by Danielle Vigueria
According to the National Women’s Law Center, nearly two million women have left the workforce since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country is experiencing the lowest women’s labor force participation since 1988. In the face of such challenging times, Western Home Journal would like to celebrate several exceptional women who continue to make a difference in the Sun Valley business community.
These resilient women show us that there is no set formula for being a successful leader—no particular gender or age or educational background. From real estate and interior design, to home remodels and contemporary art, they are using their unique talents and perspectives to provide services that enhance the business landscape of our Valley.
The Picket Fence Interior Design
Erika Blank is a Principal Designer at The Picket Fence Interior Design. While pursuing a degree in history and political science, Erika was inspired by a close friend to add an interior design degree to her credit. After graduation, she spent time interning in New York City before she moved to Sun Valley and fell in love with the local culture, conveniences, and outdoor opportunities.
She began working at The Picket Fence in 2014 and over the next few years, she helped the company build its design project clientele. Today, they have an office in the Galleria Building in Ketchum, dedicated solely to their interior design work, and Erika is the managing designer of West Coast Projects.
whj: Who is your mentor?
Kim Mauney. She joined our team at The Picket Fence in 2017 and she and I opened our interiors office in the Galleria together. I was able to learn from her first-hand, watching how she presented in meetings, how she spoke with clients or contractors, and how she dealt with emergencies. Being able to watch someone who has experience in your field of work is invaluable, she guided me through how to run a design business on my own. My career path jumped by leaps and bounds after working with her, and I am fortunate enough that we are now friends as well as colleagues.
“I was surprised once I was immersed in design as a career to learn that no one has all the answers, and that it’s ok to say, “Let me get back to you about that.” I think that applies to a lot of avenues in life.”
–Erika Blank, The Picket Fence Interior Design
whj: What words of wisdom would you offer yourself at the beginning of your career?
Have more confidence in yourself and remember that everything works out. I think when you are younger, so much of what you are experiencing feels magnified. Mistakes feel like the end of the world and insecurities abound. But as you age, you realize that so many things that you worried about didn’t make a difference five days or five years from that moment. So just move through life with confidence and remember that everything works out even if you can’t figure out exactly how, in that particular moment.
whj: How do you set goals for your business?
I am a big fan of setting short-term goals that can be achieved in a few months’ time. I think when you set goals that can be achieved without toiling for years, you can celebrate many smaller victories that lead to bigger goals every once in a while.
whj: What has been the most sur-prising part of your journey so far?
When I was in school, I just assumed that every designer in the world already had all the answers, that they knew how to do every type of drawing, knew every type of lighting option out there, etc. I was surprised once I was immersed in design as a career to learn that no one has all the answers, and that it’s ok to say, “Let me get back to you about that.” I think that applies to a lot of avenues in life.
whj: How are you involved in the community outside of work?
Before COVID-19, I volunteered for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, now the Sun Valley Museum of Art. I enjoyed meeting people in the community and working with the staff there. I don’t think I would be in this line of work if it wasn’t for arts education programs, so I am passionate about the work they do.
Suzanne Hazlett MBA, CIMA®, CFP®
Hazlett Wealth Management,LLC
Suzanne Hazlett is a financial professional with a passion for painting, a heart for charitable giving, and the skills to help investors gain greater self-confidence. As wealth management advisors, Suzanne and her team at Hazlett Wealth Management work to demystify personal finance by making it more approachable and more personal. Exploring personal values, aspirations, and even financial fears, Suzanne doesn’t just build strong portfolios, she builds meaningful relationships with her clients.
whj: Who inspires you?
My adoptive parents, Mari and Lyman Fleetwood, have served as significant influences with their formidable work ethic and belief that life’s true meaning is found by giving of oneself. My late father was a dentist, my mother a surgical nurse. During their careers, for more than two decades, they dedicated several months each year to working and living in destinations like the Republics of Haiti and Honduras. Together, they established hospitals, trained and assisted available staff, and administered free dental and medical care to those in need. To this day, Mari, at age 80, is a fully engaged wellness entrepreneur and quite physically active. Lyman was known to say, “It may be difficult at times to find a job, but one can always find work.” Idleness was never part of my upbringing. They represent everything I aspire to be.
whj: What are you most proud of in your career?
Professional accomplishments most meaningful to me are those tied to educational pursuits. My undergraduate degree in science, my graduate degree in business, and my finance-specific credentials certainly contribute to delivering high-caliber client engagements. Though more than that, all academic accomplishments come with personal sacrifice. Time spent isolated and focused on learning requires a counterbalance that results in time away from family and friends. Hard-won milestones are all the sweeter once accomplished. Education is paramount for our team. Our operations director Jenni Riley recently completed her MBA. Kristin Hovencamp, our business development director, will be pursuing a wealth advisor credential through Yale University next year.
“While I adore the men in my personal and professional realms, I have to admit— intelligent, hardworking women are my favorite people.”
–Suzanne Hazlett, MBA, CIMA®, CFP®, Hazlett Wealth Management, LLC
whj: Let’s talk about your team…
While I adore the men in my personal and professional realms, I have to admit— intelligent, hardworking women are my favorite people. The work we do for our clients can only be accomplished well by a formidable team. I am very fortunate to be part of a core trio of women whose strengths complement each other. Because our skill sets and life experiences differ, we’re able to bring alternative perspectives to our business goal-setting and career objectives. Each of us has published articles that link real life to our primary work as financial advisors. By communicating in the written word, we find that it helps inform how we can more successfully communicate with each other and our clients.
whj: How do you connect with the community?
