Ever wonder what it’s like to get started and work your way to the top as a woman in the remodeling industry? I had the pleasure of interviewing Judy Mozen, President of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and Kathy DeMeyer, Vice President of our Eastern Mass NARI Chapter to discuss just that. Both women provided great insights and had great stories to share!
Let’s start at the beginning. I asked both women how they got their start in the industry. And got 2 very different answers. Kathy started off as a convenience store owner, while Judy began her career as a teacher. Kathy was looking for a new career and connected with a close friend who owned a remodeling business. She started as his bookkeeper, and went on to learn everything she could about the business over the next 8 years. Judy began helping her architect husband with his home designs. Her first design was fashioned out of a cardboard box, and was so good it sold faster and for more money than any previous home designs! Judy made her shift from homebuilding to remodeling as former clients began reaching out to her for remodel work. She loved designing for people versus designing on spec, and learned the business by visiting job sites to oversee her designs.
The next question I asked was if these women had any women mentors or role models along the way. While both women learned the business from their male mentors, Kathy also received a lot of mentoring from the Dennis Building Inspector at the time, Carolyn Redfern. Kathy says Carolyn was her “inspiration”.
So let’s fast forward to present day-I asked both women what are the biggest changes they have seen in the industry. Judy said by far it is that women homeowners are now the primary decision makers, where before men always had the final say on where and how much money was spent on remodel projects. She also says that her company roles are different, where she is the CR making the house calls, and her husband and business partner is managing the finances and the office. She also talked about the increasing age of workers and the decline of artisan and specialty work. Kathy says for her it is the ever changing building codes and keeping up with varying permitting processes in each town.
How about the biggest challenges for women in the industry? Kathy says that acceptance is still a challenge for her-to this day she can walk into a Town Hall to pull a permit and be told “this needs to be done by the Construction Supervisor”. She feels that women in the remodeling business are all treated like secretaries. Judy says it is much more difficult for women to get started in the business and get the training they need. Young men can walk onto a job site and typically start working right away. She says women often have a misconception that they need muscles, when in fact much of the physical labor has now been replaced by power tools. As for training, Judy says things are getting better, referencing government programs like WANTO (Women Apprentices in Non Traditional Occupations).
So what can we learn from these strong women leaders? Here is their advice for young women interested in breaking into the remodeling business. Judy says “Get educated in everything-get so educated that they can’t turn you down”. In addition, she says that if you know about design, sales or marketing, ask to be hired as part of a company’s management team. But she also stresses the importance of women getting out in the field and the idea that “women love working with women”. Kathy reiterates the importance of education. When she got her construction supervisor’s license in 2000, she was 1 of 3 women to take the test with over 2,000 men! Today she recommends joining a great organization like NARI, getting involved and getting certified.
Written by Alison Stanley, Senior Sales Executive for Kohler Co.