Owning It: Local Ladies Successful in Business
By Meredith Jean Morris
The 863 is home to a plethora of well-run, successful businesses. These businesses vary in history, as well as in services or merchandise offered. However, what many of these businesses have in common is a brave, determined, persevering founder guiding the success – oftentimes, those founders are successful women.
Pat Reass – The Appraisal Group
Pat Reass knows the meaning of hard work.
“Going into business for myself was a challenge, because nobody likes change but a wet baby,” laughs Reass, a Winter Haven real estate appraiser. “After time in the field, I was wanting to have my own office, and I decided to jump out there and take a leap of faith.”
After opening her own real estate company, Kathman Realty Inc., in 1986, Reass’s business has transformed into the Appraisal Group it is today.
“The biggest challenge I faced was when I started into business by myself,” she says. “Real estate was male-dominated. There were no other females doing it in Polk County.”
Reass prides herself on being one of the first women in Polk County to become certified as a real estate appraiser.
“After I became certified, it was a challenge,” she says. “There were several old timers who would say to me, ‘I don’t know what you think you’re doing…’ That was hard.”
However, after working diligently and making a name for herself, Reass says even some of the “old timers” came around.
“My saving grace on that was when one of those gentlemen called me and asked for some advice on property appraising,” she says. “At that point, I knew I must have arrived. But, I still work my butt off.”
Owning her own business, Reass says she believes in the importance of a good reputation.
“You have to still be your very best,” she says. “It’s your name on everything.”
Contact Reass at 863-299-2700 or online at the Facebook page of AppraisalGroup-CentralFlorida.
Lorrie Walker – Lorrie Walker Public Relations
Lorrie Walker also has made a successful career using her name.
The Lakeland public relations professional started her career in the Army, working as a journalist.
“I had been in college, but I quit and joined the Army because I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Walker says. “On a whim, I decided on journalism. It was the best decision I ever made — I loved to write, and I loved journalism.”
Walker’s experience as a journalist in the Army paved the way for her current role as founder and head writer of Lorrie Walker Public Relations.
“I had been in a newsroom, and I knew what was worth writing about,” she says. “I’m inquisitive, and I know how to interview a client until we find the thing that’s a good story.”
After honing in on the story, Walker proceeds to get media coverage for her clients.
“It’s so easy to us,” she says, “but, to the clients, it looks like we work magic.”
Walker’s business model is to build her business by word of mouth.
“We all want our clients to be happy,” she says. “That’s the goal. One client is satisfied, and tells the next person, and so on.”
Walker’s clients range from nonprofits and a specialty running store chain to national Internet marketing firms.
“For a while, we did end up in a niche, with dentists and orthodontists,” she says. “We don’t want to get pigeon-holed, so we work with a variety of industries. It breaks it up and prevents monotony.”
As for being a woman in business, Walker doesn’t focus on any gender-related challenges.
“I don’t approach is as ‘I’m a woman,’ ” she says. “It’s business, period. We, as in all people, are our own biggest stumbling blocks. I never have ever entertained the option that failure is an option. It’s a game changer.”
Contact Walker at 863-614-0555 or online at LorrieWalkerPR.com.
Jodi L. Foster – Foster’s Photography
Jodi L. Foster, 42, is a resident of Winter Haven and owns Foster’s Photography, Professional Photography Studio (525 Ave. B NW downtown Winter Haven). Foster is also the lead photographer for the 863 Magazine. She is responsible for the cover story photos.
Services / products provided: All photography needs from weddings to maternity to babies and all the special occasions people want to cherish forever.
How long have you owned your business? My studio has been open for four years but I have been doing photography off and on for more than 15 years.
What is it about owning your particular business do you enjoy the most? The least? I love the memories I get to create and capture for my clients, and see the joy in their eyes when they see my finished art that I have captured for them. Plus, I love the flexibility to be able to go to my children’s school programs and not miss out on those type of things. The least would be how much blood sweat and tears really goes into running your own business and not just punching a time clock. My day never ends at 5 o’ clock or on Friday. I don’t know what a weekend is.
What are some of the challenges of being self-employed? As a one-women show and a single mom of two amazing children, finding enough hours in the day to enjoy everything and that is happening and not get run down.
What inspires you? My children inspire me. They say I am the “best photographer picture taker ever,” so I strive to make sure my clients feel the same way by taking time to give everyone memories to cherish and put in a frame or on a wall (not pictures to put in a drawer). My clients are not just clients, they are cherished people that come into my studio and life. I want them to have the best experience ever.
Who are your biggest cheerleaders? On the top of the list are my two angels, McKenzie and Gavin. Also, my parents and some pretty amazing friends. 863-206-2983
Pat Brenchley – Heart to Heart Quilting Fabrics & More
Pat Brenchley owns Heart to Heart Quilting Fabrics & More (237 Avenue O SW, Winter Haven). She runs the 13-year-old business with her husband, Al, and their two Chihuahuas, Tootsie and Taffy.
Services / products provided: Fabric, thread, sewing machines and service/repair, quilting classes, scrapbooking, and more.
What is it about owning your particular business do you enjoy the most? The least? Interacting with people and being able to help them. I love the creativity and picking the fabric out. As far as the least, people that are unhappy; there’s usually not a lot but I try to look at things from their point of view.
What are some of the challenges of being self-employed? At this point in my life, there’s none. I love it. I worked for a company for a long time that was a big corporation and I was so boxed in. Customers would voice to me their opinions on something and I couldn’t do a thing about it. Now I can. If somebody comes to me and tells me this fabric is not good quality, I can stop buying it. I suppose the biggest challenge would be you come to work whether you’re sick or not. You don’t want to disappoint people.
What inspires you? The new people that learn to quilt. You’d be amazed at the statistics. We probably teach a hundred to two hundred people a year how to quilt from scratch, and out of those, in 13 years, I could probably count on one hand how many people have said they don’t like it. We try to teach a very simple process and make it fun. I have an excellent quilting teacher and the goal is to have them make something that is finished, not perfect. We don’t shoot for perfection the first time. We shoot for fun, acceptable and finished.
Who are your biggest cheerleaders? My kids and my granddaughter. She started sewing before she was four. She does a lot of sewing still and she likes to create things.
What are your goals with the business? Contrary to most businesses my goal is not to be rich. My goal is to stay with it and have fun until I’m not able to do it anymore, and to develop friendships and relationships. 863-298-8185