President and CEO • Smalls Electrical Construction Inc. • Brooklyn, N.Y. • Age: 36
Jeffrey Smalls did not always know he would be an electrician, but he always knew he would be an entrepreneur. “The drive to have my own business was clearly in the DNA,” says Smalls. His grandfather, Samuel Smalls, New York’s first African-American master plumber and his father, James, also a master plumber, owned their own businesses. A decade ago, the third-generation Smalls opened Smalls Electrical Construction Inc. in Brooklyn, N.Y. Today, it is a leading electrical contractor in New York, providing onsite installations and general power, lighting and wiring services for large and complex projects. One recent project, for example, involved an $8.5-million rehabilitation of five Brooklyn train stations, complete with wiring, lighting and signal work.
Smalls was involved in a contracting mentor program for set-asides to assist minorities, which his company stopped bidding for six-years ago. “We win projects because of our competence, not our color,” he states. His skilled team, value installations and cost-saving methods attract highly competitive bids for large public works contracts.
Yet, his greatest accomplishments have been “turning on the light bulb” for young people and shining light on the vast possibilities they have. He frequently speaks to students at New York City high schools. “I tell them that if I can do it, they can, too, and I’m willing to help them,” says Smalls. True to his word, he has sponsored an intern each summer for the last few years. His work with students is a result of the influence of his own high school teacher and mentor, whom he refers to as “Mr. Nazarook.” Nazarook, who taught electrical motor control, recognized Smalls’ interest and took time to teach him the basics of wiring.
Smalls continued his studies at New York City Technical College, New York University and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Away from the train signals and city lights, Smalls enjoys traveling to exotic locales and skiing.