Women  in the workforce: a consistently hot topic. Times have changed. Today, it is the norm for a household to have two working parents. Thirty or forty years ago, it was not – it was believed women belonged in the home, and men in the workforce. Generation X, and now millennials, and the up and coming Generation Z are changing the landscape of the workforce in big ways. That must be why the topic of women in the workforce is so popular this presidential election year, perhaps more so than ever.

Did you know 70 percent of women in the U.S. with children younger than 18 work? And according to The Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the number of women in the U.S. construction industry grew by more than 81 percent from 1985 to 2007? Despite that staggering increase, however, only 9 percent of U.S. construction workers are women – which is obviously a very low number compared to other industries.

While we don’t know the exact number of women in the restoration industry specifically, it is very safe to say women are rising in the ranks of restoration companies – and doing it quickly. Women bring a new way of doing things to the table … a sort of quiet strength and the ability to help build others up, and bring out the very best in everyone around them.

When Restoration & Remediation launched the 2016 Recognizing Women in Restoration campaign, we really didn’t know how it would go. All I knew was in my short time in the industry, I have met a number of truly remarkable women who have a bit of a different take on restoration. While most understand this industry is all about helping other people on their worst day, not everyone has the ability to comfort and connect like a woman! They are also shedding more light on the importance of using safe, clean products – especially around children, the elderly, those who are sick, and so on. The women who come to my mind are also strong and not easily intimidated. They know this industry, they know their niche, and they will not back down.

I had the opportunity to attend Violand Management Associates’ Women in Leadership event in June of this year and sat in a room full of women who left me in awe. Each was so intelligent, and full of fresh, innovative ideas on how to tackle everyday problems in a restoration business. As the staff at Violand would say, these women are ready to “kick some glass!” Thank you very much, Violand, for being such a strong supporter of the campaign this year and for your work to help women rise in the ranks of restoration companies around the country.

The Judging Process

A lot of work, planning, and organization went in to this year’s Recognizing Women in Restoration campaign. It was vitally important to R&R that the process be fair and unbiased. To the right, you can “meet” two of the three judges (the third being myself) who thoroughly read and scored every single one of the 40 (yes FORTY!!!) entries and nominations. Each entry was graded based on six categories:

  • Thoroughness of the entry
  • Supporting documentation
  • Journey & experience
  • Job growth & future reach potential
  • Worthiness of recognition
  • Advice to others

Each of those categories was weighted (with some categories being worth more than others), and the judges plugged in numbers on a score sheet to come up with a final score for every entry. There was little to no room for bias as the scores were truly based on every woman’s individual journey, knowledge and wisdom they had to share, credentials, and so on.

Bottom line: this was a well-developed process judged by three women heavily involved in the restoration industry – myself, Susan Pinto, and Ashlee Carpentier. We all have varying degrees and lengths of involvement in the industry, but in the end our scores for every entry came out very similar – and when added together, established a pretty clear winner.

Susan Pinto

Susan’s master’s degree in educational leadership proved very useful in the business world as she migrated from an elementary school teacher to president of Wonder Makers Environmental alongside her husband, Michael Pinto. For 28 years, she has focused on the business aspects of the company including personnel management, customer service, distributor relations, marketing, and financial management. Wonder Makers has a mission of serving God and society by helping people solve environmental, health, and safety problems and Susan works with each client with unparalleled kindness and integrity.

Ashlee Carpentier

Ashlee is married to her best friend and business partner, Shaun Carpentier. Together, they own Complete DKI and 1-800-Packouts of the Gulf Coast. Ashlee has a huge heart for those experiencing a disaster, and put that passion in action serving as the Board Chair for a local Red Cross Chapter.  She is also an avid supporter of the Escambia County Professional Fire Fighters Charity and Complete DKI volunteers time and resources for the Trauma Intervention Program.  Ashlee also serves as Board President for the Gulf Coast Association of Insurance Professions, is the membership chair for her local chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and an active board member of NAIOP of Northwest Florida.

Winner: Annissa Coy

Who: Annissa Coy

What: Owner and founder of Firehouse Education and Mobile Clean Systems

When: She has been in the restoration industry since 2000.

