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Local Female Business Leader Makes Strides in Male-Dominated Industry

by Harris, Baio & McCullough

Jan 11, 2024

Sarah Phillips is a local female business leader who is making remarkable achievements in a predominantly male industry: the construction industry.

Sarah graduated from Tulpehocken High School in 2006, where she was a transfer student to join the Tulpehocken Chapter of the National Future Farmers of America Organization, an agricultural-based youth leadership program. Through this program, she took all agriculture-based science and mechanics courses in lieu of the traditional sciences and vocational programs. It was here that she really felt a love for building and creating anything from small engines to woodshop projects to welding and electrical work. Always one to look ahead into the future, she began to talk to her father, Dave Phillips, president of Irish Creek Excavating Inc. at the time, about what she could do as a career using these skills. He suggested that she could work in construction and mentioned that she could begin by working as an excavation laborer for Irish Creek to gain field experience.

Sarah started working for Irish Creek, a construction management business, as a laborer during summer and winter breaks from Ohio State University, where she studied construction systems management. She loved the tough but rewarding work and the intricacies of calculations that were involved with earth moving and site work. However, through the experience she was gaining, combined with her college courses in construction management, Sarah knew that she wanted to expand her experience beyond site work. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she landed a project management position with a general contractor based in Reading.

In 2017, Sarah rejoined Irish Creek as a project manager with the long-term goal of purchasing the business and expanding its services. Irish Creek was always a customer-need-focused company and would complete general construction work when asked but kept its main focus on excavation and site work. When Sarah rejoined the team, she saw a market opportunity to combine Irish Creek’s customer focus with design/build/general construction services, and a new business model was formed.

In 2020, Sarah began the process of purchasing the business from Dave and Robin Phillips and is now the majority shareholder of the company. In 2022, Sarah became president of the business.

As president of Irish Creek, Sarah leads the Irish Creek team and provides specific oversight of the general construction and construction management divisions, ensuring that the mission of finding the ideal solutions through construction always remains paramount throughout the project lifecycle. She also develops and implements marketing and business development initiatives and oversees human resources, finance operations, and all other daily business operations of Irish Creek.

Irish Creek has grown 151% under Sarah’s leadership. Sarah has grown Irish Creek beyond Pennsylvania to include New Jersey, Delaware, and Ohio, and has expanded the business’s services to include commercial and industrial general construction, construction management, and excavation and site preparation. Irish Creek has made the Inc. 5000 List of Top 5000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies, twice.

Sarah and Irish Creek have been recognized by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce as recipients of the Business Excellence Awards in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Under Sarah’s leadership, the business earned the Federal Women-Owned Small Business Certification in 2023.

Outside of work, Sarah is a fitness enthusiast and enjoys various outdoor activities with her two dogs, Jade and Sass. She also enjoys volunteering time to community organizations, such as the Salvation Army of Reading, the Berks County Building & Codes Association, the Tulephocken Future Farmers of America Agriculture Advisory Committee, the Emerging Leaders United, and the Berks County Planning Commission.

Irish Creek Enterprises, Inc. was founded in 1993 by David Phillips and incorporated in 2003. The business’s services include commercial and industrial general construction, construction management, and excavation and site preparation. Services also include select and custom residential. Irish Creek now concentrates on its customer-focused cost-plus business model, bringing more control, informed decision-making, and cost-saving opportunities to each customer. The business supports community foundations, including the Salvation Army of Reading, the Reading Public Library, Berks County Breast Cancer Support Services, Safe Berks, New Journey Community Outreach, the Veterans Coalition of Pennsylvania, and the Tulephocken Chapter of the FFA.

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