5 Women on the Rise

Filed in Councils & Committees, Leadership by on September 20, 2017 3 Comments

During NAHB’s Professional Women in Building Week, we’re raising the visibility of women in the home building industry. This includes both the trailblazers who have led the way and those who are boldly following in their footsteps. Check out these five rising stars, who were recently featured in the Spring 2017 issue of PWB’s Building Women magazine.

Their stories remind us that there isn’t one set formula to follow or path to take: Hard work, perseverance and a fearless commitment to following your heart will always lead you in the right direction.

Leah Kaiz Fellows
CEO, Blue Gypsy Inc.
Maryland BIA, PWB Council Member

Leah Fellows may have the most varied background of any PWB member. After graduating from Boston University, she traveled the world for 13 years as a backpacker, dive instructor and sailboat captain. Fellows worked as a dishwasher at a campground in Israel, sold day trips to tourists in Turkey, taught scuba diving in Zanzibar and tended bar in Guatemala. She began working in the real estate industry in 2006, first on sites and then for a Virginia Beach builder as an online sales counselor. This inspired Fellows to start her own company, Blue Gypsy Inc., in 2010 and developing a specialized training program for online sales counselors to increase sales for builders.

Lea Frederick
President/Owner, Vue Custom Construction
HBA of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties, 2017 PWB Chair

With a mechanical engineering degree, Lea Frederick started her career as a project engineer for a manufacturing company but then changed course. With no background in aquatics (other than being a lifeguard and swim instructor while growing up), she took classes while working as a salesperson and designer for a local pool builder. Frederick became the first female to achieve the status of SWD (Registered Society of Watershape Designers). Today there are only 45 registered SWDs and only one other female. Frederick obtained her general contractor license in 2014 and launched her own company, Vue Custom Construction.

Beth Jacob
Vice President, Jacob Family Enterprises Inc.
HBA of Greater Southwest Illinois, 2017 PWB Chair, HBA Board Second Vice President, Executive Committee Member

Beth Jacob handles all Jacob Family Enterprises marketing efforts, including all lead generation and branding from television, print ads, internet, weekend shows and events, etc. A founding member of her local PWB council, Jacob says it has been a true pleasure building the council from inception and being a part of the HBA. “I am humbled by the group of men and women who put the needs of the organization above their own personal gains,” she says. She and her husband, Scott, have a “beautiful, smart, sassy daughter and it seems like now our lives exist to raise and educate a well-rounded young woman who understands the importance of hard work and giving back to others.”

Mitu Walia
Forward Planning Manager, Lennar Homes of California
BIA Bay Area, PWB 2017 President, BIA 2017 Board of Directors

Mitu Walia oversees the architecture and is on the HOA board for all Lennar communities in the Bay Area. Walia says she “barely survived” the recession in an architecture firm; she remembers how it was to struggle and she makes sure she helps everyone who is where she was a few years ago. She is the mother of two boys, 11 and 8. Walia also serves as the coach of the Junior Lego League and is a professional baker.

Margaret Witherup
Attorney, Gorden Feinblatt LLC
Maryland BIA, 2017 PWB President; Vice Chair, Maryland BIA Environmental Committee

Maggie Witherup is an environmental and real estate attorney at the law firm Gordon Feinblatt LLC, where she helps individuals and businesses solve environmental and regulatory challenges with property they want to buy or develop. Witherup says she works every day to strike a balance between her professional and personal life. She has earned the respect of colleagues, clients and peers, while providing excellent legal representation to her clients. Witherup’s inspiration is her mother, who followed her dream to become a doctor, despite her school guidance counselor telling her the only two acceptable professions for women were teaching or nursing. Her mother, Witherup said, “worked hard to have the career she wanted — helping people in the most tangible way possible.”

Remember, each day this week, NAHB BuilderBooks is giving away one copy of Living Green Effortlessly: Simple Choices for a Better Home. This invaluable resource is written by PWB member Marla Esser Cloos, who is donating proceeds of her book to benefit the NAHB PWB Building Hope Scholarship FundSimply complete the entry form for an opportunity to win. You only need to enter once to qualify.

In addition to recognizing the role of women in the industry this week, NAHB is also honoring the contributions of the Federation’s Associate members throughout September during Associate Member Appreciation Month. Check out some of the national Associate leaders.

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  1. Linda Hebert says:

    Way to go, Ladies! Mitu, Soooo proud of you and your accomplishments and growth. You are a shining star. Keep growing!!

  2. Jan Williams says:

    I am one of the trailblazers. It was a stimulating adventurous time. Could not have been very active without the support of Harry and our employees. Hard, yes; fun, you betcha’;, rewarding, yes,. I was Chair of the Remodelers 2000.

  3. Gerri Kaiz says:

    Leah, I never doubted what you could accomplish.

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