and my local? You gotta know the score. Other guys have messed with me and see that river?" He pointed out to the steel-gray Hudson, still dotted with chunks of late spring ice. "That's a real strong current. You'd get sucked right under the ice, if you happened to fall in."

Bridget felt her stomach clench, but she forced herself to laugh. "So now you're going to throw me in the river? Listen, Hannity told me to tell you that it's me, or no one. He's sick of screwing around. If we can't make a deal, he's donating this property to the city to make a waterfront park and taking the tax write off. How do you think your boys would feel about that?"

Delmonico looked at her sharply. Bridget kept her face carefully neutral, but her heart pounded. Hannity had said no such thing.

Delmonico threw the stub of his cigarette and ground it under his heel. He looked back at her. "And what do I get out of it?"

She frowned. "What do you mean? How about none of the guys from your local will be sitting on the bench for at least two years? That's what you get."

Delmonico took a step toward her. "Yeah, but say I agree to your terms—fifty percent union, fifty percent whatever dregs you bring in—what are you going to do to sweeten the deal?"

"Are you talking about a kickback? About money?"

He shrugged and grinned. His teeth were yellow and stained. "Money or…" he let his eyes drop to her breasts. "Whatever else you think might make me feel good about things."

She folded her arms over her chest. "Not if you were the last man on earth, Delmonico."

He laughed and reached for her. "Look at them nice big titties."

She grabbed his wrist and twisted just like her dad had taught her.

"Ow! Shit! That hurts!" he yelped.

She twisted harder. "You know what else I've got, Delmonico? A nice big mouth. You think the press would like to hear the story of the union head who molested the sweet, innocent girl contractor?" She glanced at the ring on his finger. "You think your wife wants hear about that, too?" She threw down his arm.

He sneered at her as he rubbed his wrist. "You're going to be sorry you ever met me, Steele."

She turned to go. "I already am."

Excerpted from Heels of Steel by Barbara Kavovit. Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Kavovit. Use with permission from MIRA Books.

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
5 Min Read
Business

No Funding Necessary: How I Built My Business In 9 Steps

Organic growth has made all the difference for my company. Since its start in 2010, Fresh n' Lean has delivered more than 7.2 million organic meals that are free of pesticides, hormones, GMOs, and other additives. The business itself has grown organically, too, without the help of any outside capital. Over the past decade, Fresh n' Lean's bootstrapped operation has grown into a 220-employee company with nine-figure revenue.

Here's how I've been able to successfully build my business without taking on a penny of outside funding.


1. A Hard Decision

The decision of whether or not to take on outside capital is a difficult one.

I was lucky— I relied on personal savings to fund Fresh n' Lean at the company's onset. I thought Fresh n' Lean was a meaningful endeavor, and I believed in myself and my vision.

Not every business owner would be financially able to make the same decision I did. Either way, it's important that your company's growth happens gradually and naturally.

2. Start Small

I was an 18-year-old college student when I launched Fresh n' Lean.

I would regularly work upwards of 20 hours a day— cooking dishes, arranging the meals in tupperware containers, handwriting the labels, and personally delivering them to some of our earliest customers.

Pretty soon we were shipping meals nationally, and I began renting a commercial kitchen space.

We generated a ton of enthusiasm from our customers, and that support prooved that we were on to something. But the early days featured lots of trial and error. We made mistakes and learned from them before scaling the business.

3. Rely On Your Network

Fresh n' Lean started with a team of five people. My friends and relatives chipped in, and my brother Thomas joined Fresh n' Lean as co-CEO.

Relying on those close colleagues was so meaningful in helping me get the company off the ground. I often look at Fresh n' Lean's employees as a family, and that mentality was especially true in those early days.

As I ramped up the hiring, my experiences with every aspect of our operation made me sharp at understanding the company's needs— and helped me to hire employees with the right skill set and mentality to drive the company forward.

4. Hold Firm

Fresh n' Lean embodies a lifestyle choice, a chance for everyone in the United States to have access to nourishing meals amid their busy lives.

We probably could have driven more sales by offering non-organic meal options, but I wanted the company to remain true to my mission.

A decade later, I'm so proud to see the impact Fresh n' Lean has made in redefining fast food.

5. Capitalize On Industry Trends

We live in a society of instant gratification— we want everything now, and our world is completely focused on convenience.

When Fresh n' Lean was launched, the idea of receiving ready-to-eat meals on your doorstep was a strange concept. But a decade later, we're used to having everything delivered to our homes. Recognizing and capitalizing on those changing consumer habits was a big part of our growth.

6. Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

For years, I wanted to open our own kitchen facility— it was a top priority.

But building the space was a difficult and extensive process that could have financially devastated us if we attempted it too soon. In those early years, the project would have left the company too vulnerable.

Instead of moving forward with the project, we waited. In the meantime, we continued renting commercial kitchen space. One day a week turned into two, and then three and four, and eventually we were renting the space five days a week.

In time, we had no other options but to build our own kitchen facility— and our restraint before moving forward with that project was crucial, even if it was frustrating for the short-term.

7. Focus On You

As you build your company, it's easy to try to compare it to the growth other companies experience.

But headlines and press releases don't reveal the full story, and outside funding can mask structural and foundational problems. One example is the online ordering and meal delivery service Munchery, which secured more than $125 million from lenders before closing in early 2019.

Every company's story is unique! You can't judge your company's success based on the ups and downs of others. Focus on making your company the best you can.

8. One Thing At A Time

Our meal offerings have expanded through deliberate, strategic planning and extensive customer feedback.

We started with vegan meals and followed with protein-based meals. Other meal plan options, Paleo and Keto, were added to the menu in the past few years.

Building the recipes takes time— we want to be sure to get it right. And our customer feedback ensures that there's built-in interest before rolling out new meal options.

9. Be Resourceful

Building the company without outside capital forced me to be more resourceful. I couldn't throw money at everything I wanted to change— I had to be patient and find alternative solutions.

It's similar, in a way, to cooking a dish without having every ingredient listed in the recipe. You must have the key ingredients! Our executive chef was one of our earliest hires.

But you can adjust and improvise on some of the secondary ingredients, using whatever alternatives you have available and relying on tried-and-true methods to fill in the gaps.

Who knows? Through experimentation, you just might find a better way to cook your dish or guide your company forward.