Where: Based in Spokane, Wash.

Why: “I truly love helping people and there is no better place to do this than the restoration industry, in my opinion.”

How: Annissa runs both a mobile contents cleaning business, and a school for cleaners and restorers.

From Bookkeeper to Owner

Annissa got her start in the restoration industry in 2000, hired in as a bookkeeper for a company grossing about $360,000 a year. She quickly worked her way up to office manager and began taking on some of the marketing as well.

“Within three years, I helped increase the gross revenue to about $900,000,” Annissa explained. “At this point, the owner incorporated and I became the CEO and ran the business overseeing all operations, purchases and marketing.”

In 2006, the owner sold the business to Annissa and her husband, Kevin. Two years later, they started Mobile Clean Systems – an onsite, 34-foot trailer that is specially designed and engineered to clean contents as efficiently and effectively as possible, even at a home in the middle of nowhere.

Then in 2009, they launched Firehouse Education – a hands-on school teaching contents restoration and systems management, plus marketing.

Today, Annissa and her crew travel to CAT losses all over the country, and do residential contents restoration (mainly fires) in the Western U.S.

“I went from an employee and having zero restoration experience, to owning the restoration business in just six years,” Annissa said. “Then within two years of owning the company, we grossed $1.3 million in revenue and increased our net profit by 1,003 percent.”

Finding Success

Annissa takes pride that Mobile Clean’s business is 100 percent referral-based. She does not hesitate for a second to ask a customer for a testimonial after a successful contents cleaning job.

“I truly love helping people and there is no better place to do this than the restoration industry, in my opinion,” she said. “I am good at creating systems and helping others feel comfortable and cared for. My biggest contributions to the industry would be my natural ability to teach and to help others see things differently and encourage them to challenge the status quo.”

She admits when she first came into the industry 16 years ago, she shook things up a bit by challenging the way things were done, and suggesting better, more efficient ways to clean contents. She is also first to admit the path into this tight-knit industry, especially the niche of contents, wasn’t easy as she was surrounded by people who had been doing restoration for decades. But she also felt she had some insights that could help.

Through Firehouse Education and her YouTube channel, Annissa was able to create a voice for herself.

“I was the first one to take my camera on CAT losses and out on job sites and film what was happening step-by-step,” she said. “I was also one of the first to capture video testimonials onsite from homeowners and adjusters and post them to my website, blog, and throughout my marketing.”

Annissa’s Advice

“Don’t think you have to do things the way they have always been done. Constantly ask yourself ‘can this be done better, faster, and with more care?’” she said. “And never stop asking yourself how you can serve your clients better. Bring your heart to the game every single day. It’s what your clients and your team need and want from you most.”

First Runner-Up

Who: Jessika James

What: Certified Indoor Industrialist | Owner, JMJ Consulting and Inspections

When: A lifetime! She joined her family’s construction and restoration business when she was just 10 years old, and her high school graduation gift in 1978 was a Chevy van with a truckmount. The note from her dad said: “Congratulations! You are a carpet cleaner! Rent is now $300.” For Jessika, this was a dream come true.

Where: Jessika works nationwide as a consultant and previously had a variety of roles in the industry including restoration company owner, ProChem’s education director, IICRC instructor, and more.

Why: “My father was very work-oriented. As a child, my weekly allowance wasn’t for setting the table or doing the dishes, but helping out in the family construction and restoration business,” Jessika said. “I would do everything from setting up equipment to fire damage packouts to filing in the office on the weekends.”

Jessika’s journey is far too impressive to do justice in a short write up, but she has worn a number of hats over the years, and earned a number of IICRC and other certifications.

“I have had the incredible opportunity to work with and learn from some of the industry superstars! Carl Williams, Jeff Bishop, Ron Toney, Tom Hill, Steve Marsh – they all played a major part in my in-field experiences, then my movement into the education area,” Jessika recalled. “Teaching classes and seminars is always my favorite thing to do, and what I feel is my largest contribution to the industry.”

Her Advice:

“Although it is still a largely male-dominated industry, women are seen more and more frequently in all different jobs, from packing out houses on fire damage jobs, to remediating water and mold projects, to independently running their own businesses! The biggest piece of advice I could give would be- spread the news! This is a great industry for women!”

