Woman-owned Business of the Year
In 1998 Judy Wells suddenly found herself a single mother to six children. Her husband had passed away, leaving her as the sole head of the family. In the face of devastating loss, Wells was left to pick up the pieces of her old life and start a new business to support her family. Wells and her husband had run flooring businesses together for more than 20 years, but her husband had long taken the entrepreneurial role in their partnership, and, for better or for worse, she now had to make a fresh start on her own. Her daughter, Lisa Wells, can’t hide her admiration and pride as she tells the story of how her mother quickly “had to figure out how to run things, make decisions and become a tough businesswoman.”
Wells launched her new business, Geneva Flooring, in 1999. Geneva Flooring is a full-service flooring business in San Diego county that provides a wide variety of high-quality and eco-friendly flooring options, from hardwood to cork to carpeting. Wells’ brother helped her out for the first year, until she could run the business on her own. Meanwhile, her daughter was finishing up high school and helping out around the store here and there behind the scenes. After Lisa graduated from high school, she started working towards her bachelor’s degree and later, her master’s. She was also working two demanding and low-paying waitressing jobs, but they just weren’t working out. Wells suggested her daughter learn sales and in 2001, Lisa began working at Geneva Flooring. While she wasn’t necessarily planning to take over the family business at the time, she soon found that she loved her job, and she’s been an integral partner in the business ever since.
“It was a way to support Lisa while she was getting her education, but also, she was support for me,” says Wells. “To have somebody here who understood and had been through what I’d been through…we just got it.”
“Working with her gave me the support I needed to get through school, and it allowed me the flexibility of traveling the world and doing everything I needed to do to get through my master’s program,” says Lisa. In her prior work experiences, she had found employers were an obstacle to her academic success, but having her mother as an employer turned out to provide exactly the amount of flexibility, generosity and empathy she needed. Lisa says that having a great business partner who was supportive of her education and wanted her to succeed made a world of difference. It made her excited about running the business, participating in the ownership of the business and having control of her own destiny.
“We discovered more than a decade ago that we really are like soul sisters,” says Lisa. “We get along and get each other so well. It was never hard for us to work together, ever.”
Both women take an enormous amount of pride in running a woman-owned business. They are a rarity in the typically male-dominated flooring industry.
“Many women work in flooring stores,” says Wells, “but it’s rare to have a woman own a flooring store.” Even so, they see their gender as an asset and a component of their success.
“We’ve found over the years that men prefer working with women, and women prefer working with women. Everyone enjoys working with women; it seems to be less intimidating and more low-pressure. Often women are perceived to be better at decorating, so a lot of single men who are decorating their own homes are concerned about making good choices and want a woman’s opinion,” says Wells.
Wells is involved with the San Diego chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and she and Lisa are board members of the San Diego Floor Covering Association, where they’ve held women-only gatherings for women in the flooring industry.
“It’s hard in any male-dominated industry to get any support, so that’s been one of the ways we’ve enjoyed supporting and encouraging other women in the flooring business,” says Wells. With the San Diego Floor Covering Association, they also raise funds for charities such as Rady Children’s Hospital and Susan B. Komen’s Race for the Cure, and contribute extra flooring materials to Habitat for Humanity.
“Beyond our industry, and beyond our business, we are a very fierce group of women,” says Lisa.
Geneva Flooring is located at 9360 Activity Rd. Suite D. Visit GenevaFlooring.com or call 858.547.8069 for more information.