Business Profile: Kamala Colbert
Kamala Colbert has her eyes on the horizon, always looking for new experiences and new ways to look at the world. Kamala’s path to entrepreneurship was long and complex but it was this attitude that helped her succeed. Kamala grew up in Akron, Ohio, but moved to California as teenager. “That experience opened up my eyes. I realized there is larger world than Ohio – with many opportunities.” That eventually helped push her to pursue starting her own business.
After her California adventure, Kamala returned to Akron and graduated from Firestone High School. She then attended Hondros Community College where she took courses in real estate. Still not quite sure what she wanted to do, Kamala also studied to be a medical assistant at the American Technical College. Her life went in a sudden challenging direction when she was incarcerated, spending 6 years in prison. But Kamala used this unfortunate turn of events to her advantage, writing, directing and acting in plays while she was incarcerated. Shortly after her release, she enrolled in ONOW, a training program specifically for women hoping to work the construction field. The program sparked her interest in construction and painting and planted the idea that would eventually become her business.
Kamala found that entering the workforce after her incarceration was harder than she had expected, and that “it was almost impossible to find steady work after being incarcerated.” After a few years of scraping by with odd jobs, Kamala knew it was time to go out on her own and in 2006 she started Colbert Painting. “At the beginning it was just me, a bucket of paint, and a paintbrush”. Kamala relied on her community to get her business off the ground, painting houses in her neighborhood on the East side of Columbus. She was able to leverage her community connections to be paid in advance for many of these jobs, allowing her to grow her business without having to invest large amounts of capital up front. Emboldened by her early success, Kamala began going for bigger commercial projects and landed contracts with Columbus City Schools and The Ohio State University.
By 2015 Kamala’s company had begun to plateau, and it became clear that she could not grow her business working all on her own. To get bigger projects she would have to grow her team and secure more capital to pay for supplies. This issue became urgent when she got the opportunity to bid on a $70,000 project with the Hilliard Library. To complete the project she would have to hire a full-time employee and raise the capital to buy the necessary supplies, something she could not do on her own. Through friends and community leaders she heard about ECDI’s Capital for Construction Program that addresses the financing gap minority-owned construction subcontractors face when submitting bids for large-scale construction contracts. She secured a loan and with ECDI’s support, she was able to win the project. Kamala has since hired a full-time employee and is hoping to hire more in the future.
In addition to enrolling in ECDI’s Capital for Construction Program, Kamala became a member of ECDI’s Women’s Business Center and participated in this year’s Project Reimagine Program, a female-focused training series that has been proven to help existing business grow and reach new heights.
Kamala still writes her own plays and performs as a member of Urban Arts Theater Company.
Colbert Painting is always looking for more projects and big and small. To inquire about their services, email Kamala at
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to learn more about the Capital for Construction Program please email Jesse Mark at email@example.com.
Published in OhioMBE – Feb. 1, 2018 – .pdf