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Quiet confidence

Minority Contractor of the Year

Khary Penebaker, The Penebaker Enterprises LLC

Khary Penebaker (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

A determined Khary Penebaker is pushing ahead in the competitive regional roofing business with status as a minority contractor and the occasional shock of blue hair.

James Godsil, president of Community Roofing & Restoration Inc., Milwaukee, first brought Penebaker on as a laborer.

But, Godsil said, he realized Penebaker had a talent to lead, so he let a then-blue haired Penebaker meet a straight-laced Fox Point customer for the first time — a meeting Penebaker left having successfully pitched a $20,000 roofing project.

“That is, like, otherworldly in our trade,” Godsil said. “He had done so much research to answer the man’s questions that I doubt the guy even noticed that Khary had blue hair.”

Penebaker is now president and CEO of his own roofing and sheet metal firm, The Penebaker Enterprises LLC, Milwaukee. Penebaker founded the company in 2002, a year after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Last year the firm was included on the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Future 50 list of companies projected to do well.

Larry Rocole, vice president of J.P. Cullen & Sons Inc., Janesville, was Penebaker’s mentor through a minority leadership program with the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin Inc., and the two worked together regularly on the restoration of Milwaukee City Hall.

During that time, Rocole said, he watched Penebaker handle the touchy task of unexpected asbestos abatement with grace, and lauded Penebaker’s research that found an expensive flaw in the calculation of tiles initially sent for the downtown centerpiece.

“He’s certainly gone through some growing pains,” Rocole said, “but what is most important is that he learned from those things.”

Certification as a minority contractor has assisted Penebaker in landing some jobs, Godsil said, but it’s how the firm excels at those jobs that has let Penebaker Enterprises continue growing in a tough economy.

“Khary (has) a very quiet sense of confidence and is self-motivated across a whole range of skills,” Godsil said. “He’s a prime illustration of a truth that is becoming more apparent: Diversity is strength.”

One comment

  1. I am currently in minority class to obtain to obtain a dbe,ebe certificate, I have a vast knowledge from many years of Industrial,commercial, and residentual painting and very soon will start up my own company. I admit to u my (weakness) that because I never took a bookkeeping class and i was an ignorant person then, my credit is in the crapper! Now i understand the importance of bookkeeping! terms such as quick books, charts of accounts,assets,equities and liability.My plan is to rectify my bad choices for I now realize that this is the heartbeat of my company.My (strengths) are my work is outstanding I have been formally trained second generation, i am keen at putting the right person for the right job, i study people, lastly,I strive for perfection and i hire people who do the same, I now seek someone who will mentor me, I am humble and ready to learn. congradts to Mr. Penebaker continued success.

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