Women, long a silent force in the green industry, now have an official voice in the National Association of Professional Women in Landscape.
IMAGES COURTESY OF ANGFX.
When Angelia Woodside Beckstrom signed up for a horticultural class in 2002 she couldn't have possibly appreciated what it might lead to. The final assignment involved creating a landscape design. She found it more entertaining than the software industry where she had been working.
Today, Beckstrom is a licensed Landscape Contractor/LEED AP and the owner of Angeffects, Inc., a landscape design and consulting company based in Mission Viejo, Calif. Unlike the software industry, it didn't take long for Beckstrom to realize that she was a "rarity" being a woman actively working in the landscape industry. Waking up to this stark difference in the professional landscape community, from any other industry she'd previously worked in, compelled her to become the driving force behind the creation and growth of the National Association of Professional Women in Landscape (NAPWL), which became a reality Jan. 1, 2011. The NAPWL now numbers more than 1,300 members.
Angeffects, Inc. (AngFX)
Angelia Woodside Beckstrom
Mission Viejo, Calif.
Orange County, Calif.
Landscape design & installation;
landscape renovation & beautification;
specialty landscape maintenance; irrigation
management & consulting; and landscape
Her love for nature and how people live in it compels her to design and develop incredible landscapes. Another of her goals is to join other women within the green industry who feel the same enthusiasm and to motivate them to gain more recognition for their dedication and efforts in the industry.
"The teacher accused me of hiring someone to do my final project," she recalled with a soft laugh, of that initial horticulture class. That surprise of a back-handed compliment, along with helping her mother garden as a child and of camping, hiking and mule packing with her family in the High Sierra's set her on the path to a new career.
"You really appreciate those wonderful relationships with your loved ones in those outdoor moments. I began to understand how the outdoors spoke to me, and how I wanted to create landscapes where people could connect with each other," she said. "I realized that the power to transform something wonderful outdoors is a valuable and awe-inspiring skill. I fell completely in love with embracing this ability and with the landscape industry as a whole."
Beckstrom initially entered the industry through designing landscapes. This involved finding experienced contractors to install the landscapes she designed. On several occasions she felt that male contractors that she worked with didn't take her efforts seriously, because they would "dismiss" her from her own clients' project once they secured the purchase providing the construction portion of the job.
Beckstrom recalls making the statement to one contractor, "This is my client and we are going to navigate as a team to complete this project."
Beckstrom took the next step to fortify her company skills by procuring her landscape contractor's license and attending industry conferences and trade shows. She also joined and became an active member of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA). After serving on the board of directors for two years, in November of 2011 she was elected to serve as the 2012 president for the CLCA's Orange County chapter.
Determined to meet other female small business owners, Beckstrom joined the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) where members "share business insights like they share recipes," she said. The NAWBO experience caused her to question why the landscape/lawn service industry didn't have a similar association for its female professionals.
"Problems teach us where the opportunities are," she added.
Women a Growing Force in Small Business Creation
Women as the founders and owners of small businesses are not confined to the green industry. The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute (GLSBRI) predicted in a 2010 report that women entrepreneurs will be responsible for creating more than 5 million new jobs in the United States by 2018. That amounts to more than half of the new jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects small vbusinesses to create.
GLSBRI researchers factored in: a faster growth rate of women- owned businesses compared to men; the higher rate of female college graduates in comparison to men; projected growth of industry sectors dominated by women; and that women-owned businesses are more likely to be self-funded, making them less dependent on bank financing.
Disappointment with corporate life is the leading factor in a woman's decision to start a business, according to the survey conducted by the GLSBRI. The results of the survey indicated that women business owners, compared to male business owners, are more apt to be more:
- engaged in the strategic and tactical facets of their businesses.
- likely to incorporate community and environment into their businesses.
- likely to seek and accept input and guidance from internal and external advisers.
- determined in creating opportunities for others.
To gauge whether other women landscape professionals felt the need to network among themselves Beckstrom started "Dirt Girls," an online discussion group." The positive comments attracted from so many other female industry professionals - contactors, managers, nursery owners, designers and landscape architects - led to the creation and founding of the (NAPWL).
"I felt there was a void that existed in our industry in connecting, empowering and educating women," said Beckstrom. The NAPWL's goal is to fill that void and create a collaborative environment where women could learn to successfully grow their businesses and gain credibility and prominence in the industry.
The NAPWL got off to a strong start. In the spring of 2011 more than 40 female industry leaders met in a classroom at the CLCA Landscape Industry Show in Los Angeles. Participants had an average tenure in the industry of 15 years in the green industry, said Beckstrom. When she addressed the group and asked for a show of hands from those who were sitting for the first time in a room of their female peers; every single woman in the room raised her hand.
Judith Guido, chairwoman and founder of Guido & Associates, Moorpark, Calif., quickly became one of the organization's strongest supporters. She was one of the women to present at that initial meeting at the Landscape Industry Show.
"If you want to improve your chances, get a woman on your board," said Guido, one of the landscape industry's most experienced business management consultants. She said that studies consistently show that women bring excellent relationship building and listening skills to businesses. They also tend to be more detail oriented than men, and match, and often exceed them, in closing sales.
Guido said she's seeing more women in the field, filling managerial roles and serving as operation managers and crew leaders. "You do see a big shift in women coming out of just the design and financial sides of the business and becoming well entrenched in operational roles, which is wonderful," she added. Guido is impressed with the increasing number of women business owners in the green industry.
That fact has not been lost on industry suppliers. For the past 15 years or more John Deere Landscapes and partner vendors, including Hunter Industries, have hosted a sponsored "Women in the Green Industry" annual event exclusively for their customers at locations around the country.
"When women work together on a project the enthusiasm is contagious," said Beckstrom. "That enthusiasm translates into the business world of landscape." She added that NAPWL membership is open to any women working in the green industry.
In the NAPWL's second year, a formalized partnership with the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) was signed. This partnership is a mutually beneficial agreement; NAPWL provides a framework for community and personal development for the affinity group of women professionals within PLANET's membership, and PLANET provides an open gateway towards earning stronger levels of credentialing and towards improving the landscape expertise for all women inside of NAPWL's membership community who are not directly members of PLANET.
One key differentiating value proposition extended throughout the membership community of NAPWL is that it operates under the "spirit of abundance". This concept translated means, that we believe there's plenty of opportunity out there for all of us. It doesn't take anything away from us to boost and nurture our peers. We can be a help to each other. It's appropriate and it's respectful," she continued. "We choose to complement and endorse the various business offerings of our peers instead of compete with them, and it is proving to create a fruitful, safe environment to grow forward in." In fact, the NAPWL's slogan is "Growing Forward Together".
To learn more about the NAPWL visit www.napwl.org.
Pamela Walton is an experienced reporter and editor that lives and works in Gainesboro, Tenn. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.