Brandi Hawkins’ family business is older than dirt. Almost.
“I grew up smelling dirt, diesel (and) animals,” Hawkins said. “So I love that. I mean, that’s therapeutic right there.”
Hawkins’ family has been in charge of filling stadiums with dirt since Fort Worth’s Stock Show in 1941. But it wasn’t until recently that she and her son took the helm of the family business started by her grandfather and later run by her father.
Hawkins, 52, is now at the helm of Coy L. Beauchamp Arenas and Excavating. Events such as rodeos typically need between 1,500 to 1,800 cubic yards of dirt to cushion the joints of animals and prevents them from slipping, and cushions people’s falls, Hawkins said.
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Hawkins’ job is to haul the right kinds of mixes of dirt for the events, and manage the people on construction equipment spreading dirt out.
To her, working with dirt is a way to carry on her family’s heritage.
Laying the groundwork
The legacy of Hawkins’ family extends past the stadium. Her grandfather, Coy W. Beauchamp, laid all the dirt for Fort Worth’s early streets such as Main Street, Northside Drive and University. He used dynamite to make basements downtown, Hawkins said.
“My grandfather was the only person that could get dynamite back then,” Hawkins said. “So anybody that needed a job with dynamite, they would call him.”
It wasn’t until 1941 that Fort Worth leader Amon Carter hired her grandfather to move dirt for the stock show. It took four days and four nights to get all of the dirt out of the stadium with a 1932 Ford Model B truck, said Hawkins’ father, Coy “Sonny” Beauchamp, who was 8 years old at the time.
As a father-son duo, they worked together for years. When they weren’t working for shows at Will Rogers, they were working on other projects, such as the grain elevators in Saginaw, Marine Creek Dam and the Shady Oaks Golf Course and Leonard’s Subway.
At one point, there were about 23 horse shows at Will Rogers a year, Beauchamp said. Sonny Beauchamp took over in 1990 when Coy Beauchamp got sick and later died of cancer in 1994.
When Sonny Beauchamp was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, he had to step back and told Hawkins that she would have to take over the business. Beauchamp, 86, recalls the conversation they had.
“She said, ‘I’m not going to take over it,’” Beauchamp said. “I said, ‘Yes you are. You were raised doing it, and I was raised doing it, so we’ve got to keep doing it.’”
At age 44, Hawkins took care of Beauchamp when he was sick and receiving chemotherapy. She kept trying to avoid taking over the business, Hawkins said. She would have to give up teaching children at her church, sales at Advocare and substitute teaching to take over the business.
“I was like, I don’t want this. God, I don’t want this, I don’t want to do this,” Hawkins said. “I kept trying to run.”
When the bills started piling up, Hawkins said, she realized that it was time to take over the business. There was a lot of work to do. There were broken machines and more staff needed to rebuild the business from the years-long gap between ownership.
Hawkins grew up around machines, but there were so many things she didn’t know how to do. Those obstacles didn’t stop her, she said.
“When there’s something set in front of me, I’m like, ‘OK, I can do this,’” Hawkins said. “I don’t know how yet. I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I’m going to do it, you know, necessity. So I just stepped in.”
Making the show go on
Being a dirt contractor isn’t for those who balk at, well, getting their hands dirty. For horse shows at Will Rogers, she often has to clean out the cattle pens for the horses.
“You’re unearthing every bad smell you can imagine,” she said.
The hours are also long, and it’s stressful, she said. Recently, while working at the State Fair of Texas at Fair Park in Dallas, Hawkins said she stayed awake for 26 hours and 15 minutes.
Rolling with the punches and teamwork are the name of the game, Hawkins said. She is usually on the premises making sure everything is on track, including the proper operation of equipment. It’s a people-oriented business and requires a lot of coordination to make sure everything runs smoothly.
“You have to kind of be married to it or in love with it,” she said.
As owner of Arena Werks, Randy Snodgress has worked with Beauchamp and Hawkins over the years at horse shows. Hawkins is good with accommodating if he needs something, he said. To do the job, it takes someone who is organized and flexible.
“(She’s) always willing to jump on it,” Snodgress said. “Which a lot of time means in the middle of the night, because if we’re having a horse show or an event all day, we can’t stop the horse show to change the dirt.”
Bringing in different kinds of dirt to the stadium is a constant, Snodgress said. He said Hawkins’ attention to detail and years of knowledge passed down from her family makes her a leader in the business.
“Most people would think just hauling dirt in and out of an arena … (is) like a no brainer, but the dirt for these horses … has gotten so scientific that the (attention to) detail is huge,” Snodgress said. “It will affect the success of your show.”
Lainie Whitmire, founder of the World Cutting Horse Association, said cutting horses need deep, sandy ground so the horses don’t fall when they are making big movements as they block cattle from getting back to the herd. Whitmire lets Hawkins do what she does best: prepare for the event.
“She makes my job extremely easy to put on a (cutting horse show) there because all I have to do is make the phone call to her and tell her when we’re starting and what time the show starts and she will get the ground ready,” Whitmire said.
Whitmire relishes working with another woman in the male-dominated business, she said. Hawkins always has a grin on her face, and Whitmire said she has never seen her have a bad day.
Hawkins said she loves the job and working with people. She describes the staff at Will Rogers as family. She relies on everyone from family and cousins to friends and ex-husbands to help her get the job done. A good reputation and good character will go a long way in the business, she said.
“Everybody that comes into my life is one way or another, a blessing,” she said. “It’s amazing and so sweet.”
Hawkins’ son, Garrett Seagraves, is on machine duty, leveling the dirt by looking at it. Seagreaves has talent: Her father could level the grounds by just using his eyes, but not everyone can, she said.
“I like making things look good,” Seagraves said.
Seagraves said he expects his son Wade, 3, will become the fifth generation to carry on the family business.
Beauchamp said he’s always there for Hawkins if she needs advice on how to do something. She consulted him for advice often when she first started.
Now, the calls for advice are fewer, Beauchamp said. He feels good about the direction of the business.
“I’m very, very proud of them,” Beauchamp said. “They’ve done a tremendous, good job.”
Brandi Hawkins bio
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas
Family: Grandfather, Coy W. Beauchamp. Father, Coy L. “Sonny” Beauchamp. Son, Garrett Seagraves. Grandson, Wade.
Education: Castleberry high school, in Fort Worth. Business and psychology classes at Weatherford College and Tarrant County College.
Work experience: Worked for a Sara Lee Corporation in the accounting office until having first child, then substituted at Lake Country Christian School where son went to school. Also did direct sales at AdvoCare, to get son through college.
Volunteer experience: Volunteered at son’s school, was room mom every year of elementary school, always helping and involved at school. Volunteered through church and school at food banks and nursing homes. Started teaching at church, Sunday school and children’s church in 1993 until her father got sick and had to resign in 2014.
First job: Working at an insurance company in downtown Fort Worth, microfilming files and also worked at Western Auto as a cashier in River Oaks. At the same time, worked at a tanning salon. Started working at 15 years old.
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: To be constantly learning and growing. There are so many great leaders around us if we just take time to seek them out. Aim high!
Best advice ever received: Love one another. We are not always going to see eye to eye or understand everyone’s viewpoints, but love people where they are at. And also, surround yourself with people who will grow and inspire you. If you are going to eat with the hogs, you will eventually become a hog.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.