As Mother’s Day quickly approaches, many of us are reflecting on ways that our mothers have impacted our lives. For some, it’s learning how to be a great mom. For others, it’s finding your voice as a strong woman. For Elisabeth South, it’s all of the above, plus, learning how to be a successful business owner, like her mother and fellow NAWBO member, Janet South.
Launching her painting business in 1992 as a way to support her son with college tuition, Janet quickly realized its potential and focused on growing the business to new heights. Today, DECO Coatings handles major industrial and commercial painting projects in Indianapolis and across the nation, including the Indianapolis Airport and major landmarks in the Indianapolis, Indiana, area. Janet was also recently honored with a 2018 N.A.C.E. award for innovations in filtration tanks to conserve water for the Chesapeake Bay Area in Suffolk, VA.
While Janet was spearheading major business growth, her daughter Elisabeth was there every step of the way—from going door-to-door to pass out flyers, to doing a TV commercial for the business when she was just 11 years old. That close involvement in growing a business was fuel for Elisabeth’s natural interest in entrepreneurship. So it’s no surprise that today she leads her own successful digital media and creative agency, SouthHaus Group (and DECO Coatings is one of her clients!). Elisabeth also uses her expertise as a speaker and advisor, and will be serving as the youngest advisor for the Indiana Women’s Conference this year.
After joining NAWBO in 2007 and serving on the NAWBO-Indianapolis Board of Directors and President’s Assembly, Janet encouraged Elisabeth to get involved with the organization, often taking her to meetings and sometimes asking her to attend in her place to represent DECO Coatings. Once Elisabeth launched her own business, she joined NAWBO herself. “My mom created a lot of entrepreneurial spirit within me,” Elisabeth says. “Taking me to these events, she would point out creative things you could do as a business owner.”
Janet notes that NAWBO has been a major source of support as she’s grown as a woman business owner (including serving as one of the original drafters of The 5 Star Healthy Chapter Program). “NAWBO has had a profound effect on my business and personal development. It truly is about business growth, business development and having conversations with women who are dealing with the same issues as you do,” Janet says. “We come from all kinds of backgrounds and represent all kinds of businesses. It’s so good to know you have a group of women you can have a conversation with and get some help to pull you to the next level. It’s a sisterhood.”
That sisterhood with NAWBO also carries through to Janet and Elisabeth’s relationship, as they’ve grown and supported each other side-by-side as business owners. “Working together is one of our biggest strengths. Our working relationship has been the glue that’s helped pull our personal relationship even closer,” says Janet. “We have a mutual respect for where we are at in our lives. Now, we not only love each other so intensely as mother and daughter, but we support each other through making mistakes. I would say we’re best friends. My daughter is my very best friend.”
Mother’s Day Q&A:
Q: Elisabeth, what are you most proud of about your mom?
A: “My most proud moment was recently when we were in Phoenix. She was winning the 3rd place 2018 Contractors Award for Industrial Steel at the N.A.C.E. Annual Convention. I was proud to be there as her daughter and to help her grow the business there, too.”
Q: Janet, was it important to you to be a role model to Elisabeth as a strong woman business owner?
A: “It was something that I’ve had a deep need for, especially for my daughter. There’s a sisterhood that her mother brings her daughter into. Back in 2011, there was a NAWBO conference in San Diego and I flew Elisabeth out from New York to meet me there. Then we took a road trip going North and had quite an experience. After the trip, Elisabeth wrote me a letter and told me some personal things about how much she loved me and how special that time was for her, and I carry that letter with me. From the time she was born, I knew there were great things in store for her. I couldn’t have ever imagined that it would be this wonderful. I’m so grateful for this time I have with my daughter. Business is like sprinkles on the icing.”