We celebrate these women whose stories embody the knowledge, drive and determination of NARI members to effect change and create a more diverse workforce.
Allyson Case Anderson
Most of us know people who endured renovation nightmares after hiring a contractor who performed shoddy work at their home. After having a negative experience with her remodeling project, Allyson Case Anderson decided “I don’t need to pay this guy to mess up my project, I can mess it up myself,” and that’s when her career in the remodeling industry was born.
Allyson is the founder and CEO of Integro Builders, LLC, a full-service general contractor whose goal is to raise industry standards, develop and grow quality trade and craftspeople, and change the perspective for what can be expected of a contractor. Allyson took the leap in remodeling when she realized so many of her friends were experiencing remodeling disasters just like she was. “I started my company to change the competitive game among contractors and raise industry standards,” she says.
Without much experience, Allyson searched for a way to prove her company’s legitimacy. “I didn’t have a huge portfolio of work and needed credentials to help my company grow and get more projects.” She soon discovered her local NARI of Greater Chicagoland chapter. “NARI was the perfect fit because it provided me with a credential showing that my firm, though early in its career, was qualified and ethical.” After joining NARI, Allyson found more than she was looking for. “I have benefitted beyond what I could ever put into words from the expertise and experience of the other NARI members.” She goes on to say, “I have been comforted knowing experts, who have become friends, who understand my problems and concerns, and are there to support me.”
Times have definitely changed for the better and women in remodeling are making enormous contributions. However, there are still challenges to working in a male-dominated industry. For Allyson, the most challenging part is that when hard conversations need to happen, she is almost always met with an emotional response. Meanwhile, she sees people discussing issues with her male counterparts in a more professional and guarded manner. Yet, Allyson does not allow these difficulties to sway her. “Not all men are ignorant chauvinists who are threatened by women,” she says. “In my experience, many men have championed my cause, pushed me forward, promoted my work, mentored me, and shown genuine enthusiasm for my success.” Furthermore, she says, “Where would I be without the dozens of men who call me “boss” and use their exceptional skills, stress, and sweat to bring my projects to life? I’d be nowhere. So, don’t focus on being the best female remodeler. Just focus on being the best remodeler. Everyone else will take your lead.”
It’s been said that home is not a place, it’s a feeling; one of warmth, security, and happiness. For business owner Lindsey Turner, creating a new space where clients “love to live” is her favorite part about working in the remodeling industry. Her passion for homes and home design began more than 20 years ago. “My husband has always worked in the construction industry and I used to love going into the showrooms with him checking out all the beautiful materials available,” she says. “We spent many weekends touring model homes, walking through homes under construction, and participating in the Parade of Homes.”
Now having worked more than 5 years in the remodeling industry, Lindsey is the first point of contact with new clients at her company, Turner Contracting Services
, which she co-owns with her husband. Lindsey deals mainly with sales and initial meetings, but also contributes to the overall design process and, on a few occasions, does some of the designs herself. Most importantly, she values the relationships she creates with her clients as she walks through projects alongside them, helping to bring their visions to life. “My favorite part is truly seeing the excitement and joy in our clients as they get to watch a part of their home transform into something new and gorgeous,” she says.
When one thinks of industries dominated by men, remodeling come to mind. Often, women may find themselves as the sole female on a jobsite resulting in feeling like an outsider among a group of men. However, Lindsey says she has not found many challenges when it comes to working in this male-dominated industry. “People may underestimate my construction knowledge, but after having been in the business for over two decades I have learned a thing or two.” She continues, “I find that there are more and more women in the industry now, especially the design-build aspect. There are opportunities for everyone in this industry - from the creative type to the detailed ones, to the visionaries. It's a fabulous industry that brings with it growth opportunities and lots of variation.”
Remodelers have a common goal of improving the perception of the industry. Whether it’s to build better trust with professional partners or improve transparency with clients, remodelers are working together to push the needle forward. When Lindsey was introduced to the NARI of Greater Charlotte chapter through a past president, she saw the benefits of being a part of a larger group. “We are all working together to make our industry better, I knew right away I wanted to jump on board.” Additionally, Lindsey’s business has seen tremendous growth by entering in the CotYTM
Awards. “Winning two significant awards at the local level and one at the regional level after only 3 years in business was a huge accomplishment that we were so proud of. This really gave our company legitimate recognition that helped prove that we are who we say we are!”
