Following our callings is not just a gift; it’s an honor. There are few other industries on earth more committed to others than those who call themselves restorers. Take a moment and think about your “why” – why are you in business? Why did you choose this profession? If you asked most of your fellow contractors, you’d likely get an answer similar to yours – because you like serving other people. Now comes the real question – did you choose restoration, or did restoration choose you?

That seemed to be an underlying theme from the more than 40 women nominated for our third annual Recognizing Women in Restoration campaign. Many entered the industry by way of their husbands, an administrative-type role, or they joined the family business. Then, what happened? They fell in love. Not necessarily with the work or the science, although in some cases that is certainly true, but more so the mission and purpose of restorers.

“There is no greater gift you
can give or receive than to honor
your calling. It’s why you were born.
And how you become most
truly alive.”
--Oprah Winfrey

Today, women are playing larger roles in restoration companies across the country, and around the globe. We are each born with a purpose, and the restoration industry gives us a unique outlet to nurture our customers, be our authentic and caring selves, and also prove our mettle.

As women step into higher roles, gain visibility and industry involvement, there is a new camaraderie evolving; a sisterhood that is merging with the brotherhood in restoration, creating one cohesive, well-balanced industry committed to serving customers on a level never before seen. The winner and runners-up of this year’s Recognizing Women in Restoration campaign are no exception.

Women in Restoration

A Little Bit about Recognizing Women in Restoration

The Recognizing Women in Restoration was launched in 2016, and celebrates its third year in 2018. This year, more than 40 women were nominated for the award by fellow industry peers and colleagues. Each boasts at least a decade of experience in the industry, which is the only requirement to be considered for the award – position with a restoration company, title, etc. do not matter. Entries are accepted each year starting in early February, through March. Four industry judges, including myself, carefully read and judge each nomination on six criteria:

Women in Restoration
  • Thoroughness of the entry
  • Supporting documentation
  • Journey/experience in the industry
  • Job growth and future reach
  • Worthiness of recognition
  • Industry awards and certifications

This year’s award will be presented on Friday, June 22 at the Violand Executive Summit in Canton, Ohio. All ladies involved in this year’s campaign are invited to attend the Summit itself, as well as a very special half-day Women in Leadership event leading into the Summit on Wednesday, June 20, facilitated by R&R Editor-in-Chief, Michelle Blevins.

Meet the Judges

Jocelyn Dornfeld

Jocelyn Dornfeld

As the owner of Three65 Marketing, Jocelyn Dornfeld has built a home for herself in the industry. Prior to constructing her business, she laid the foundation by managing restoration and construction companies for more than a decade. When she ventured out to create a space for herself, Jocelyn was drawn to helping restoration and construction businesses build up their online presence through improved websites, SEO, blogs, video, and social media. Independent of her business, Jocelyn currently co-chairs the RIA’s Young Professional Restorers’ Committee (YPRC) and runs Restoring Kindness®, a restoration movement designed to give back to the local communities.

Kristy Sifford

Kristy Sifford

A highly successful matchmaker in this industry, Kristy is the founder of Wylander Solutions, a recruiting company rooted in the restoration industry. With years of background in the flooring industry and involvement with large disaster restoration and carpet cleaning companies, Kristy understands the work that goes into finding and keeping top talent. Wylander specializes in finding and placing top talent all across the nation in the flooring, construction and restoration industries. With a combined 40+ years of experience, we are experts when it comes to finding the right talent for your business.

Susan Pinto

Susan Pinto

Susan Pinto has guided Wonder Makers Environmental as the president since 1988. She earned a Master’s degree in Education Leadership from Western Michigan University and molded young minds as an elementary school teacher.  Given this background Susan has a unique perspective of leading a multi-faceted organization that includes consulting, manufacturing, laboratory analysis, and training. In 2018 Wonder Makers Environmental celebrates 30 years of helping individuals resolve indoor contaminant problems.


