Occupation: President, Evergreen Basement Systems
Hometown: Appomattox, Va.

What is your current job?
I steer the ship. It’s my job to make sure that we know where we’re going and that my team has everything they need to get us there. That means trucks, tools, personnel, training, and confidence. It’s my job to make sure my team gets what they need to excel.

Congratulations on winning the 2015 Athena award!
What does this recognition mean to you?
It means a lot to me. My business has received several awards over the years and I am proud of each one of them, but this one was recognizing me as a leader. For me, it was recognition of what I have tried to do with my team, my friends, and other business people. I just try to help who I can by sharing what I have learned along the way.

What led you to where you are now?
I always knew that I would work. I always knew that whatever I did would get my all. I didn’t want to go to college. I got my first promotion into a leadership role on the day I graduated from high school. I just kept working my way up the ladder and ended my career as a Plant Quality Manager in the automotive industry at age 29. I was not one to sit around waiting for promotions; I made things happen.
What were the early days of business
ownership like?

I could’ve kept going as an employee climbing the ladder but was more interested in making my own way. The corporate life bored me [because] I wanted to call the shots. My father was ready to retire, and I grew up working with him. No child of his was going to grow up not knowing how to work. So, just like that, I was in the basement construction industry, but I brought with me knowledge from the corporate world that I was excited to use.

I learned everything myself. I taught myself QuickBooks, permitting, quoting, taxes, reconciling—everything! This was before Google and in the early days of dial up. I learned it because it had to get done. I ran the footing crew, so days were spent on the jobsite forming and pouring footings, and then evenings I did the bookwork, quotes, and customer job updates.

What did you learn in that process?
That I can do anything—I just have to do it.

Is there anything you would change in retrospect?
Never. I am a “look forward” kind of person.

What excites you the most about the work that you do?
Helping people. I love helping homeowners fix their homes, but I love it more when I see my employees—guys who have been with me for years—beam with pride when they help a homeowner fix their home. I love watching employees do something (like run the mini-exor design a way to fix a basement that is sinking) that they didn’t know how to do before and now they excel at it. I watch with a little “Mom-Pride.”

What are some challenges you’ve faced over the years?
Whether or not something is a challenge is in the eye of the beholder. There have been days when I sat with my head in my hands wondering how I was going to get through this and if those times had brought me down they would have been challenges but since I prevailed, they were learning opportunities.

What are some ideals or strategies that you prioritize in business?
Teamwork, family, and integrity.

Are there any unique challenges that women in business face?
Themselves mostly. They seem to think that “as a woman” there is some superhuman set of expectations that society places on them. Not so. They place unrealistic expectations and imaginary barriers on themselves and they stew on the areas where they didn’t meet the made-up expectations.

What is your advice for facing those unique challenges?
First, lighten up. Then, set priorities and go.

What’s life like outside of work?
Fantastic. I garden, raise chickens, and spend quality time with family. Evenings are our time. I have set my priorities for work and family time, so now I just spend my time accordingly and completely. I don’t text my kid from work and I don’t work on family trips.

What type of leader are you?
I picture myself as a Yoda-style teacher, imparting my wisdom on others. However a consensus of my employees included descriptions like “empowering,” “direct,” and “teamwork focused.” Their descriptions didn’t include a lightsaber, but they were pretty flattering.

I see my role as the leader to create other leaders. I do this by teaching my employees how. I rarely tell them exactly what to do; instead I teach them how to think about the problem to find a solution, or what the outcome should be, but I find that I would be denying them an opportunity to build their confidence and knowledge if I told them how to do everything.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”—Zig Ziglar

What one piece of advice would you share with others?
Look outside of yourself. It’s not all about you. Don’t be so concerned about what’s in it for you. It’s all much bigger and better than that.