Starting a business is a labor of love. Four years ago, on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day, JQOL – Quality of Life’s only office was my basement. Now, we employ over 45 professionals across three offices in two states. My dream was to create a business that had an impact on people’s daily lives, and it’s been an incredible journey. What we do not only support the families of JQOL, but it also supports the communities of the Midwest.
The mission of JQOL is to “Improve the Quality of Life through Engineering.” Like many businesses, engineering firms start off with something unique—their reason. In 2019, JQOL was only one of three civil engineering firms in the state with an ethos of improving quality of life. When I started the business, the goal wasn’t necessarily to advance equity and quash injustice, but rather to improve quality of life through spaces—spaces where change can start, schools, community centers, libraries, etc. Places where people can enjoy life and nature, parks and trails. These places begin as a stroke of a pen and a computer model in an office like ours—and that’s only the beginning.
There is so much more to being an engineer than simply designing something and sending off the finished product for creation. We examine every facet of the experience and incorporate it into our design. When you brush your teeth, we make sure you get the water. We design what you drive, walk, and run on—whether it be a road, trail, or park. And once you arrive at your destination, we make sure the building is a place where you can live, learn, work and/or play. JQOL’s fierce commitment to our mission is what led to every hire, every contract, and the impact we’ve accomplished to date. Fortunately, we’re just getting started. We are not only engineers at JQOL, we are professionals whose services also include surveying, sustainability, community outreach, and construction administration that pairs well with our civil/site and structural engineers.
Building a Business Reflective of the Community
What’s in a community? Of course, there are the roads and the buildings, parks and green spaces, but people make a community. What do they want to see in their community? What projects will benefit their quality of life? Those are only two of the questions we ask because, at the root of what we do, we want to ensure that the lives of those in the community will be improved because of it—and that the work we do is reflective of the community we serve.
Being born and raised in Indy makes the projects we do that much more impactful. I grew up near 38 Street and attended Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). I went to Frederick Douglass Park as a child and visited the community center. These same stomping grounds of my youth are the project sites of my adulthood. What’s amazing is that JQOL is the civil and structural engineers-of-record for the new Frederick Douglass Family Center and we are currently working on projects for several IPS school districts. I would take an IndyGo bus to school and now we’re redoing the Purple Line through 38 Street which includes new infrastructure, adding sidewalks, and multi-use paths.
My mother is a Captain on the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), so being part of the community and civic service have always been at the top of my mind. I always wanted to make a positive impact on the world, but being able to do so in my own community means the world to me. The ability to give residents opportunities to connect and love where they are is what improving quality of life is all about. Life has its ups and downs, we all know that, and having a place to laugh and make happy memories makes all the difference—from trails you can explore with loved ones, to welcoming medical centers and more, these are the spaces we create.
Driving Business Results
We are proud of the fact that we are diverse without a strategic initiative—not because we don’t value or emphasize diversity, but rather because our people feel like they belong. We recognize our differences, knowing that the work we do helps everyone, regardless of where they’re from or what they look like. As a firm, we strive to be good engineers and be attentive, and today, that is how we get our business. We are good at what we do, so good in fact, that over 90% of our business is repeat business.
We feel like we belong as a member of Business Equity for Indy, too. BEI is a collection of local businesses dedicated to creating a more inclusive business climate and building greater equity and economic opportunity for people of color in our region.
Much like JQOL, BEI seeks to open doors that may not seem openable and ensures that Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) know they belong. Through the Procurement Roundtable, which is dedicated to increasing the launch, growth, and success of Black-owned enterprises like mine, we’ve had the opportunity to meet with key stakeholders at Eli Lilly & Co., Citizens Energy, and other, large firms to discuss their needs. We have a platform and people can see who we are. At four years old, we’re certainly a startup, so having these opportunities is massive compared to other engineering firms with 30-40+ years of industry tenure under their belts.
Our Impact & Where We’re Headed
I walked these neighborhoods in my youth and now my team is in them creating better spaces. From construction administration services that ensure projects are built to last for generations to sustainability services that help architects manage the environmental impact of their projects, JQOL ensures that:
- Projects are done well and done efficiently.
- The environment is considered.
- And that our projects help people live better lives.
I view this work as my chance to contribute to the future of Indianapolis—because what we’re doing now is not really for us, it’s for the people who come after us.