Lisa Cordasco

Lisa Cordasco

Lisa Cordasco

President | New Crystal Restoration | Port Chester, New York

Industry Awards, Accolades, & Certifications

  • OSHA Certified
  • Asbestos Abatement Handler’s License (NYS)
  • Certified Water Loss Specialist
  • Certified Advanced Structural Drying
  • Certified Lead-based Paint Renovation, Repair & Paint
  • Certified Institute of Inspection Cleaning & Restoration (IICRC) Firm
  • Certified Woman-Owned Business – State of New York
  • Certified Woman-Owned Business- City of New York
  • Mold Remediation Contractor’s License (NYS)
  • Westchester County- GREEN BUSINESS
  • 2018- SharcCreative- Office of the Week Westchester County NY
  • 2017- IONA COLLEGE Alumni Spotlight
  • 2017- 914 Inc. Westchester County, NY Small-Business Award Winner
  • 2016- Westchester/Fairfield County Family-Owned Business Award Winner
  • 2015-Yonkers Hispanic Federation Chamber of Commerce- Women’s History Month Winner
  • 2015- Women’s Entrepreneur Dev. Center- Lillian Vernon Award Winner

Restoration has been a part of Lisa’s life since day one. The daughter of the owner of Westchester County’s oldest restoration company (now 60 years old), she recalls nightly dinner conversations revolving around the diversity of her dad’s clients, the ever-changing scope of work, and the various sites he visited every day. While the stories were all intriguing, the 1980’s restoration industry was predominantly male. Lisa recalled thoughts of her working with him were not entertained. At least at that time.

Lisa Cordasco

Lisa Cordasco (third from left)

“Things all changed a decade later,” Lisa explained. “I am a mom to a son with autism. Due to his special needs and care, I was unable to return to the classroom. Dad offered me a part-time marketing and sales position. I accepted.”

It was then Lisa found her true calling. Not as a salesperson, but as someone who was there to help others. Much like teaching, Lisa found herself educating the company’s customers, and worked very hard to establish trust. Her influence and success helped the company grow and expand into new territories. Then, in 2008, a bigger call came when her dad became sick and could no longer run the company. It was at that time the decision was made to reinvent his business and establish New Crystal Restoration.

New Company, New Purpose, New Calling

“New Crystal Restoration was founded with the belief that clean-up restoration services should and could be provided in a safe, non-toxic way,” Lisa said. “Going green meant I could remain committed to my personal convictions that good health is the most cherished gift. NCR pioneers green restoration cleaning that is powerful, effective, and no more expensive.”

Their business model has been critical to NCR’s success, and it started with simple and pure “why” behind the change: a child with autism. It was through Lisa’s son, she saw the opportunity and need for remediation services for other children, the elderly, those with illnesses, pets, and more. In Lisa’s words, “connections matter.” But like any major changes within a company, it wasn’t easy!

“We had to swallow hard, close our eyes, clench our teeth and find the courage to leave our comfort zone,” Lisa said. “The thoughtful planning, team discussions and education to determine the best return on investment (monetary and time) has generated a diverse revenue stream. Our company has evolved and expanded our scope of services.”

Lisa Cordasco

Lisa Cordasco (second from left)

Industry Challenges

“I underestimated how challenging it is for small business to earn the respect and work from insurance company professionals and insurance companies,” Lisa admitted. “Although NCR is now a preferred restoration vendor for many insurance companies, there are still insurance companies who fail to see the value independent contractors provide to the local community.”

For her, the question becomes “who better to understand the needs of customers in a community than a company that has strong, well-established roots in that area?” NCR has spent a great deal of time educating insurance professionals about the great value local small businesses bring to the area. Lisa works hard to drive home the point that for local businesses, a territory is more than a carved-up location bought by a business, it’s their home.

Among other industry-related challenges, Lisa has found it to be increasingly difficult to keep her share of business as an independent contractor with the rise of franchises, especially when they have already-established brand recognition. Plus, finding and keeping qualified staff isn’t easy in today’s economy, as well as keeping salaries competitive and benefits well-rounded.

Then, there is the scrutiny simply from being a woman who owns a restoration company. However, she’s also found some value within that scrutiny to wow people who least expected it.

“The most common obstacle is being perceived as competent based on one’s own merits, not prejudged notions of outdated beliefs. There is an advantage to scrutiny, however,” she explained. “I often pleasantly surprise and impress those of a skeptical nature and once they were convinced, that conversation resulted in their loyalty and business.”

Lisa Cordasco

Lisa Cordasco (far left)

The Unwritten Story

Although she may stay in the business longer than some due to the costs of caring for her son, Lisa has a pretty clear vision and plan of where the company will go once she’s able to retire to a beach with a tropical adult beverage.

“It is very meaningful for me to be the steward of the next generation of our family business,” she said. “My hope is that one day, the torch will be passed again, as my nephew – who represents the third generation of family members in restoration – will lead our business to the 100 year mark.”

