When the electrical contractor that employed her husband suffered financial troubles, Mashell Carissimi, 55, said she could run a company better. Her husband dared her to try. She launched Clinton Township, Michigan-based JMC Electrical in 2010. Carissimi explains how a lack of electrical-contracting-industry know-how turned into a strength.

--As told to Alix Stuart

After I passed my electrical contractor's test in 2010, I started the company. My husband had 30 years in the business, so I hired him. We worked out of the basement. We went after smaller jobs that established contractors wouldn't touch. In February 2011, we secured a contract with the MotorCity Casino and we were on our way.

We needed more relationships with general contractors to expand the business. So I put together an eight-page color brochure with a letter stating who we are, what we do, and references. It hadn't really been done before in the contracting arena. My husband said, "I don't think that's gonna work." And I said, "Whatever," and sent it to 200 contractors. I've heard back from about 50 of them, and we've gotten a lot of requests for bids from these brochures.

We started the business using my husband's contacts. Now we're getting some jobs through mine. We're bidding against the big guys. We've been in business five years. To even be considered for those jobs is an awesome thing.