Kelly and Brad Ellis, Owners of Triton Construction, LLC, and native Floridians, met while attending Citrus High School in Inverness, FL. After high school, Kelly got a degree in Sign Language Interpreting and spent 15 years working with different agencies and hospitals as a Nationally Certified Sign Language Interpreter. Brad, who grew up building pools as a 3rd generation pool builder, worked as a foreman in underground utilities before working as a commercial diver on underwater pipe lines in the Gulf of Mexico.
Kelly shared how Triton Construction came to be and how, in four short years, they've established themselves as one of Citrus County's premier marine contractors specializing in custom dock building, sea walls, boat lifts, dock repair and waterfront restoration.
"Before Brad did commercial diving, he did some handyman type work around docks," Kelly said. "After six years as a saturation diver, making deep dives, he got the Bends and was unable to dive any longer. The experience he gained doing offshore construction combined with our love for being on the water made it an easy decision to do marine construction. The business started small with mostly handyman type repairs, but after we got our contractors license, things really picked up."
As Florida Licensed Contractors, Kelly and Brad are able to take on a diverse range of projects. That includes water restoration, new construction, repair and cleaning out muck and other unwanted plants without having to use poisonous chemicals. What sets them apart from other similar companies is their commitment to the community and their extreme focus on customer service and satisfaction.
"We build very solid docks," Kelly said. "Brad is a perfectionist and doesn't skimp on materials or design. He can see things the way they should or could be. When clients have a hard time explaining what they want, Brad gets it and usually has a couple of options that they end up liking better. I contact our customers at least once a week to give them an update. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have been forgotten by a contractor. We get that and we give frequent updates on permitting, materials, scheduling etc. We want to give our customers the best experience we can."
Kelly added, "We love working on the water, but most of all we love the Lake Life mentality. At the beginning of a job we have customers, but by the end of the job they are considered friends."
Even though Kelly, working as a sign language interpreter, has always been self-employed, she admitted that the challenges and growth strategy with this business are a lot different than what she's used to.
"I had to learn about marketing, the different insurances involved, how to write up estimates and make contracts that cover both us and the customer," she said. "In the sign language business, because there are so few interpreters, customers are practically begging us to do work for them. Now I'm having to pursue customers. To accomplish our goals, we've partnered with a local marketing agency to get the word out. We're doing flyers on door handles, 500 postcards per month to waterfront properties and we just joined the Citrus County Building Alliance. Brad fabricated a 12x30 barge and had to make sure it was set up just the way he would need it for different aspects of marine construction. He also had to fabricate a crane boom barge. So by the time we did all of this we knew it was sink or swim because we are all in."
Looking ahead, Kelly and Brad are optimistic about the future growth of Triton Construction. They're currently working on setting up systems to make things more efficient and to be able to scale while still offering the best quality and service possible. With calls coming in from property managers around the state and Brad's connections with fellow divers in the Pensacola region, the possibility of expanding beyond Citrus County is very likely.
What advice does Kelly have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Don't give up," she said. "There is a lot to do and some days you will feel like you haven't gotten anything done. Just check off one task at a time and don't get side tracked. Find mentors that are where you want to be. Offer to take them to lunch or coffee. Get help! You can't do everything yourself."