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He’s building a more welcoming (and eco-friendly) KC, but this entrepreneur’s vision comes with a catch: It isn’t a one-man job
By Channa Steinmetz,
R eda Ibrahim’s home is open to everyone, he shared, especially for those who feel like they don’t belong anywhere.
“I have a big magnet toward everyone who doesn’t fit in. I faced a lot of racism; I have faced the struggle to be accepted. [When I came to the United States] seven, eight years ago, I didn’t know how to speak English, and I worked for a big commercial roofing company. I didn’t fit in, and this was a big challenge for me,” said Ibrahim, founder of RK Contractors, LLC .
RK Contractors is a commercial and residential roofing and remodeling company focused on helping minorities, refugees, displaced persons and second chance citizens find their place as a professional, Ibrahim explained.
“The most vulnerable group of people we have here in Kansas City is refugees,” Ibrahim noted. “They come and they don’t know the language; they don’t know how to ride the bus or build credit. It’s difficult for them to buy a house and find a job. I said, ‘I could help them by providing work’ — so we hire refugees.”
When Ibrahim founded RK Contractors in 2018, he had no problem with hiring a team of talented and dedicated contractors, he said.
“We started by hiring Middle Eastern refugees from Syria when the Syrian problem was huge,” Ibrahim recalled. “I’m from Egypt originally, so I speak Arabic which has helped me communicate and connect with a lot of the refugees.”
RK Contractors does much more than provide individuals with employment opportunities, Ibrahim said; it gives people a community and the resources needed to succeed.
“We give them a chance to be trained, to be hired; we help them buy a home and have actually built them some homes too,” Ibrahim said, noting his nonprofit, Mercy in the City , works to bring quality, sustainable and affordable housing options to minority, refugee and displaced communities in Kansas City.
Mercy in the City also provides vocational and life-skills training to help the minority, refugee and displaced communities be an active part of their community, Ibrahim added. Ibrahim earned a degree in Theology, Philosophy and Counseling while in Egypt, which has helped him understand how to fill gaps within a community, he shared.
Click here to learn more about Mercy in the City or to make a donation to help continue its mission.
Reda Ibrahim smiles as he holds up a banner recognizing RK Contractors as one of the KC Chambers Top 10 Small Businesses in 2022; photo by Tommy Felts, Startland News
Value in people
The core of RK Contractors is helping people, Ibrahim said.
“Sometimes I will hire a person, even if they are not skilled,” Ibrahim said. “I will ask them how big of a family they have, who are they providing for? Because at the end of the day, everyone wants to live a respectable life and provide for the people they love.”
“When I look at the other people who got awarded last year, I was sitting in the middle of business owners who had 50 million to 100 million dollars in revenue,” Ibrahim recalled. “I’m here, and I don’t even have my first million in revenue. Us being recognized was huge. It shows we have a bigger impact than financial.”
The value of investing in people can have a much greater impact on the community than being the biggest contracting company in town, Ibrahim noted.
Being recognized among the Chamber’s “Top 10” has allowed RK Contractors to gain more visibility and be a part of more community events, Ibrahim said.
“I understood the power of being heard,” he shared. “I was a panelist on the power of diversity with the KC Chamber of Commerce, and more people started to ask to meet with me. … Being heard and being loud is important as we continue to do more work in the community.”
Check out the video on RK Contractors that premiered at the KC Chamber’s 2022 Small Business Celebration. Video courtesy of GeereD Up Films.
Catalyst for other businesses
Within the past five years of RK Contractors, three construction companies have emerged from individuals who Ibrahim has trained and employed, he said.
“We have a refugee who we trained for two years,” Ibrahim said. “He has his own company now, and we’ve invested a lot of money, resources, time and mentoring. We [subcontract] his business for some of the projects we have.
“We have another person who was struggling with drug addiction and some felonies,” he continued. “We accepted him, gave him a place to live with us, and we love him. … He’s a hero for what he had to deal with. Now he’s married, and they’re expecting soon. He has a construction company that we sub and try to help as well.”
The third construction business that came out of RK Contractors was founded by a veteran who lived with Ibrahim and his family while he was getting his footing.
“Everyone is welcome here,” Ibrahim said. “We still maintain a very good relationship with everyone we housed and helped.”
Reda Ibrahim, RK Contractors, with his moisture resistant, fire retardant, termite resistant construction material; photo by Channa Steinmetz
Commitment to sustainability
Building houses can come with a negative impact on the environment, Ibrahim acknowledged, but he has found a way to reduce the carbon footprint and reduce waste.
“I invented a new product,” Ibrahim said, holding a sheet of recycled plastic. “Instead of using fragile, weak wood [to build houses], this material is moisture resistant, fire retardant, termite resistant and has a 480 year warranty.”
The plastic product is intended to be manufactured as a kit that would allow for a house to be built in four days, Ibrahim said.
“I want to build a manufacturer here in Kansas City. Why? Because I want to hire people here in Kansas City,” he said.
After working on the product for the past three years, Ibrahim has successfully patented his material and is hoping to gain some traction, he said, noting the importance of implementing solutions to deal with plastic waste pollution.
Of the 51 million tons of plastic waste generated in the United States in 2021, only about 5 percent was recycled; the vast majority was sent to landfills, according to a 2022 Greenpeace report .
Ibrahim has solely invested his own money into his state-of-the-art material and is now looking for angel investors who see his mission, he said.
“We’re bringing the carbon foot[print] all the way down to almost zero, and I’m very excited about that,” Ibrahim said. “I plan for it to be a material you can purchase from Home Depot or Lowes or Menards.”
When Ibrahim thinks of his ultimate goal for RK Contractors and his other ventures, he envisions being one resource in an ecosystem of many others, he shared.
“I have a dream of a community with no poverty, zero plastic waste, zero homelessness, zero unemployment,” Ibrahim said. “But we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to do what we say and run the risks. It’s not a one-person job; it’s not one company or nonprofit or church or mosque or temple that can do this. It’s an entire community’s job to come and stick together to target these problems.”
Click here to connect with Reda Ibrahim on LinkedIn.
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