Amy Volkmann, MBA
We asked Amy Volkmann, MBA, to tell us about her career in the remodeling industry and how NARI has helped her succeed. Here’s what she said:
My first opportunity to work in the remodeling industry came about through the network I had built in my previous work as the Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer for a local municipality. One day, I was speaking with Abe Degnan of Degnan Design-Build-Remodel
(DDBR) about his business, and he mentioned that he was searching for an office manager. He eventually asked if I was interested, and now I manage all office functions for DDBR including employee relations and finance. Later, Abe discovered I knew how to hang wallpaper, so now I am the official company wallpaper hanger too!
The position was a great fit because many of my friends and acquaintances are engaged in various aspects of the industry. Over the years, I had volunteered with the Wisconsin Builders Association organizing their major events. After joining DDBR, I had the opportunity to become involved in event planning with the Madison Area Builders Association.
The culture of NARI of Madison is completely different from the other associations I have been involved with. I could tell right away that it was a positive group dedicated to helping each other in the remodeling world. As I became more involved with NARI of Madison and grew to appreciate the organization, I ran for the Board of Directors. I also served as Treasurer, and now serve on the NARI National Education and Workforce Development committees. These committees are a great fit for me as I also am an Adjunct Instructor in the business school for Lakeland University. I am proud to state that over the last couple years, I have been awarded our chapter’s Appreciation Award, the Torch Award and the President's Award. I am very appreciative of that special recognition for my work.
My proudest moment came when we solidified the Women in Construction Wisconsin (WICW) group, connecting NARI of Madison women with the Madison Area Builders Association and Metropolitan Builders Association women’s groups. Before WICW existed, NARI members were not allowed to join NAHB, but now we have built this new network that makes connections among all these groups. This makes us the first and only group that cut through to join all women in the industry. NARI members here in Wisconsin now have access to the benefits from NAHB’s Professional Women in Construction organization. We started with a group of 5, and our most recent event had 135 attendees! Our women’s group hosts a Women in Construction Wisconsin conference each year called BuildX. Uniting women in our industry with networking and educational opportunities to learn, grow and motivate each other. Our purpose is this: A professional network created to inspire, promote & support women in the industry through education & networking.
The best advice I can give anyone seeking to join the remodeling industry is to find networking opportunities, get involved and volunteer at events and know the climate in which we are doing business.
Mary Kathryn Reese
For the first 20 years of her professional career, Mary Kathryn Reese worked in management consulting where she capped off her career as a partner at one of the “big 8” firms. Life changed for her and her partner, Jennifer Sherrill, when they adopted their first child. No longer interested in traveling for work and wanting to stay at home to parent, the couple pondered their next professional move. As luck would have it, the opportunity to acquire a kitchen remodeling firm fell into their laps. The pair approached the owners to purchase the assets, and since 2004 they have been remodeling kitchens and baths as Kitchen Design Concepts.
The decision to purchase Kitchen Design Concepts made perfect sense for Mary Kathryn on a personal and professional level. “I have been a recipe tester for America’s Test Kitchen for years, a cook on Good Morning Texas alongside one of the anchors, and a guest chef in a restaurant.” With a strong background in cooking and entertaining as well as her experience in consulting, she was able to focus on the design and business strategy side of the company. Now, Mary Kathryn’s role has developed within the company. “I lead the company and set strategic direction,” she says. “Everybody reports to me; however, I do not manage my team on a daily basis. Our team is self-sufficient and knows what needs to be done. If they ever have any questions, they know when to ask for help.”
When first starting their company, Mary Kathryn and Jennifer immediately looked for associations affiliated with the remodeling industry. “Jennifer and I knew a lot about processes, financial management, and project management, but we didn’t know about remodeling. Our firm is better because of our involvement with NARI.” Moreover, Mary Kathryn says her NARI membership has enhanced the eminence of her brand. “It’s been a method for us to network with other remodeling companies and tangibly demonstrate our value proposition and what makes us different – both to our peers and our customers.” She adds that NARI certifications have been instrumental in her employee’s professional development. “Jennifer was an MCR and MCKBR and I currently have 2 employees taking the CKBR prep course. The certifications are great and they enhance your knowledge.”
Working in the remodeling industry brings a smile to Mary Kathryn’s face every day. “We change a space in a real and tangible way,” she says. Clients often invite her over after a project is finished to discuss how much better their space looks and feels. “We actually do the work, we see the transformation, and it changes how people interact and live in their homes on a daily basis.” Mary Kathryn advises other women looking to join the remodeling industry to go for it. “We find women everywhere in our industry,” she says “and that’s good.” She continues, “I frequently hear from our clients that they love working with women. Women think differently – especially when it comes to executing the project and doing the work. It has been a differentiator when I’ve had clients select my company for their project.”
