Meet a Woman of Asphalt: Zipp’s Asphalt & Sealcoating’s Brynn Zipp
BY Sandy Lender
Brynn Zipp saw a need for high quality sealcoating services in her region of Indiana back in 2016. True to her proactive nature, she dove into the market and saw almost immediate growth of her company, Zipp’s Sealcoating. It didn’t take long to expand into crack filling and then commercial paving, taking on the projects she knew her company and crew could handle to build into the Zipp’s Asphalt & Sealcoating LLC we see today.
She took some time out of a busy schedule to share with us her experience as not just a woman of asphalt, but the owner of a growing asphalt paving company.
“I dream that we can build something great and that our hard work will allow us to have something for our kids to join one day.”—Brynn Zipp, owner of Zipp’s Asphalt & Sealcoating LLC
AsphaltPro: What did you find interesting or fulfilling about the sealcoating and then crack filling activities as you were building the Zipp’s Sealcoating business the first two years? What do you think about those roles or activities would be attractive to other women joining our industry?
Brynn Zipp: Truly the instant gratification of our work is what is most fulfilling about what we do. It’s work where you see the final result immediately. Even as you’re progressing through it, seeing that hard work instantly is so rewarding.
Our goal was always to get into paving, but from a new business startup perspective, sealcoating and/or crack sealing has a lower start-up cost associated with it, which allows you to start becoming a staple and building a reputation on your skill sets quickly. So, the low start-up cost aspect is definitely appealing.
Sealcoating may not be for everyone. I recognize it’s a stinky job, but for us, it’s what launched our business, drove us to expand and become Zipp’s Asphalt, and really got us to where we are today. Other than that, I’m not sure that sealcoating/crack sealing is necessarily “attractive” to both men and women, but for someone who is self-motivated and appreciates instant feedback on their daily work, plus the low start-up costs, it’s great for filling that!
AsphaltPro: Could you share with the readers how your education in business administration prepared you for the ups-and-downs or day-to-day growth of an asphalt business? (And what courses would you recommend to women who want to join an asphalt sealing or paving company as a manager or co-owner?)
Brynn Zipp: I received a certificate in Business Administration, but I really feel that owning and running a business cannot be taught by a book. This helped me prepare for the behind the scenes work that needs completed every day, in terms of bookkeeping, communication, office skills, etc. I feel that my self-motivation, my ambition to succeed and my eagerness to be a staple in Indianapolis in the asphalt industry has been what has helped me with the ups-and-downs and ins-and-outs. The ups can be very high and satisfactory, but the lows can be really hard. Without the support and teamwork of my husband and my crew I wouldn’t have the business I have today.
Speaking about formal education: I truly feel that you don’t need a degree to join this industry. The construction industry has a lot of room to start straight from high school and work your way up based on skills, work ethic, etc. College isn’t for everyone, and I want women, and men, to keep in mind that these industries are hurting for labor and it’s a great way to grow. I would personally recommend working on certifications with areas like OSHA, your state and/or city. Those are going to take you so much further, I think.
AsphaltPro: Could you share with the readers what your job as the owner for Zipp’s Asphalt requires of you these days?
Brynn Zipp: As the owner of Zipp’s Asphalt, I carry most of the primary duties. I communicate with all the customers. I am walking potential jobs and completing and submitting bids. I am the HR, accounts receivable and payable, and I handle ensuring we’re up to date on the insurance, bonds and licenses required of us.
Daily, I am checking in with the crew, setting up jobs to fill the days, and communicating with our suppliers. It’s definitely not all fun and games, but again, it’s extremely rewarding.
There are days that I am on the job site, running the paver or hauling material—you name it, I’ll do it. Being the owner requires me to be readily available for any and all things. Especially with the current job market we’re in, I find myself doing the manual labor more and more while it can be hard to find crew members. There are days we’re a short a lute man, so here I come to pick it up and lute for the day!
I’m here for whatever is needed, what it takes to meet the needs of the day-to-day.
AsphaltPro: What about your “job” with Zipp’s Asphalt is “most cool” to you?
Brynn Zipp: I can’t even call what I do a job. This is my life.
Every day I am doing something for our business. I stay up to the early hours of the mornings working on bids at times so that I can also be Mom and Wife in between all else.
I think the coolest part of all this is simply that this is my company! I played a huge role in starting this and continue to play that role carrying us into the new phases of business. I dream that we can build something great and that our hard work will allow us to have something for our kids to join one day.
AsphaltPro: What do you think is the most important skill you’ve brought to your position in the industry? (And how would you encourage other women entering the industry to hone a similar skill to be any kind of asphalt leader they want to become?)