She also said: “It is amazing how just in the past 10-15 years, we have seen so many strong, independent, educated, professional women joining the workforce in the cleaning and restoration fields – and kicking some serious behind!”

Second Runner-Up

Who: Kris Rudarmel

What: President, Anchor Restoration

When: Anchor Restoration was created in 2005

Where: South Jordan, Utah

Why: Kris and her husband, Frank, had an unpleasant experience with an emergency flood service in the early 2000’s, inspiring them to start their own restoration company to better serve the needs in their community.

“I had a dream to create an experience for my clients that was about more than just flood damage cleanup,” she said. “I wanted to stand out and provide an eclectic customer experience and build a company that my team members would be proud to work for and share a vision with what I had created.”

Kris’s business has won a number of awards, including being named to Utah Business Magazine’s “30 Women in Watch” in 2013, NAWBO’s “Woman Business Owner of the Year” Award in 2013, and the Enterprise 7 Award: Woman Business Owner (for the seventh time!) and a number of others.

Her advice:

“It is vitally important to savor your successes and appreciate your failures. Our failures teach us a lot and make us strong,” she said. “Believe in yourself! Your beliefs become your reality! Do not be afraid to dream BIG! Find or create passion in whatever you do and stay out of your comfort zone by feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”

This is Only the Beginning!

R&R has big plans for the Recognizing Women in Restoration campaign for 2017! Be on the lookout for a call to action in the beginning of the year, and some exciting announcements and evolutions in the campaign! We hope this is only the beginning of recognizing women who are truly “kicking some glass” and hope those who didn’t win this year (including our runners-up) will continue to be involved in future!

To all the women who participated this year, and the people who took the time to nominate a woman in the industry who they respect, thank you!

A little inspiration from some of this year’s outstanding nominees!

“In my company, and in all my courses, I share a motto that sums up my philosophy for contents success: adapt, create, succeed. It means that when you are faced with a challenge, don’t get paralyzed by it. Adapt with new ways of thinking, being, and doing.”
– Barb Jackson, Owner, Total Contentz

“In my company, and in all my courses, I share a motto that sums up my philosophy for contents success: adapt, create, succeed. It means that when you are faced with a challenge, don’t get paralyzed by it. Adapt with new ways of thinking, being, and doing.”
– Barb Jackson, Owner, Total Contentz

“If you don’t love what you do, or you are afraid to get dirty and actually do the work, you are in the wrong industry.”
– Becky Edgren, Owner, PuroClean of Moraine, Ohio

“Be bold. Take chances. Speak up. Believe in your ability to ‘figure it out’ and learn on the job. Lead when others aren’t. Coach others when others want it. As a trailblazer, take others with you. Clear a path!”
– Nancy Kirk, Exec. Vice President, South River Restoration

“You don’t have to prove you are worthy of respect; you just have to prove you care – about people, about your work, about stretching yourself. Don’t be afraid of change; the quicker you embrace change, the further you will leverage your company.”
– Brenda Sutton, General Manager, Hammer Restoration

“Restoration is a man’s world and trying to break through has not been easy by any means. Earning respect is extremely difficult. By being recognized, it shows that people out there do value women in this field.”
– Jamie Byford, Project Manager, ServiceMaster Supreme of Pittsburgh, Penn.

“I think women in restoration should embrace qualities such as empathy and intuition that make us different from our male counterparts. We should leverage these qualities to change the way business in the restoration industry is conducted.”
– Jodi Scarlett

“Do what you love! The best advice I have to offer is treat the people who work with you with great respect, and embrace technology; this is an industry where you cannot fall behind.”
– Chelsea Mihalko, Vice President, Mihalko’s Contracting

“When you feel like the fight is too much, get back up and fight again.”
– Nicole Humber, Owner, Bravo Restoration

“Do not take anything personally; be patient.”
– Marisa Wilson Smandych, General Manager, Total Restoration Kelowna

“The best advice I can give women rising in the ranks of the industry is get the most well-rounded education in the industry as possible. Be the expert.”
– Andrea Clark, Sales & Marketing Director, Mark 1 Restoration



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