First and Only Black Female Licensed Master Plumber Now Runs Her Own Contracting Company

Adrienne Bennett

Adrienne Bennett, a true pioneer in the plumbing industry, made history at the age of 30 when she became the first black female master plumber and contractor in the United States. She also became the first African-American female plumbing inspector and certified medical gas inspector and installer. Now, over three decades later, she is the Founder and CEO of her very own Detroit-based contracting company, Benkari LLC, and she continues to make waves in the male-dominated field.

Bennett, along with her son A.K. Bennett, founded Benkari in 2008, venturing into commercial plumbing and water conservation.

"I've been a journeyman plumber, a master plumber, project manager, plumbing inspector, and code enforcement officer for the city of Detroit for a decade. There was no place left to go but become an independent contractor," she told CNN. "It was the final frontier."

Growing up, Bennett has always been interested in math and science. She wanted to study mechanical engineering in college, but a discriminating incident led her to abandon her college aspirations.

A chance encounter at a 1976 election rally for Jimmy Carter changed her life's trajectory after she was offered a spot in a federally-sponsored apprenticeship program. She faced challenges and bullying in a male-dominated field but emerged as the first woman in the state to complete the apprenticeship program successfully.

Eventually, after accumulating 4,000 hours of experience, Bennett took the master plumber exam, making history as the first black female master plumber in Michigan and the entire United States. Even the state's labor department recognized her achievement with a letter commending her "unblemished record."

In 1995, Bennett faced another hurdle when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, prompting her to take a break. But when she returned, she launched Benkari, contributing to Detroit's revitalization with notable contracts like the Little Caesars Arena and the Anthony Wayne Housing Development.

Now in her 60s, Bennett continues to navigate the male-dominated industry with her own company. As a survivor and industry leader, she also plays a role in shaping the next generation of skilled tradespeople by serving on the advisory board for Lawrence Tech.

Learn more about the company via its official website

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