Katie Pendleton: Fort-ifying promising futures in the trades


Last updated 3/19/2024 at 3:32pm

Photo provided

Katie Pendleton.

In celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, we are highlighting inspiring Sisters of Industry. From woodshop enthusiast to successful entrepreneur in the male-dominated world of construction, Katie Pendleton, owner of local luxury custom-home builder The Fort, is carving a path for budding carpenters and tradeswomen.

Growing up in a small town, Katie Pendleton imagined exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. She just didn't know it yet.

Pendleton says her fascination with building and construction began in woodshop, her favorite class, but her spark likely came about ten years earlier.

"The Fort derived from the sense of adventure and having a childlike state of mind. What do you do when you're a kid? You create a fort. Whether that's out of blankets or cardboard boxes or whatever it is, you take all of your prized possessions – your memorabilia, your baseball cards, or your Barbie dolls – and you put them in that fort. It is your safe haven. It is your favorite spot. That's where The Fort name came from."

Building skills

Encouraged by a supportive teacher, Pendleton developed a love for carpentry that would shape her future. Despite initially pursuing a different field in college, she found her true calling.

"I decided to take some engineering classes at the new engineering building, starting out with a shop class at Eastern Washington University, and I fell in love with the process," said Pendleton.

Finding the right fit helped her figure out what she wanted to do for a living.

"I had done an internship for a company that did Street of Dreams-caliber homes in the Portland area. With them, I got a sneak preview of being on the job sites of multimillion-dollar homes, and got to work with interior designers and architects. My love for the custom side of things came from that internship."

Graduating with a degree in construction management and business administration, Pendleton entered the workforce during the 2008-2009 recession – not an ideal time for construction.

"We were not going in the right direction. The whole world wasn't. My first real job was with a commercial construction company, J.J. Henri Co, out of Lake Oswego. We worked on the Tillamook Cheese Factory phase two, and North Clackamas School District bonds. That was my first teeth-cutting experience."

While kick-starting her career with cost engineering, site visits, and project management behind the scenes, Pendleton kept creating, using her own home as her construction site.

"When we were living in Portland, my husband and I bought a 1936 Craftsman-style home. That was my after-hours job, remodeling the house – another reaffirmation that I loved working with my hands and building things. I knew I wanted to get back to the residential side of things."


After three years on the west side, Pendleton and her husband sold their home and everything they owned to move to Central Oregon, where they bought and built their true fort, the Sisters property where they live today.

Pendleton went to work for custom-home builder High Timber Construction and began defying stereotypes.

"There are not a lot of females in this world of management and construction, and that didn't really bother me, necessarily. It was a really fun process of gaining the respect of others in that field, especially counterparts, which are 90 percent males, and growing on that, building my own processes, and getting feedback."

Over the next eight years, Pendleton worked on nearly 100 high-end, custom home remodels, earning a reputation for excellence.

"I had the opportunity to help run the company, and it was just starting its portfolio when I started with them. It was a fantastic experience. I got to create relationships with trade partners, subcontractors, and utilize some of my contacts that I had from the commercial side of things in the Portland area. I used that time to grow my experience, because experience is what you wish you had while you're getting it."

Fortifying relationships and earning respect, Pendleton gained confidence and acted on her dream to start her own company in the home sector.

The Fort

In 2020, Pendleton created The Fort, inspired by what she had seen and heard from previous clients. Her "forts" are not cookie-cutter-style homes; most very high-end, all carefully crafted.

"The amount of attention required with these custom builds, and their level of quality, the pre-design – from the conceptual design phase to the pre-construction bidding and engineering – can last six months to a year, engaging with clients for that amount of time before we even get to break ground," she said. "When you get to the construction side of things, it's anywhere from 14 months to two years of care in creating each one of these forts. It is very, very time consuming. It's very critical to pay attention to all the details."

A project manager with over 15 years of construction experience, Pendleton runs weekly to bi-weekly meetings with every client, architect, designer, and interior designer, paralleled with site walks, site meetings, and trade meetings. Pendleton requires a state of constant meeting, planning, and execution to build those safe havens where clients keep their prized possessions.

From overseeing every aspect of the projects to fostering strong relationships with subcontractors and clients, Pendleton's hands-on approach sets her apart.

"I've been blessed and have had a lot of amazing clients over the years. We've had challenging experiences but we've always persevered and prevailed. That has really built the success."

The Next Gen

Pendleton's aspirations extend beyond business success. As Vice President of the Central Oregon Builders Association - and a mother of three - she is a strong role model.

"Now that we have a company that is established, I want to define my 'why' even more. 'Why do I do this?' I want to be able to give back," she explains.

Pendleton is leveraging her unwavering commitment to excellence to inspire young people to better themselves and to pursue careers in the trades.

"It's such a rewarding career. There's so much you can learn, so much you can create, including a feeling of self worth. Whether you're a little girl or a little boy, whatever you identify as, you can always find something that would fit you in the trades."

Photo provided

A custom home completed by The Fort in Tetherow.

As her high school woodshop teacher did for her, Pendleton plans to guide youth to create forts for themselves, future clients, or businesses.

"Most of my subcontractors, by sheer experience, are silver haired. They're my age or older, getting into their 40s. It's not as easy to crawl around and pull wire or be on scaffolding. Getting the younger generation excited about the trades, I think, is the key. Getting those classes back into the schools. Getting opportunities where kids can put their name to something that they built. There's a huge pride in that."

As she drafts those plans, Pendleton maintains a workload of three to four forts at a time.

"We really want to maintain our authenticity and our dedication to creating the best possible forts that we possibly can. I'm really hopeful for the future. It is looking brighter every day."


Reader Comments(0)


Our Family of Publications Includes:

Https://www.nuggetnews.com/home/cms Data/dfault/images/masthead 260x100
Sisters Oregon Guide
Spirit Of Central Oregon
Spirit Youtube
Nugget Youtube

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2024