SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In a red hooded sweatshirt, hard hat and a pair of well-loved work boots, LaSonia Mansfield heads out alongside her daughter and forewoman, Deja Stocks, to survey the expansive construction site she is responsible for keeping safe and clean.
For the next hour, they methodically check various spots as workers go about their days. There's action everywhere around them, including a crane in the distance bringing down loads of heavy materials.
When Mansfield lost her mother more than 10 years ago, she realized it was time to make a choice that would build her future — and, now, she thanks the Golden State Warriors for supporting her through a major career change.
“I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur, I've had dreams of a two-piece suit and a briefcase for years," said Mansfield, who typically oversees the operation from her office. "I was just looking at all the construction going up, and we clean well, but I never knew the business of construction, so I started researching it and found out I needed a contractor’s license, and I just jumped in with two feet."
Once a nurse inside San Quentin State Prison who always cleaned on the side, the 58-year-old Mansfield has discovered a new professional calling in midlife. She walked away from nursing and decided to take a leap into the predominantly male field of construction cleanup. As a Black woman starting fresh, that proved a daunting venture.
That's where the Warriors are involved.
Mansfield developed confidence and learned the necessary skills through the organization’s Franchise Fund, an educational program for minority-owned small businesses. In January, the program was recognized with the NBA’s Inclusion Innovation Award. Franchise Fund has helped nearly 60 businesses get off the ground and certified in the first three years of giving out four-month grants.
"LaSonia’s story is the perfect example of what we consider success from this program," Warriors President and COO Brandon Schneider said. “She was eager to grow her business and was given the tools to do so through Franchise Fund.”
The Warriors have helped train more than 57 businesses — 53% of those owned by women — that employ nearly 600 people in the Bay Area.
“One of the most unique things about the program is it has benefited people at every stage of their business experience, whether you're someone who's just starting out their accounting business, which we've worked with, or someone that works in design or architecture,” said Yoyo Chan, Warriors senior vice president of government and community relations. "It really ranges and I think everyone's found value from it.”
Cecilio Mills is one. He's part of a third-year Franchise Fund cohort about to graduate. Mills began a project management consulting firm 12 years ago in Oakland working with large and mid-size organizations that has trained more than 1,900 people. The 40-year-old Mills, a former college baseball player, boxer and teacher with a business background who has worked with Special Olympics, appreciates the Warriors' connections to the city even after moving into their San Francisco arena at Chase Center in 2019.
“Although it's still the Bay Area, there's still enough people that kind of left a hole so to speak, so this is at least in my view a real way to say, ‘Hey, Oakland, we still love you, we still love all the bay,’" Mills said.
Both Mansfield and Mills are eager to be mentors for others in the program.
Manfield not only has a $2.6 million, four-year contract – her largest ever – she treasures the chance to regularly work alongside her 30-year-old daughter while also employing a staff largely comprised of minority women.
Mansfield and Stocks were hired by contracting giant Webcor for a project in south San Francisco focused on water pollution control.
One woman benefiting from Mansfield's mentorship is 19-year-old Khamara McKinney. She makes sure debris on the worksite is safely disposed of and there are no unnecessary hazards. McKinney has worked here since December and has the stability of sticking with the project over the next four years.
She is learning the business on the job.
"This is actually a great site for me to come into as my first job,” McKinney said.
And after 10 years in the construction business Stocks hopes to soon have enough money saved for a down payment on her first home.
“The biggest word that comes to mind is opportunity,” Stocks said. “As long as we have contracts, I have the opportunity to work consistently. One of my goals is to close out on a home. This is the closest I've ever been to that opportunity.”
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