Polina Perju discovered her passion for the remodeling industry through her husband. Originally assisting him with administrative tasks, Polina learned she had a knack for design when she began to advise him on design aspects of projects he would bring home. After receiving positive feedback from clients, Polina knew that design was in her future. In 2013, she graduated with an Associate Degree in Interior Design and has been working full time in their business, Let’s Remodel
, ever since.
For business owners, the traditional model of one-woman (or one-man) with just one job simply isn’t a reality. As the head Interior Designer, Polina has mastered the balancing act of managing multiple responsibilities. Not only does she have two designers working under her, she oversees the administrative duties while also focusing on the marketing of the company. “It took a lot of work to learn about websites, SEO, and different types of marketing,” she says. “Right now, I am focusing on our social media presence on Instagram and Facebook.”
There is no doubt in Polina’s mind that women are ideally suited for the remodeling industry. “We have the uncanny ability to organize the frantic process of a remodeling job and make it relatable to the client.” However, when first starting out Polina realized her capabilities would be constantly doubted. “I was quite shocked when I first started out as a designer,” she says. “There were instances when I was asked if I had a man with me to explain my ideas. I had cases of guys not responding to my emails or calls, but quickly answering when my husband called. She goes further to say, “I suddenly learned that as a woman I had to double-prove myself all the time.”
With many hours spent working in addition to being a wife and mom, Polina found it difficult to meet other remodeling professionals. Seeking a way to connect with her peers, her online search led her to the NARI Pacific Northwest chapter. Soon after joining, she attended her first meeting where she was immediately invited to join a committee and has been involved ever since. “NARI has helped me big time. The association has given me a place to network, stay connected to relevant news and events, and meet more industry peers.”
Susanne Van Selow, MCKBR, GCP
Susanne Van Selow, MCKBR, GCP, is president and owner of Van Selow Design Build LLC
in Seminole, Florida. Her interest in the construction business started in high school where she began drafting and working with Computer Aided Design. She began her professional career as a receptionist at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California and within a year, was recruited to teach AutoCAD and Interdraft for the government. Shortly after moving to Florida, she earned her Certified Building Contractor’s license and started Van Selow Design Build LLC. Since then, she has earned numerous awards including the Best of Houzz Service Award three years in a row, and many Remodeler of the Year Awards.
Van Selow Design primarily focuses on high-end residential remodels with a goal of taking on more commercial projects this year. Susanne’s favorite part about working in the remodeling industry is the design aspect and being able to put a smile on the faces of her clients. She also doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. “I love when I get to tear things apart. I love being able to tear a full house apart and then put it back together.”
Susanne joined NARI in 2006, has served on several committees and is a past president of the NARI Tampa Bay Chapter. She credits the connections she’s made within the organization as tremendously beneficial to her career. “Having the camaraderie and respect of all the guys who do what I do has been great,” she says. Van Selow Design is also on it’s way to becoming a NARI Accredited Remodeling Company. “NARI has been a huge part of my growth. I’ve owned my company for 17 years and with NARI for 16. I wouldn’t be where I am today without NARI.”
Despite working in a male-dominated industry, Susanne says being a woman in construction is an advantage. When it comes to working with clients on a project, “the woman makes the decisions in the household,” she said. She offers this advice to other women who are thinking about a career in the field, “You need to get involved, reach out, and make an effort to join organizations like NARI,” she says. “It takes a village to do what we do, and NARI is my village.”
Chontrelle Price Asuman, CRPM
Chontrelle Price Asuman, CRPM, didn’t necessarily see herself in a career in the construction industry. Prior to 2017, she and her husband owned a retail store for 10 years. It was while working at her store that Chontrelle developed a friendship with a customer named Leo Lantz, the owner of a design-build construction company. Little did she know that this friendship would eventually take her career in a new direction.
After starting a family, Chontrelle became a stay-at-home mom for her five children while her husband managed the store. The pair sold the store in 2017. In February of 2018, she and Leo Lantz reconnected and he offered her a position at his construction firm. “The construction business is tough. There’s a lot of different things you need to know to succeed,” she said. Luckily, Leo took Chontrelle under his wing and taught her the ins-and-outs of the business.
