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L’Tryce Slade: ‘I didn’t dream of being an entrepreneur’

L'Tryce Slade (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

L'Tryce Slade (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)
L’Tryce Slade (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

L’Tryce Slade’s construction firm began in her apartment.

“It was just me,” she said.

Since then Slade has grown her offices to locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas and Greenville S.C.

Slade, 40, is the founder of Slade Land Use, Environmental and Transportation Planning. Owning a construction company isn’t what she thought she would ever be doing, especially with a degree in communications, regional planning and law from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“It’s not the typical story of starting a business,” Slade said. “I didn’t dream of being an entrepreneur.”

Slade’s firm was created after she moved to Birmingham to work on an environmental case in a local law office. After the case ended, her job ended. Not wanting to leave Birmingham, she looked for another job. After constantly serving as a consultant on construction projects, Slade decided to start her own business in 2006.

“It’s not just about you when you’re working that hard,” Slade said. “You’ve got to have a purpose behind what you do, and how you’re going to impact other people.”

SLADE, located in the Innovation Depot, also opened a Construction Material Testing lab, where soil, concrete, mortar and asphalt is tested. Opening her own lab was big for the business, Slade said, but she has to pay for the equipment and it took a few years for the lab to open.

“It’s like a kitchen, you can’t say you have a kitchen if you don’t have a stove, refrigerator pots and pans; stuff necessary for a kitchen to be a kitchen,” Slade said. “It’s the same thing for a lab. I can’t have a lab and not have the equipment necessary.”

Saving money was not a problem, because she re-invested into the company, Slade said.

“I think sometimes people start businesses and take the money out of the business instead of putting money into it to get the company to the next level,” Slade said. “It’s all going to pay off in the future.”

Being a black woman with her own firm meant adversity, she said.

“From a cultural standpoint people are like ‘wow is that really a woman doing that?’” Slade said. “Sometimes I wonder if other people get put through all of the stuff I get put through to prove my company is a real business.”

Another challenge, like many small businesses, was building the company from the ground up.

“It’s so much easier for you to start your business if you already have money; imagine being able to afford to hire people that you need,” she said.

Since opening she has had a number of contracts with NASA, Radford Army Ammunition Plant, Military Ocean Terminal Concord, Fort Hamilton, downtown Birmingham office buildings and the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity.

Through networking, Slade has been able to give back. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, The Links, and the Junior League. She also hopes that SLADE can be a resource of advancement.

“It’s important to find a way to plug back into your community to give back,” Slade said. “I want to be able to get them (lower income communities) access to training and certifications so they can have a viable career, and not just a job,” Slade said.

Slade knows first-hand the challenges many people face when looking for a job.

“The world might have overlooked their talent, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t as smart or don’t have anything to offer,” she said. “I want my firm to be looked at as a doorway for people.”