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Women in Business: Successful Female Entrepreneurs Talk Evolving Landscapes, Avoiding Burnout and the Power of Relationships


Women are coming up big in Utah’s business world. Altabank recently sat down with three prominent and successful women in business to learn their stories, keys to success, tales of triumph over challenges and vision for the future.

Altabank’s panel included Shonie Christensen, owner of The Shonie Insurance Group, Jennie Tanner, owner of Tanner Glass & Hardware, and Andrea Wilson, who works as the Principal Broker at Dwell Realty Group.

How do you think the landscape for women in business has evolved over the years?

When Wilson began her career in real estate, there was only one other female agent at her firm. She notes there were very, very few in all of the surrounding Cache Valley area.
Things have changed quite a bit since.

“There’s been a steady increase to the point where I feel like there are more women in real estate than there are men,” Wilson says.

Tanner, who has owned and operated her business for 24 years now,  has also seen a similar rise in female entrepreneurs. Technology, she explains, has helped her see many other women fighting the good fight in the local business community.

“Social media has really taken a huge step forward for women in business,” Tanner says. “There are so many organizations that help women through LinkedIn or Facebook or even YouTube, to help tell your story.”

Christensen, who has a career spanning eras of working in corporate settings before opening her own business, is proud of how far hardworking, entrepreneurial women have come over the years. Still, there’s more work to be done.

“We’ve gained acceptance in ways that are leaps and bounds above the past, we’ve gained leadership roles in ways we’ve never had before. But I do think there is still a lot of room for women to grow and become more accepted at the table,” she says.

What changes or improvements would you like to see in terms of support for female entrepreneurs?

The more you can network, the better, says Wilson. She, however, would like to see more women not only ascend to higher positions within their industries but also be accessible to the upcoming generation of leaders.

Her idea: mirror the success of a recent initiative to grow interest in STEM careers to spur similar growth for women in business.

“I think starting from a high school level or a college level, it would be interesting to see an initiative like that for business that features prominent businesswomen leading others into business management,” Wilson says.

Tanner thinks it would be a step in the right direction to help men understand that women are just as capable of doing the same work they do, maybe even better, in new and innovative ways. 

“I think we tend to put women in boxes, like ‘This is a man’s job, this is a woman’s job,’ that kind of thing,” Tanner says. “But I think women have to push themselves out of that box and not allow others to stereotype them and what they should or shouldn’t be doing.”

To Christensen, change and growth for women in business may be accelerated outside of the boardroom and office.

“I would like to see equity for all aspects of life, not just equity in the workplace, but also equity at home too,” she says. “We’re expected to play the old-fashioned role at home with our families and in our communities but then also want to be a powerhouse at work and that’s just not equitable.”

What strategies do you use to stay motivated and avoid burnout?

It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that Wilson used to be a workaholic. In her role as Principal Broker at Dwell, most of her day is spent helping her staff, coordinating with contractors and agents, and doing all the inglorious, behind-the-scenes work.

“I would go home, eat dinner really quickly, and then open my laptop and work until midnight,” Wilson remembers. “That’s not a sustainable or realistic model, but I did that for years and years.”

After the birth of her daughter, things changed. Now, when 5 p.m. rolls around, Wilson shuts down her laptop and gets to work, as a mom. She’s much happier as a result, she says.
Tanner finds her reprieve from the daily grind through volunteering. After all, in her words, life is more than just the job you go to every day.

“Giving back to my community and especially through helping the homeless community is very important to me,” Tanner says. “That’s something that tells me that work isn’t everything.”

Finding a trusted ally, such as a friend, family member, or in particular, a therapist, has been vital to avoiding burnout, says Christensen. Animals, she notes, can be great therapy tools as well. 

“I have horses and there’s something about spending time with a living creature, taking care of it, that helps you stay grounded,” Christensen says. “You realize that life is more than just that one decision you’re trying to make.”

As a female entrepreneur, what unique perspective do you bring to your industry? What is your superpower?

Women, in Wilson’s mind, have a unique perspective and skill set as real estate agents. They think about things in ways that others may not.

“On a day-to-day basis, I see my female agents a lot more emotionally invested in our clients,” she explains. “This tends to result in them being more concerned about the person and what they’re feeling and the experience they’re having.”

And in the emotional world of home-buying, that empathy goes a long way with clients. So much so, Wilson says that over 85% of her company’s business comes from repeat clients.

Attention to detail could be called Tanner’s superpower on the job. That was made manifest a few years ago when her all-female team was tasked with completing a home in the middle of the pandemic. In just eight months, the house was complete and featured in the Utah Parade of Homes.

“Nobody thought we could get it done,” Tanner says. “But we were organized and stuck to a tight construction schedule. We did a lot of follow-up and put a lot of detail into it. Things got done much more efficiently.”

Blending both emotional intelligence and an eye for detail has been key to Christensen’s success. Doing the little things matters, she says.

“Sending a hand-written note, a birthday card, doing follow-up, hitting a schedule on time, those aren’t the big things that will make or break a case, but repeatedly, over time, those are the details that will make you successful,” Christensen says.

What has been the most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey so far?

To all three women, Christensen, Tanner and Wilson, the most gratifying part of their journey is to see growth, not only in themselves but in their employees as well.

“Being able to see my agents succeed is really cool,” Wilson says. “They’re a lot like my kids in a way. I put so much time and energy and love into them and it’s so great to see them succeed and be happy.”

Tanner, who jokes that running her business has given her a few gray hairs, echoes that sentiment.

“I have 70 employees and I look at them as families to feed. I have 70 families that I have to take care of,” she says. “I have to make sure that our company succeeds and is profitable every day. Now, I feel confident that my employees have a good future ahead of them and I can just watch them grow now.”

Christensen is grateful that her own family has seen the difference that her hard work has made in all of their lives.

“I have two grandsons and I’ve been able to show them that generational poverty is not a thing anymore in our family. We can rise above that as long as we have that tenacity and grit that we’ve all talked about.” 

How do you manage growth?

Growing too much too quickly can be just as alarming as anything in the business world. Oftentimes, with growing comes growing pains. It’s crucial to navigate these spurts with grace and temperance.

“One of the things that stuck with me from college was studying some of the businesses that grew too fast, it can almost be a bit bigger death sentence than not growing,” Wilson says. 

Finding the right pace of growth can make all the difference, the three agree. Proper staffing and processes can carry the day.

“In 24 years of owning this business, I’ve never had to lay anyone off,” Tanner says. “It gives me heartburn every day of the week; trying to make sure I’ve got enough work for people and making a promise to not hire anyone if you can’t keep them busy.”

But above all, personal connections are what matter most.

“I surround myself with people who are smarter than me, and I grow by growing with people who know what they’re doing,” Christensen says. “Utah is a very unique place to do business, it’s a very relationship-orientated state and we live by that.”