In her current role as Office Manager for Leo Lantz Construction in Glen Allen, Virginia, Chontrelle wears many different hats. She handles everything from estimating, talking to clients, sales, scheduling, and more. That’s no easy task during a pandemic where Chontrelle is simultaneously completing her duties while helping her five children with remote schooling. On top of that, Chontrelle recently earned her Certified Remodeling Project Manager (CRPM) certification. “It was tough to do in the midst of COVID,” she said. She praises her instructors who helped set her up for success during the certification process. “I loved the way they brought real life experience to the table for us to learn.”
Chontrelle recommends other women consider growing and developing their skills when entering the construction field. “When it comes to construction and remodeling, being able to learn as much as you can and build on it, is critical,” she said. “Being caught up on the latest trends, plumbing and electrical codes, etc., is important in order to do your job properly.”
Zoe Kardasis Sturtz, CR
Zoe Kardasis Sturtz, CR, began her career in finance but soon discovered a passion for residential remodeling and project management after starting a kitchen remodel in her own home. It was this newfound passion that led Zoe to earn her certification in Kitchen and Bath Design and soon start working at a Minneapolis design-build firm.
After Zoe and her husband were laid off from their jobs during the Great Recession, the pair decided to take on a whole new adventure. Using Zoe’s experience in design and sales and her husband’s architecture background, they started Edit Design Build Studio in Minneapolis in 2009. “I really like that my work changes all the time. I enjoy the variety of the business, and not having to work at a desk all day long,” Zoe said. “There’s a lot of moving around in our business.”
Despite years of experience, being a female business owner in a male dominated industry is not without its frustrations. “95 percent of the time, people think I’m just a designer. I find that frustrating,” she said. The ironic part is, design is not even the favorite part of her day. “In fact my husband much prefers the design work and I prefer the project management and operations side of it,” she said.
In recent years, Zoe has noticed more women taking on leadership roles. For an industry that doesn’t have a great reputation for communication and timeliness, Zoe sees women as catalysts to change negative perceptions. “I love working with the woman who runs the electrical company we work with. She’s very organized and great at communication, which are traits that historically speaking, people are frustrated with in the world of construction,” she said. “A lot of those frustrations don’t happen as often when I work with other women.”
When offering advice to women interested in a remodeling or construction career, Zoe suggests finding other women to offer help and guidance. She started a women in construction roundtable for the NARI Minnesota Chapter and highly suggests other women in the industry join forces to start their own groups. “Roundtables are my favorite time!” Learn more about Zoe.
Maria Kovach, CRPM
Maria Kovach, CRPM, knew she had an eye for design and construction from an early age after watching her parents build her childhood home from the ground up. She also knew she wanted to own her own business but initially didn't see remodeling as a possible career path. After enlisting in the military, working other jobs, and raising a family, Maria decided to follow her passion and start her own design-build company.
For the majority of her remodeling career, Maria was a one-woman show and managed projects from design to finish for her clients. However, while attending a chief architect class in 2019, she met a fellow female designer and within months the two started Mojo Home Interiors in the Madison, Wisconsin area.
At Mojo, Maria appreciates the fact that she can focus on implementation and project management. “I like being on the job site. I like interacting with the guys,” she says. “I like to see a project go from paper to reality.” It’s also important to make sure to have fun. “If something tells me this isn’t going to be a fun project, then I’m willing to walk away from it,” she said.
With over a decade of leadership experience in the industry, Maria knows first-hand about the challenges women face with asserting authority. “Early on, I had my fair share of dealings with men who are very smart but did not communicate well and did not want to take direction from someone like me,” she said. Maria credits her time in the military and her strong-willed personality in helping her be a better leader. “Being comfortable, and being able to stand in front of someone, particularly men, and say we need to make this modification because xyz, is very important,” she said.
Maria advises other women interested in taking their remodeling career to the next level to join organizations like NARI and take advantage of the support system it offers. “Set yourself up with the people who are going to help you be successful, and NARI has been that for me,” she said. “If I had known in my high school days that this could have been a career, I would’ve done it a long time ago."
Johanna Bowen always had a profound respect for older structures and maintaining their historic character. Her passion for design and renovation developed while watching her mother and aunt complete remodeling projects during summer trips to her aunt’s house in New Jersey. In high school, she was able to use her passion to help out the community by taking volunteer trips to Appalachia where she helped repair houses. She eventually went on to study art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and began working for a lawyer after graduation. Johanna was content with her job at the time but knew her true calling was still out there.
