Jaime Novinger-Toigo talks charity, co-working and construction
Jaime Novinger-Toigo likes to restore and rebuild, and her passion is connecting people.
She does it as founder and president of a restoration business she founded in 2005, Swatara Township-based Service 1st Restoration & Remodeling. She does it through her nonprofit "Hottest of" Disaster Recovery charity, which raises awareness on the efforts of firefighters; most recently Novinger opened a co-working space called Coworking at The Park, in an effort to bring people together.
Service 1st mostly handles fire and water restoration, mold remediation and biohazard and crime scene clean-up.
The fire restoration side of her business is what inspired Novinger-Toigo to start a nonprofit for firefighters.
"I started it because I was average. I wasn't exposed to the volunteer fire community or the fire community at all," Novinger-Toigo said. "Like most people that are not exposed to the community, I didn't think twice about the heroic efforts that they make on a consistent basis … how they leave their family in the middle of the night to respond to a situation."
When she's not running her business or giving back to her community, Novinger-Toigo, 40, is busy raising two teenage girls – 17 year-old Diamond and 15 year-old Passion – with her husband, Mark Toigo, in Camp Hill.
The Business Journal recently caught up with Novinger-Toigo on all of her projects.
How did you end up working in construction and starting your own company?
My family is third-generation construction. My dad, Jim Novinger, has an exterior-construction company that is pretty well known in this area.
Construction was not spoken or talked about at the dinner table, by any means, while we were growing up.
I previously was in janitorial. It felt like a natural next step, a natural progression for me, to get into the restoration industry. When I was exposed to this industry I didn't realize how much construction was involved, but I jumped into it because I felt like I had a lot of great resources to fall back on.
We have 22 employees. I want our environment to be a company they want to grow with and see themselves with long term, so when we bring somebody on board, the hiring process is pretty extensive, because I feel responsible for that person. We want to make sure that they're a great fit for our company as well. We've really built a family community within the company. It's been great because we hold each other accountable to future success by really giving 100 percent.
How do you think being female in a male-dominated industry has challenged you?
It's interesting, because everybody always asks that question, and I think my goal, just like a male entrepreneur business owner's goal, is to be successful.
I understand you are involved in charity work. What kind, and how has that impacted your leadership skills?
I have always done volunteer work – not for any specific charity – but have always been raised that you've got to give back and be a part of building up a community, whether that’s volunteering at a local association or at your church. That was instilled in me from a young child. You've got to donate time.
I'm on The Kids Trust board, which is a charity that raises awareness for children of abuse. That's one that’s been real important to me for many years.
I'm involved in a lot different associations, too, like rotary club.
I think one of my passions is definitely to unite people and to find opportunities to serve and to add value in situations that were not expected. I think that can be done in a nonprofit as well as a business.
We try to incorporate that same model in our business as we would a nonprofit.
We do internal training. Most people come with experience in construction. When we’re bringing somebody on board, we definitely want somebody who can communicate well with others, because in our industry we're never expected to show up. Nobody expects to be calling us.
Employees are trained for the situation we're responding to, and to communicate with clients to get them through that point of devastation.
Let's talk about co-working. What inspired you to start a co-working space? How's that going?
Our whole goal as a business is to develop relationships within our community, and the co-working model was a great fit to bring entrepreneurs and business owners or individuals in sales into our space to basically co-market with.
I always loved the idea of being surrounded by people that are inspiring or seeking abundance, whether that's personal or professionally, so the concept of doing so came to fruition because I wanted to have a training room in our building that we could internally utilize.
When thinking about the training space, the co-working space really made sense for us.
We just opened. We've been marketing this for quite some time, and have spent at least two months building the brand. We just completed construction and got our first tenants about two weeks ago.
We're starting really now to build some events.
Now that it's open, we are doing an event on the 31st of this month [March], a food truck invasion at our office.
We're bringing local food truck vendors in. We have a band performing that day, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
I just think that'll be fantastic to really start the promotion of the co-working space. It will also add value or promote our charity that we created, because proceeds will go to the charity.
I think it's like perfect time, seeing as we just lost a firefighter in the city of Harrisburg.
Unfortunately, since that happened, people really understand that our firefighters are out there, willing to risk their lives.