Michelle Blomquist Hamilton is a relative newcomer to the tile business. She runs Tile Maryland, LLC (soon to be Creative Tile & Stone, LLC) in Conowingo, Md.,with her husband John, and her youngest son Josh, who is learning the trade as a helper.
Though her time in the industry may be short, her passion for the industry, and tile installation excellence is strong.
“I actually got into the business five years ago when I started dating my husband,” Hamilton said. “He asked me to take over the business and wanted me to run the office. I could not effectively run the business without having full knowledge of it.”
So, Hamilton quit her job in finance and set out to learn everything she could. “I am still learning new things and have become really passionate about it,” she said. “I took my Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test twice and did not pass, and am taking it the end of June. I took it right after my mother passed away and I should have waited but I’ll do it until I pass… I may have convinced my husband to take it as well!
“The CTI is important to me and to the industry,” she added. “There needs to be guidelines set and standards for tile installation, and the CTI is a good start.”
Hamilton makes it a point to sign up for every training available through the manufacturers and through NTCA. “I stay active in the groups and actually go visit other installers in and around my area to network with them as well. I’ve learned a lot from other installers and always want to try new things and be challenged.”
Tile Maryland/Creative Tile & Stone predominantly serves the residential customer, specifically bathrooms and showers as well as swimming pool tile coping and replacement. Hamilton enjoys assisting in the design process, taking the challenges of being a small business owner in stride – staying up to date with products, proper methods and design trends.
“I’m so passionate about the industry as a whole, and always want to be a part of it,” she said. “Being challenged and being able to inspire and encourage others are what motivates me.”
She gets tremendous satisfaction seeing the job finished and having a satisfied customer. “I try to do something different on each job to further my skills and make each job better,” she added. “The organizations and groups I belong to have been a great resource in this regard. Lots of tips and ideas are gained from these associations.”
One of those associations is the NTCA, which HamiIton joined last year. “I wish I had joined sooner,” she said. “The workshops they offer are a great way to learn new things and stay up to date on new techniques. Being a member of an organization like this heightens your professionalism. I think it shows that you are serious about your business and growing in the industry.
“As a member you have access to not just training, but the opportunity to get credentialing, like the CTI,” she added. “Being a member of NTCA is well worth the money. It is not only a tax deduction, but the vouchers more than pay for the membership expense. “
Hamilton mused about the advantages of being a woman in the tile industry. “We are often intuitive and good listeners, and this goes a long way to understanding your customers,” she said, noting that she finds most women open and eager to participate in available training opportunities.
“Because we don’t often come with many years of ‘always did it this way’ experience, I think we do not have as many pre-conceived or rigid notions,” she said. “We are open to new information and practices, which is so important.”
A few months ago, Hamilton decided to reach out to fellow females in tile via the social media group Tile Chix on Facebook. “I noticed that some women in the groups didn’t post too much or would only comment occasionally,” she explained. “We can support each other and create a welcoming place to learn and grow.”
Hamilton also hopes Tile Chix becomes a catalyst for young women to enter the trades. “Not all students want to go to college,” she said. “Participating in community events, schools, and Girl Scout camps, career days or other demonstrations at the schools – all these can bring exposure to the trades and welcome more young people in. There are opportunities for a career as a contractor, installer, tile artisan, mosaic artist, designer, or company rep. There are many options in the trades to enjoy what you do and make a great income.”
A third reason for the group is for women to discuss challenges in the industry specific to women. “Having a place to discuss things and encourage each other is important,” she said.
The rapid growth of Tile Chix made Hamilton realize how many women are in the industry.
“I’ve seen many talented and creative women and the interaction among the ladies is great,” she said. “Having a great group of admins has helped tremendously. It will be nice to meet many of the group members in person at events.”