Life would eventually take Johanna to Richmond, Virginia, where she pursued her passion for renovating old homes. She got a job as a carpenter’s assistant renovating high-end and historic properties where she learned how to manage and execute construction jobs.
After being laid off in 2006, doing some traveling and working side jobs, Johanna decided to start Integrity Construction in 2008. For the next six years, Johanna was a one-woman shop but has since built up her team to several full-time employees and an extended team of subcontractors.
Johanna recognizes the importance of having women in all different types of roles in the industry and what that means to women homeowners. “Women homeowners trust women contractors,” she said. “They don’t feel bullied, or pushed, or belittled.” When asked to lend advice to other women thinking about joining the industry, she kept it short and sweet. “Just do it.”
“We’re all here to do the same job,” Melissa Andrekus says of her career as an electrical foreman in a male-dominated industry. Learn more about Melissa, on site at the new NARI headquarters.
Allie Berenyi, CLC
Ask Allie Berenyi, CLC, what she enjoys most about being in the construction and remodeling industry and she’ll tell you it’s the unique opportunity to be hands-on and watch a project take shape in a real, tangible way.
Today, Allie applies her 27 years of industry experience as an instructor of construction & remodeling at Madison Area Technical College
, located in Wisconsin’s state capital. Since 2005, she has taught a variety of classes to thousands of budding contractors and remodelers. Today, women represent 20% of the student population where 15 years ago, the student population was predominately male. She is also seeing people mid-career looking for a change. Whether their corporate jobs, such as computer programming, wasn’t rewarding, or people who work with their hands, including farming and art, are now turning to the trades.
She currently teaches framing and exterior finishes, estimating, building science, commercial construction and a course on remodeling, which she still finds time to do outside of work.
Allie ensures her students get real-world experience, including participating in an actual home build and working on framing and refinishing projects. According to Allie, the reason so many women of all ages are turning to construction is because they want to get out from behind a desk and do something that’s truly rewarding. As someone who did the same thing early in her career, Allie understands completely.
Allie is also an advocate for women in the industry, often volunteering her time and speaking on workforce development issues.
Judy Transue, CR, CRPM
As a young girl growing up on a busy Midwestern farm, Judy Transue, CR, CRPM, learned the value of hard work and on-the-job problem solving. Both served her well in her previous role as an IT professional. And today, after 15 years in the remodeling industry, Judy relies on her ability to apply logic, persistence and project management skills for clients of CHC Design-Build
, the Kansas City-based firm she co-owns with her husband, Kevin.
While Kevin focuses on project design and custom cabinetry, Judy manages the overall business—selling projects, collaborating with clients, handling operations. According to Judy, much of her success stems from her interest in continuous education. Through NARI, she connected the dots of her professional experience with valuable certifications. She credits education as a key building block in her career.
This well-rounded background serves Judy well in a male-driven business. She says that while some male counterparts occasionally mistake her for a designer, it’s actually the female homeowners who are surprised by her role as a remodeler; as this is the first time they have seen a women in this position. But, as a Certified Remodeler with strong credentials, Judy proves every day that women can thrive as leaders in this dynamic industry.
As President of the NARI Kansas City chapter, Judy is committed to serving her local remodeling community and being an advocate for small business owners.
Jess Cannizzaro, CRPM, UDCP
Jess Cannizzaro, CRPM, UDCP, earned both a Business undergraduate degree and an MBA. She’s a Milwaukee-area small business owner and manages 14 employees. She’s also in a career she truly loves. If this sounds like a familiar success story, it may be surprising to learn that Jess is a licensed plumber.
Her path began with an apprenticeship in her father’s business. As she studied to earn her degrees, Jess also worked as a plumber. After five years (and despite a warning from her concerned father), she started her very own business, Milestone Plumbing, just before her 30th
birthday. Jess relied on her business school skills and a loan from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC)
. After being denied by banks, WWBIC gave Jess her first loan because they believed in her talents and business vision ( they even became her first customer).
According to Jess, building a customer base in a male-dominated industry required her to work around the clock, never turn away business, and even hope that “Jess” could be presumed to be a man’s name with new prospects. Nevertheless, her zest for learning, ability to advocate for herself and commitment to protecting the public health have paid off.
Jess has made a commitment to workforce development and to help combat the shortage of plumbers by sponsoring apprentices. This year, Milestone Plumbing
celebrates nine years in business. Jess continues to set new milestones for herself, including reinvesting in her business, employee training and speaking on workforce development topics.