May 15, 2023
Telegram & Gazette
LUNENBURG – Joeci Gilchrest's lifelong goal has always been to be happy.
She says she&'s successful at that as the owner of a two-person home-improvement company You Name It, which the 27-year-old runs alongside her husband, John, 30.
Gilchrest was honored in April with the Andrea C. Silbert Rising Star Award by the Center for Women and Enterprise in recognition for her work in Central Massachusetts, for which she also got a $500 prize.
The award, which she received in Boston April 26, provided motivation above everything, according to her.
"We all need motivation," said Gilchrest.
However, the road to it was not easy.
When asked about her business, she points to 2018.
Then, she was four months pregnant, had just moved to Lunenburg, where she would unite with her husband, whom she had met years ago during a volunteering trip in Alaska.
Lunenburg far different than Okla.
In Lunenburg she was in a place completely different from the one in Oklahoma, where she grew up.
Hackschooled, otherwise known as homeschooling through experiences, Gilchrest said she had to work early in life, managing her father's propane delivery business since age 14.
With that experience, she thought getting a job managing a business in the area would be easier than what it turned out to be.
"I was very qualified to manage companies and manage people," Gilchrest said. "But I was very honest with my potential employers telling them that in four months, I would need maternity leave.
"Nobody could really tell me why they weren&'t hiring, so it was my clear assumption that was why."
Realizing she wouldn't be able to work until after her pregnancy, Gilchrest had no choice but to wait.
Yet, things weren't meant to be what she had hoped for.
Her daughter, Hildegard, was born in January 2019 with a congenital condition in which her intestines had developed outside of the abdomen.
Although the condition was corrected through surgeries, Gilchrest describes the experience as a blur from trauma and exhaustion, also complicating the search for a job even further.
"She would sleep in 20-minute increments for the first couple years of her life," described Gilchrest. "I knew that I needed to be with her, and I couldn&'t get a babysitter and go find work.
"I needed to do something that I could have her with me."
Business starts with cards
A very practical person, Gilchrest made business cards offering work as "The You Name It Odd Jobs Specialist" which she placed in mailboxes around town as she walked with a stroller, offering to paint houses, stack firewood or organize homes.
Business flourished, and while Gilchrest worked, Hildegard, still a baby, was within an arm's reach, often strapped to her back.
"(Customers) seem to really admire it," said Gilchrest. "We had a lot of people that were accepting, and if they weren't, they weren't my people because I needed to be with my daughter."
Her husband was not home most of the day during 2019, working construction and even attempting to work in the fishing industry in Rhode Island but quitting after "losing 25 pounds throwing up over the side of the boat" from five days at sea.
John Gilchrest said he was only getting to see his daughter "when she was waking up in the middle of night screaming."
Seeing how demand was increasing in her business and creating a strong relationship with her customers, Gilchrest made a request to her husband on Valentine's Day in 2020.
"I asked him to quit his job and come work with me," said Gilchrest with a smile. "A few days later, he gave final notice to a construction company in Gardner."
Two days after statewide restrictions were placed due to the pandemic, the Gilchrests submitted an LLC application, and You Name It - Life and Home Revamp was born.
Pandemic right timing for business
"Turned out that it was actually a really great time to start a construction business," said John, 30. "People were stuck at home looking at their houses and saying, ‘Hey, I&'ve got a COVID relief check and I&'m going to use it.'
"There was a place for us to really fit in taking the smaller jobs that the bigger contractors didn&'t want."
The jobs are split evenly between the couple, with Gilchrest taking over administrative duties and completing the paint jobs, while John covering carpentry work.
As John was taking notes in preparation for the day's job on Friday morning, the voice of a 4-year-old was also heard, playing with her toys not far from her father.
"People think it&'s pretty cute, definitely something people are not used to especially on a construction site," said John. "She&'s got her own earmuffs and safety glasses, and we keep her safe.
"It's a family operation."
Confidence literally at work
At the end of the day, John gives credit for their business to Gilchrest, who radiates with confidence.
She attributes her confidence to her life experiences, starting with events such as her mother passing away when she was 12 years old, and the propane business takeover at Smith&'s Textane LP Gas in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, which she said she developed from a failing business to a sustainable one.
"I could paint before I could ride a bike," said Gilchrest. "I found confidence inwards and I don't need affirmation."
With an open horizon for her business, Gilchrest says she wants to expand into educating her customers about the construction work she and her husband do, emphasizing that maintaining the work done is as important as the work done.
However, most importantly, she looks forward to continuing in achieving her lifelong dream – to be happy.
"Oh yeah," said Gilchrest to the question of whether she is happy. "Happiness is not about having a certain job, but how you do your job and live your life.
"I can schedule it however I want, which makes me love working and be very rewarding even if I work 16-hour days."