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Omaha Magazine

Building a Legacy

Jan 18, 2024 12:41PM ● By Natalie Veloso
Blair Freeman Brings Transparency and Diversity to Omaha’s Construction Landscape b2b feature february march 2024

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Amidst Omaha’s towering structures and bustling developments, one company is breaking ground in the construction realm where representation and clarity often fall short.

Blair Freeman stands as a pioneering force, proudly holding the distinction of being Nebraska’s sole 100% Black woman-owned and woman-led Class A contractor. Founders Ashley Kuhn and Maranda Adams are not merely architects of a successful company; they’re the faces behind Blair Freeman, both impassioned and driven by a mission to humanize the construction landscape.

“Too much of the process happens behind a curtain,” Kuhn explained. “We want to add a human face to construction, so that you feel comfortable asking questions and making decisions. Having been on the clients’ side, we want it to be an enjoyable process.”

An alumna of University of Nebraska Lincoln and University of Nebraska Omaha, Kuhn specialized in real estate, land use economics, and investment finance. After 15 years in the development sector, she teamed up with Adams, a fellow UNL graduate in business and finance, who worked for a major bank for 14 years before delving into real estate and construction. 

Driven by their shared passion for real estate, the two reunited after college when Adams experienced miscommunication with a contractor. Seeking Kuhn’s assistance to finish the project, they merged over 30 years of experience to address the issues. Together, they founded Blair Freeman in 2018 with the mission to bring simplicity and transparency to construction.

“We don’t ever want anybody to feel like they’re being taken advantage of,” Kuhn said. “Our goal is to make it so that you never walk away feeling like somebody was hiding something from you, or that you didn’t really understand what all went into your project.”

Co-owning a construction company was a journey that perfectly aligned with their entrepreneurial spirits. Kuhn said she envisioned a career in real estate, and while she didn’t anticipate owning a construction company, both she and Adams felt destined to impact the community through real estate and development. Blair Freeman houses two major divisions: construction and owner’s representation, serving commercial and residential projects alike.

“We purposely diversified ourselves in that way; you’ll run into a lot of companies that only do commercial or only do residential,” Adams explained. “We wanted to make sure we were available to everybody who has a project and a need, so that we’re able to meet that need for them.” 

Blair Freeman’s residential division does everything from small bathroom renovations to full new construction homes. Their commercial services range from office remodels to large industrial warehouse spaces, Kuhn added. Their owner’s representation services also grew organically in response to rising demand.

“For owners who would come in with a project, it was just challenging to get from point A to point B,” Adams said. “With our team’s expertise and development, we’re able to stand in for an owner and help them through their entire project—from navigating the city’s permitting process and zoning to finances.”

Kuhn and Adams attribute the company’s success to their capable team. Kuhn said the team’s diverse expertise encompasses architecture, construction, design, finance, and various specialized areas within the construction field.

“Our team is what makes our company go,” Kuhn said. “We can’t do what we do day in and day out without them. They are Blair Freeman—I’m just the administrative assistant to all of them.”

Mutual respect within the office stems from Kuhn and Adams laying the groundwork to put their employees in the right place, said Vandra Caldwell, executive coordinator at Blair Freeman.

“I’ve never been in such a healthy work environment where bosses tell their team ‘I love you all’ on the way out the door every day,” Caldwell said. “The culture is rich, and Ashley and Maranda truly invest in their team’s individual growth and professional development. To me, working at Blair Freeman means support, elevation, feeling appreciated, and boundless opportunities.”

Adams noted that the team’s diversity, primarily comprising women and minorities, provides Blair Freeman with a unique perspective absent in most other construction firms.

“The construction industry has been a white male-dominated industry for forever, and it still is,” Adams said. “To have a team with diverse backgrounds, especially women and minorities, brings a different lens to the process. It makes you relatable, because not everybody doing a construction project looks the same.”

Kuhn expressed that this approachability encourages individuals to feel more comfortable about their project needs—a factor that fosters greater client trust and rapport, regardless of construction expertise.

“In construction in particular, people like to pretend they know everything,” Kuhn explained, “which intimidates folks, who know they don’t know everything. Whether you’ve been here for 20 days or 20 years, it doesn’t matter in this industry.

“It’s still intimidating for us, and we own the company. Sometimes I’m in my head telling myself, ‘You don’t know this stuff; they know it way better.’ And then I check myself and say, ‘No, let me get in here. Because I do know what I’m talking about.’”

In the early days of Blair Freeman, Kuhn and Adams were actively involved in physical construction work, often the only women on job sites. Kuhn recalled one incident at a commercial project where they faced skepticism over unloading 200-pound solid core doors from a semi-truck. Their determination surprised onlookers as they unloaded the items themselves, proving their capabilities despite preconceived expectations.

Adams noted that while defining moments happen regularly in their careers, one recent experience stands out, resonating personally and reinforcing the profound impact of her work.

“When my husband asked my daughter, Marlee, what she wants to do when she grows up—which changes a million times when kids are young—she announced that she’s taking over the company,” Adams recounted. “That was news to me! To know that she’s being impacted by what I do and by what Auntie Ashley does was really special.”

Blair Freeman’s mission to dismantle obstacles and empower clients through a transparent construction and real estate process remains steadfast as the company grows, Adams assured.

“We’re going to be expanding out of Omaha in the next couple months,” Kuhn said. “Maranda and I are steering the ship, but the team is making those next decisions; expansion is just another big check on our box.”

Adams and Kuhn’s choice to name their company Blair Freeman held significance from the very beginning—their maiden names. When their passion to work in this industry was sparked, Kuhn explained, they were still Blair and Freeman.

“We decided, if we’re starting an all-woman company, we’ve got to keep our roots,” Kuhn shared. “It was foundational; it’s who we are and where we started.”

The name embodies the bedrock of their company—crafting Blair Freeman’s Class A reputation in the same manner they built the company itself: from the ground up. 

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This article originally appeared in the February/March 2024 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, 
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