Advice to Fellow Women in Restoration

Lisa leaves this final piece of advice for her fellow women in restoration:

“My advice is to be authentic. How can you be anyone other than you?  Believe in yourself. Be prepared, be hardworking, expect great things and put the effort into making great things happen. Understand that building and establishing anything meaningful will require dedication. Know that staying the course means that you will be tested. You will fail but get back up. Don’t give up or give in. If you truly want something don’t let anyone, tell you that you can’t do it, it’s too difficult or beyond your capabilities. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with others who support you, agree with your mission and who challenge you to be the best you.”

First Runner-Up

Diane Whittles

Diane Whittles

Diane Whittles

Owner  |  SERVPRO of Annapolis  |  Annapolis, MD

Diane’s journey in the restoration industry began in 1986 when, as she puts it, she “married into it.” For many years, she acted as bookkeeper and helped her husband with administrative tasks. This allowed her to follow the calling on her life in those years - to be very present in raising their three children, until the unexpected happened several years ago, and her calling shifted.

“When my husband passed away from cancer a few years ago, I had some choices to make,” Diane explained.  “While some colleagues may have been surprised that I decided to maintain and operate the business, they soon realized I intended to grow the business as well.  My daughter, her husband and my son pitched in to help me and I am pleased to say that I have not looked back. I took the basic knowledge I had and built on that by getting all the training I could find.”

As a strong and fruitful leader, Diana has carefully surrounded herself with a very strong team of managers who have years of experience in their fields. She calls them one of the keys to her success.

Here is her advice to fellow ladies in restoration:

“Learn what you can about the industry, watch for new trends in restoration.  Invest in equipment, infrastructure and education. Most importantly, empower your employees and support your community.”

Second Runner-Up

Ivi Sims

Ivi Sims

Ivi Sims

President  |  Mould Squad & Wood Floor Drying |  Victoria, Australia

How exciting to welcome an Aussie into the top three for this year’s Recognizing Women in Restoration campaign! The founder of her area’s first company to embrace green cleaning, Ivi is celebrating her 19th year in restoration and cleaning this year. A decade ago, she branched further into restoration and through her love for wood flooring, became the first company specialized enough to focus on class 4 drying in Australia.

Today, Ivi runs three businesses – including being an industry supplier – and founded the Australian chapter of the Indoor Air Quality Association. She is also an IICRC triple master (textile, water, and smoke and fire), and earned several Restoration Industry Association designations including Certified Mold Professional (CMP), and Water Loss Specialist (WLS).

Her advice to fellow women in this industry:

“There are always opportunities, and don’t let anything hold you back! This has been fantastic journey and the highlight has been to be nominated by fellow women in this industry. Previous to restoration I’ve worked in different male dominated industry sectors, and I do think times have changed. In this day and age, we can find mentors and learn from other’s experience. My advice would be to go out, talk to people, build your knowledge and experience, don’t hold back, and give things a go. But remember, there is a bunch of fabulous women out there. Reach out to them.”

A Letter from 2017 Winner Shelli Bagwell

Shelli Bagwell

Shelli Bagwell

I feel so lucky to work every day in a position where I can use my knowledge and skills to help people out of unfortunate situations and rebuild their homes and lives. Knowing I’ve made a difference for someone who just didn’t know what to do next is very satisfying. I find that my role changes with each phone call and customer interaction. Above all else, however, I am an advocate for my customer. They have placed their trust in me to take the lead and help them recover. We can’t let our only focus be drying water or removing odor.

As an industry, we must remember the humans in the midst of the job. Women are natural healers. We mend. We integrate. We support. We care. And that is what I love about this award. It represents the need for these components in the restoration industry.

From the moment I received notice of winning the award, I have wondered how in the world I could have stood above the other women I know to be outstanding in this industry. Each woman nominated is worthy of the recognition and honor.

To all of the women in this year’s nominee pool, know that you have been recognized by your peers for the work you do to improve the industry. It is a great honor and responsibility to be a leader and blaze the trail for those coming up behind you. I am thankful to R&R Magazine and the sponsors of the award for recognizing the unique contributions women have had and will continue to have to this industry.

All of the nominees have my sincere congratulations for their accomplishments. I look forward to what the future holds for us!

Shelli Bagwell
Director of Operations
Puroclean Restoration Rescuers

Thank you to everyone who helped make the 3rd Annual Recognizing Women in Restoration campaign a success! Congratulations to this year’s a success winner, Lisa Cordasco! Be on the lookout for a call to entries next spring. We look forward to celebrating women in restoration for years to come!

Award will be presented at the Violand Executive Summit on Friday, June 22.

Women in Restoration