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Shandra Colón, vice president of business development for McKissack & McKissack in Dallas. Courtesy Photo.
Shandra Colón, vice president of business development for McKissack & McKissack in Dallas. Courtesy Photo.

Shandra Colón, the executive dedicated to expanding business growth opportunities for diverse consumers

A notable entrepreneur, consultant and DE&I advocate, she was recently named vice president of business development for McKissack & McKissack in Dallas.

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There are many words that can be used to describe Shandra Colón, but one that has followed her throughout her life is, “advocate.”

Born and raised in the inner city of Dallas, Texas, Colón quickly became immersed in diversity. 

The Pleasant Grove community, where she grew up in the southeast region of the city, has historically been one composed primarily of immigrants.

Colón herself was born to a father originally from Mexico, and a mother who is a mix of Mexican, Indian and Irish descent and was the one who primarily raised her.  

Growing up in a small, working class family and in a diverse community helped Colón embrace the different cultures of individuals that make up the area, and one of the reasons she has remained in Dallas-Fort Worth her entire life. 

Colón refers to the area — and the entire state of Texas — as “the land of milk and honey,” praising the residents for flourishing with the opportunities presented to them. 

“Whatever it is you’re interested in, whatever you want to do, the opportunity is here. And if for some reason you can’t find it, you have the ability to create your own way because we certainly have an entrepreneurial spirit about ourselves here in D-FW,” said Colón in an interview with AL DÍA.

A product of the Dallas Independent School District, Colón is a true Dallas native and works to benefit diverse and underrepresented communities.  

An Entrepreneurial Intuition

Colón’s first job out of school was with a commercial real estate company. 

Starting out as a receptionist, she worked her way up the ladder into a management position.

Over the course of her journey, Colón came across a profound realization about herself. 

“I just felt like I was really good at making other people money,” she said. 

In addition to her 9-to-5, she’d often partake in side jobs, knocking on doors and cold calling. 

While with the real estate company, one of the service providers for a building she was helping manage inquired to her about their need for a business development director. 

Having already built relationships with property managers, yet unfamiliar with business development at the time, she gave it some thought. 

After meeting with the company a few times, she decided to take on the new opportunity. 

As she did so, Colón learned a valuable lesson about the importance of taking on roles even if you are certain it is not one you foresee yourself doing for a long period of time.

“Later on, you realize that it’s just a puzzle piece to where you’re supposed to be,” she said. 

Over time, as she learned more about business development, Colón decided she wanted to get a real estate license.

Coupled were her desire to have a work schedule that allowed more flexibility, and  more quality time with her sons. 

“So, I left the corporate world and built a real estate business,” said Colón. 

In 2013, she founded The Catalyst Firm, where she serves as Chief Navigation Officer and Principal. 

Since earning her license and building her business, Colón has coached numerous real estate teams, and realtors, consulted a number of small business owners, and become a key driver in increasing market diversity. 

DE&I Advocacy and A Transition into Construction

While consulting, Colón had an opportunity to work with the chairman of a construction association, a first time endeavor for her. 

This person taught her a lot about systemic racism and oppression within the industry, as well as tips on how to sustain a minority-owned firm.

Advocating has been a part of Colón’s life from an early age. From her upbringing being raised by a single mother to becoming a teenage mom herself.

“I know how young minority women are treated, and faced my own struggles and battles for opportunities, being a young mom,” she said.

However, while she saw the social and societal implications of that racism and oppression, she soon learned how those implications played a role in business, as well.

More specifically, she saw it within the construction space from a contractual standpoint. 

“I didn’t know that part existed,” said Colón. “But when you get into business and you start to see the red tape in the contracts, that opens a whole new can of worms.” 

The mentorship she received from someone who has been at the forefront of this fight for decades paid dividends for her, and convinced her to take on a bigger role within the construction industry.

“Once I was exposed to what it looks like contractually, it just relit that fire that I already have,” she added. “That flame is even brighter.” 

Joining McKissack and McKissack 

In June 2022, Colón joined McKissack & McKissack, one of the leading Black- and woman-owned architecture, engineering and program and construction management firms in the nation. 

She was named vice president of business development for the firm’s Dallas office, and is responsible for strengthening McKissack’s strategic partnerships in the Texas market and with corporate clients nationwide.

Colón praises McKissack and McKissack as a truly diverse company, one that represents the communities that make up the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“It doesn’t feel like work, it feels like advocacy,” said Colón, referring to the ability to work for such a diverse company and what attracted her to it. 

Being able to work for the oldest and largest African American woman-owned firm is an honor and privilege to her.

When asked about her goals in the new role, Colón notes she is “quite ambitious” and would like to see the firm “make history this year and going forward.” 

“What we’re seeing in this market is the market finally saying that they want to see minority firms in a prime role,” she said.

She expanded on it to note that the ability for underrepresented communities to be the ones making the decisions rather than having all the decisions made for them makes a huge difference.

“It hasn’t always been that way,” Colón added. 

“In D-FW, we are still one of the most segregated major cities in America. So, the fact that our public entities are saying, ‘we want to see minority firms, woman-owned firms step up and prime these projects,’ it is a great time for us to take a hold of this opportunity and go after prime roles that have traditionally not been filled here by Black, Brown, woman-owned businesses.”

Colón aims to leverage current partnerships with the pursuit of new ones, with an eye toward providing opportunities where they’ve historically been unreachable.

“We’re all about meaningful contracts and making sure that we are staying connected to the next up-and-coming minority firms that are looking for mentorship and looking to go to that next level,” she said.

“It’s also all about growing legacy wealth with future companies.”

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