August 2018

Simply Southern Homebuilder, LLC

Author: Lynnie Leavenworth

I need to feel like I’ve accomplished something, and that I’ve made someone else happy. It’s what really makes me tick,” said Lisa Cornelius, president and owner of Simply Southern Homebuilders, LLC—which may explain why her retirement plans didn’t really stick. Following a successful first career as an interior designer with Jacobson’s furniture store in Michigan, Cornelius opened a retail establishment which enabled her to use her creative talents. She owned and operated it for 24 years. Longing for a warmer climate than Michigan, she sold this business to “retire.” Cornelius landed in the Lowcountry in 2003 and has never looked back. “When I came down here, I said I wasn’t going to work another day in my life. I’d had my business for 24 years, and I was very tired.”

After settling in, catching her breath, and playing some golf, Cornelius got her real estate license, which she still holds, followed by stints working for two area builders. Those experiences led to a vision for a home building company that would combine her experiences and creative talents—a company that offered sterling customer service, and unparalleled construction management. Alongside her husband/managing partner, Cornelius established Simply Southern Homebuilders in 2010. Since then, they have built stunning custom homes, big and small, throughout the Lowcountry, along with their first commercial project, the new golf learning center at Colleton River.

Initially setting herself apart as a female-owned business in an industry where few were to be found and experiencing some push-back from the proverbial skeptics, she has demonstrated that the intuitive nature of the business of fulfilling a client’s wish list, the ability to give attention to every detail, and the expertise inherent in being a licensed builder, suits her own drive and sensibilities and results in exceeding expectations.

“With our hands-on dedication, and the fact that we don’t take lightly the fact that someone is spending a lot of money to build their dream home, I am emotionally involved,” Cornelius said. “I don’t know if part of that is because I’m a woman. I do feel that there are some great things about being a woman when it comes to homebuilding. I’m very connected to everything from the size of the laundry room to how the faucets work … I’m living in that house, listening to my client, wanting to make sure there isn’t one little thing that’s not right. As they talk about what they want to do, I am always thinking about what is going to be best. I spend countless hours doing all of the selections—me, personally, with the clients. Being the owner and the builder, there aren’t many companies that can claim that they are that in tune with the client.”

Since launching, Simply Southern Homebuilders has three to five jobs going at one time. “I never wanted to be the biggest builder, I wanted to be the best builder,” Cornelius said. “The important thing isn’t about how many projects we have going; it’s when they start. You can’t have them all coming out of the ground at the same time. We’re very picky about the subs [subcontractors] that we use. We will time when we start our homes so that we have the framer we want, or whatever it is. We’re not going to just hire anyone so we can take on a new project. The quality in our homes really matters, as does a reliable subcontractor for timing.”

In addition to a premier group of subcontractors, Cornelius has a support staff equally-dedicated to her vision. Son Paul Cornelius joined the company and oversees the accounting, lien waivers, and office administration, Dave Cornelius manages the investment properties they have under construction, and construction manager, Larry Muething is primarily in the field. “My construction manager is extremely important to me,” Cornelius said. “Larry has been with me almost five years now, and he has 35-plus years in this business. His experience is so great; he is like the McGuyver of home building.” Keeping the company small is of benefit to everyone involved, allowing the team to be a part of every project, every day. “Each of our homes are visited at least twice a day, sometimes three times a day, just to observe and make sure all is the way it’s supposed to be—checking workmanship, neat jobsites.”

Every home begins with listening to the client’s vision and then taking it to the finish line. The number of decisions made, and steps executed along that journey are daunting, at best, for the client, but are part of a well-worn path for the Simply Southern Homebuilder team. “I’m very service oriented,” Cornelius said. “I provoke questions to get answers to understand what is on their wish list. When people move here from elsewhere, there is a learning curve. Clients need to understand there are the requirements we have to meet in order to comply with Beaufort County in order to build your home.”

Beyond her building and permitting experience, Cornelius utilizes her extensive career in interiors to her clients’ benefit. She says her design sweet spot is where elegance and simplicity almost disappear, but are evident enough to make you feel comfortable, and where budgets are met. “I am frugal with regard to budgets that need to be met. I’m going to work very hard to meet those for my clients.” When selecting surfaces and finishes, she is adept at digging. “Going into showrooms is like going into a candy store. Of course, the most expensive things are up front. I know my companies, I know my quality, I know my pricing. Everything counts.”

Setting a course for retirement may be the only destination Cornelius has not successfully reached. Growing up one of five children in a hard-working Irish Catholic family, her first job at 14-years-old got her up at 4 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays to make the donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts. “Knock on wood, I’ve never failed at anything I’ve set my mind to. That’s through my passion and my hard work, and who I am.” Building a business and a Lowcountry life that includes her family … don’t miss the opportunity to ask her about her grandchildren … Lisa Cornelius and her family at Simply Southern Homebuilder are accomplishing some rather special things that make for plenty of happy, satisfied clients.

Simply Southern Homebuilder, LLC is located at 181 Bluffton Road, Unit B-102, Bluffton. For more information, please call (843) 368-4164 or visit simplysouthernhomebuilder.com.

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