Brynn Zipp: I think the most important skill I’ve brought is communication. I’m a people person. I could talk all day about the right subjects, and I’m truly passionate about our work and this industry that I’ll continue to sell our work as long as there’s someone there to listen.
I know that local colleges, the state, maybe even local governments, offer classes that you can sign up for in relation to communications and relationship building. I’d really recommend that if that isn’t a strong point. Sign up for one and just take it all in.
I’m lucky enough to have been raised by two parents who are also excellent in communications, so I owe my appreciation for that skill to them, but it shows that it is a teachable side of business and it’s very important.
AsphaltPro: What would you say was the most challenging “obstacle” you, as a female in the industry, had to overcome in the past six or seven years, and how did you overcome that obstacle? How do you think other women in the industry can incorporate that skill or habit into their workdays?
Brynn Zipp: My perception was that it would be hard to earn respect from vendors, supplies and prime contractors in a male dominant industry, but I’ve quickly learned that they’re all very welcoming and supportive. I am fortunate to work with some of the leading industry vendors and suppliers, and they’re always willing to tell me about products, why we use them, how to use them, etc. “Teamwork makes the Dream Work” is very evident, and I really see them as part of my team.
Now, with that being said, I feel that my biggest obstacle has been earning the respect of customers. I think in general, we as a public see these trades as a male job, so to have a woman standing there selling it, can be sort of shocking. As I’ve become more comfortable in my knowledge of products and gotten the experience in estimating to get me to solely handling that, most customers would look and ask questions directly to my husband rather than to myself. I really feel that we need to all work together to overcome this stereotype of men in the manual labor industry, and support that women can do this too.
I will say, my husband is a great example of supporting women in asphalt, or other trade work. He’s never been one to just take over speaking when I was learning the estimation process, but he was always willing to teach me all areas and aspects of the backend information to support why we do this. I would encourage others in the field to do the same: teach and mentor, help women grow and expand their knowledge.
J.K. Rowling said, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
AsphaltPro: Let’s talk about teamwork. What is an example of a project you were able to help your company bid successfully or a challenging project you were able to help your team complete smoothly because you all worked together/as a team?
Brynn Zipp: We were very fortunate to earn business with a leading financial corporation here in Indianapolis, and it brought a large project requiring multi-step business: mill and pave, crack seal, and line stipe. With the tight labor market, we found ourselves short on crew members. I found myself having to step up and be present for the job entirely. Like I’ve said before, communication is vital. If it weren’t for the constant communication between my crew, we could have had ugly seams, or a wavy mat, and those are things you cannot have. Instead, because of our strong communication as a team, our cross-training effectiveness, and willingness from all to step in where we needed it, we were able to get this project completed, and done well, which helped us to win continued business from them.
AsphaltPro: Let’s talk about perceptions. What do you think is an incorrect perception that we, as an industry, can re-educate young people about to encourage more women to consider a career in the asphalt business? What is something you would tell a young lady to encourage her in this industry?
Brynn Zipp: There is a huge opportunity for women right now. There’s a push for increasing diversity in the construction industry and it’s an awesome time for women to get into trade work, especially with the increasing demand for labor.
Getting into this industry: Yes, it’s hard work, but women can do it all too. There’s a lot of room for growth, to move up and be recognized. Get through the nitty-gritty, you could run a crew, be a project manager, maybe even one day have your own business related to the industry. But everyone has to learn the skills, and you have to start somewhere.
AsphaltPro: What is the most rewarding aspect for you of being in the asphalt industry?
Brynn Zipp: The most rewarding aspect is knowing that I’m making a difference. I have the satisfaction of knowing that my customers are taken care of and they’re getting top-of-the-line service. I get a huge smile on my face knowing that I am building a business where we can be a competitor in Indianapolis as a start-to-finish asphalt contractor. Not to mention, the before and after of these projects can be jaw dropping!
AsphaltPro: Will you tell us about a person who served as a mentor for you? How did this person encourage you?
Brynn Zipp: My husband, Andrew Zipp, has never let me think that I can’t do this. He’s always been an advocate for me to learn the industry, teach me the skills, grow my skill sets. He always has my back, and I’m lucky enough to have him to manage jobsites and ensure that our work is nothing but the best.
AsphaltPro: What piece of advice from Andrew would you share with other women in the industry/other leaders?
Brynn Zipp: He is a man of few words, but he’s always said and will say to anyone, “No excuses. Get it done.” He pushes me to be the best version of myself and to give everything I have to everything I do.