Julie Laughton, founder & CEO of the largest female-owned design build company in the U.S., has been … [+] appointed UN Association of Orange County ambassador of affordable housing.
The United Nations Association, Orange County Chapter has appointed Julie Laughton, the CEO and owner of the largest female-owned design build company in the U.S., as its ambassador of affordable housing. In her new role, Laughton’s mission is to collaborate with local leaders across various sectors – including government, business, academia, and nonprofit organizations – to address the region’s affordable housing crisis.
Julie Laughton Design Build is one of the few companies in the U.S. to bring together both the creation and execution functions of home construction. It’s also the only American firm founded and owned by a woman. JLDB/Julie Laughton Design Build handles the architecture, interior design, custom kitchen and bath design, and engineering, as well as city submittals and getting plans permit-ready. The affiliated construction company, JLGC/Julie Laughton General Contractor, provides licensed general contracting by Laughton, who has worked in the industry for over 30 years.
“All client needs are addressed by us, from conception to completion,” said Laughton in an exclusive interview with me. “On a typical home design build project, a homeowner would have to work with and manage up to 11 people. My approach simplifies the entire experience and takes the stress out of it because the client only works with one point of contact.”
Laughton’s objective as UN ambassador is to promote awareness of the need for affordable housing and … [+] help more young people purchase homes.
In her new position as UN Association Ambassador of Affordable Housing in Southern California, Laughton’s goal is to bring more awareness to the need for affordable housing, and also to promote the idea that it is possible for anyone to own a home.
“The first step is to clarify what affordable housing is, how it works, and who is eligible,” Laughton says. “It is a struggle for many people in their 20s to qualify for a new home. Housing should be made affordable for all age groups, especially first-time home buyers. Also, there are many unused buildings in inner cities and commercial districts that can be rezoned and changed into residential properties, allowing every city to find solutions.”
Laughton has spent her life “drawing, designing, and standing in the dirt working on construction-related projects.” By the time she was 14, she already was drawing buildings to scale, or “hand drafting.” In college, she studied architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design. After working for prestigious NYC architecture firms, she moved back to Southern California to start her own business. “I realized that every homeowner I met was struggling with issues on their project that could be solved by having one person take responsibility,” she says.
Laughton has overcome gender bias in her traditionally male-dominated industry.
The greatest challenge Laughton has faced in her career was adding licensed general contractor to her extensive list of professional services. “I was constantly questioned about who I was, what I knew, and if I really had what it took to make it in the male-dominated industry of construction,” she explains. “There was both skepticism and wonderment. Most of my clients celebrated it, but there were some who just couldn’t grasp the concept that a woman could be boss of all the construction workers involved in the project.”
But Laughton proved her worth, harnessing her experience, knowledge, and talents to create a seamless, organized home construction process for her clients. “I am known for getting things done and protecting the client from pitfalls that, like potholes on the road, you want to drive around and not through. It gives me a lot of joy and satisfaction to turn projects into success stories,” she says.
The easiest way to tap into your life purpose, Laughton advises, is to start with analyzing what you are good at. “Go through the process of self-observation. Fine-tune what you are good at and work on what you are not good at. I am a true success story of a female in a male-dominated industry. Along my journey, I have been asked by many parents to speak to, mentor, or even hire their daughters. The path in any career is not easy, especially in the world of construction, which presents more challenges and requires lots of fortitude to get through it. Stay open-minded and go with the flow. Give it your all no matter what task has been handed to you. If you fail, the most important thing you can do is take note and learn from it. All failures are stepping stones to success.”