Chanda Chambers has spent the last six years aiming a steady stream of energy at growing the welding and fabrication business she owns with her husband, Brent, and that work has sparked serious growth.
"I'm on Instagram, on Facebook, in every board meeting, in everything that has to do with welding, every networking event," she says. "I make it a point to wear orange shirts that glow no matter where I go."
When she and Brent launched Chambers Welding and Fabrication in 2015, the challenge was hiring a couple of welders and growing the business through marketing and outreach, Chanda Chambers says. The jobs followed, and the company's reputation for quality work grew quickly, she says.
"All of a sudden our phone was lighting up, and we needed to hire six more guys," Chambers says.
As the business expanded and picked up clients across a wide variety of jobs, the versatility of their team became one of the company's hallmarks, and Chambers Welding and Fabrication now has about 20 welders in its ranks.
"Brent coming from the [Local 704] Ironworkers union, he got a lot of certifications and training to do all metals," Chambers says. "I wanted to utilize that. Why limit ourselves to a particular niche?"
Name: Chanda Chambers
Job: Owner, Chambers Welding and Fabrication
Hometown: Tuskegee, Alabama
Family: Husband Brent, a 27-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter
Chambers never expected to end up the owner of a welding and fabrication business, but she had always had a longing to steer her own ship, she says.
"I was successful at everything I did, but I wasn't happy," she says. "I always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, and I didn't get the opportunity to fulfill that dream, and that struggle fueled me."
From the time she became a mother as a teenager, Chambers knew she would need to tackle every challenge to build her future, she says.
"I started out as a high school mom who learned very young that if I wanted to become something, I would have to work a little extra hard," Chambers says.
Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, Chambers grew up in a military family and graduated from high school in Seattle with a certification in nursing. She joined the Army out of high school and, after completing military service as a nurse, returned to Alabama and began a career in human resources. She ultimately worked with large, international companies where she expanded the scope of her skills and understanding of corporate environments.
"I was hired by Japanese and German companies, and I learned about rules and policies, about dealing with people and productivity," Chambers says.
In 2012, she came to Chattanooga with a German auto manufacturing company that partnered with Volkswagen. Recently divorced, Chambers eventually decided to take a break from her career and think about her next chapter.
"I took on some small jobs, but I was getting to a point where I wanted to try something on my own," she says.
When she met Brent Chambers, a welder from Whitwell, Tennessee, there was more than just a romantic spark. The two quickly began firing up a plan to build their own business using their complementary skills.
"We started talking about what we'd like to do, and told him I'd like to be an entrepreneur, and we created Chambers Welding and Fabrication," she says. "The next day I got us a place — I jumped on a lease. That's my personality. I don't have that fear factor that most people may have."
The business started small, but Chambers had big ambitions, and she had seen the inside of enough large organizations to know what makes them tick.
"I didn't want it to be a hobby," she says.
Chambers and her husband are very different, and that's what makes the partnership powerful, she says. He's from a rural community, and she is a military veteran who has lived all over the place. He's more financially and professionally cautious, and she's a big dreamer. He's white, she's Black, and "it was really unusual for us to get together," Chamber says.
But a friend of theirs just knew it would work.
"A friend of mine was like 'I know the perfect guy for you,'" Chambers says. "He has so much integrity."
Another reason the business has succeeded is the support of people across Chattanooga, Chambers says.
"This whole town, everyone is trying to help and support you," she says. "And there is a lot of potential for growth here."
She's serious about building the business, but Chambers also wanted to include an element of fun, launching classes on weekends and after hours to encourage women to learn some basics of welding and fabrication alongside the primary business.
"The school came about because I thought, as I was traveling with Brent and going places, there were no women in it that I saw, and diversity was slim, too," she says. "I decided to do basic, fun classes to introduce it to our culture."
Now that the business is off the ground in a big way, Chambers is starting to really understand what she was looking for as she navigated her career in her early years, she says. Entrepreneurship suits her, and the risks are more than worth it, she adds.
"If we were to lose everything right now, I would rebuild it," she says. "I've had nothing. It doesn't scare me."