Ours is a charitably-minded workplace. Jenni serves on the Wood River Women’s Foundation, The Chamber, and Sun Valley Economic Development boards. Kristin invests her volunteer time on the Wood River Women’s Foundation Grants and Events Committees while promoting financial literacy through other nonprofit organizations in our valley. In addition to supporting my team with their charitable endeavors, I am a current board member with The Alturas Institute, founder of the Giving Guide of the Wood River Valley, and co-founder of the Wood River Valley Studio Tour.
L’Anne Gilman, a Tennessee native, is the owner of Gilman Contemporary in downtown Ketchum. An art history major with a passion for photography, L’Anne worked for many years in private galleries before opening Gilman Contemporary in 2007. Since then, she and her team continue to evolve the gallery’s collection while staying true to their aesthetic and providing the best care to their clients and artists. Although the gallery’s primary focus is photography, L’Anne also represents painters and sculptors from around the world.
whj: Who inspires you?
Personally, my staff Casey Hanrahan and Beth Rush inspire me—every day! They really “show up,” so to speak. They genuinely care about the gallery, our artists, and our clients. They are always willing to do what is needed and I feel lucky to work with people who truly care about their jobs and each other. The three of us have different strengths and different work styles. We rely on those individual strengths and differences to be successful and the gallery would not be where it is without them. Working in a gallery, it is oftentimes hard to know where one person’s job ends and the other person’s begins. Because of this overlap, it is important that we work as a cohesive unit and it is something I feel we do well.
whj: How do you set goals for your business?
From the beginning, Gilman Contemporary was established with the goal of always bringing in new and innovative work and whenever possible, new artists, so that the gallery would be a place of conversation and discovery. Ultimately, it is a two-fold job; you strive to find success for your artists as well as working for your clients to find artwork that has meaning for them. As I consider goals for business growth, it is my hope that we continue to see success so that we can take more risks. Pushing the envelope in what we present to our clients is exciting and keeps each one of us inspired. That said, it is difficult to define a clear path for that growth and how we go about it is always changing. One thing I have learned over the years is that we learn the most from life’s unexpected events: the recession within a few months of opening 14 years ago, wildfires, COVID-19. As a business, I am proud of our ability to pivot and adapt, and fortunately, our artists’ and clients’ loyalty has allowed us to do just that.
“The three of us have different strengths and different work styles. We rely on those individual strengths and differences and the gallery would not be where it is without them.”
–L’Anne Gilman, Gilman Contemporary
whj: Is there a key moment that you’re most proud of in your career?
Bringing on photographer Rodney Smith. He was an artist I had followed for many years and because the gallery was so new, he seemed beyond our reach. I remember well the decision to contact him. At the time I thought, “What do we have to lose?” I was so proud when he accepted the invitation. It was a real turning point for the gallery and for me personally to know that we could, in fact, hold our own in the art world.
whj: If you could go back in time, what advice would you offer yourself at the beginning of your career?
“Buy the Ruth Bernhard photograph!”
Natalia Ferris Samway
Sun Valley Kitchen & Bath
Natalia Ferris Samway is a co-owner of Sun Valley Kitchen & Bath, a full-service, interior design studio that her parents, Lee Ann and Greg Ferris, founded more than 40 years ago. After starting as a cabinet installer, what Natalia thought would be a temporary job has turned into a fulfilling career.
With projects varying from complete kitchen and bath remodels and new construction to simple countertop and cabinet upgrades, Natalia and her team stay busy creating beautiful and functional spaces for local homes. She says she is grateful to have the opportunity to continue to learn different aspects of the business and expand her knowledge into areas such as space planning, cabinetry design, lighting design, project management, and product procurement. Today, Natalia is happy to be a partner in the family business, working alongside her parents and providing exceptional service to their Wood River Valley clients.
whj: Who is your mentor?
My mother! She is also now my business partner along with my dad. Her hard work and passion for what she does inspired me to be an entrepreneur.
whj: Who inspires you?
Both of my parents. They have been running their own business for over 40 years and have achieved success through hard work, skill, and good networking. Instead of slowing down as they age, they continue to learn and adapt to an industry that’s always evolving. It’s pretty awesome to be a part of this team and to learn from them.
whj: How did you get your professional start?
I got into this industry while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career.
I had worked for a local business for about six years and realized I wanted to work for myself, so I gave my two weeks. While I was “figuring things out” I decided to help my parents with their small business, Sun Valley Kitchen & Bath. I started my kitchen and bath remodeling career as a cabinet installer and worked my way up. I am now a partner in the business.
“I’m shattering stereotypes, especially with the skills I have acquired over the last few years. I have learned how to manage and run a full kitchen and bath remodel from start to finish.”
–Natalia Ferris Samway, Sun Valley Kitchen & Bath
whj: Can you share your thoughts on gender stereotypes in the building industry?
I think just being in this industry, I’m shattering stereotypes, especially with the skills I have acquired over the last few years. I have learned how to manage and run a full kitchen and bath remodel from start to finish. It is a very male-dominated industry.
whj: What are you most looking forward to this summer in Sun Valley?
I’m looking forward to my time outdoors—fly fishing, horseback riding, camping, backpacking, hiking, all of it! I love what I do because it gives me the freedom to take time off and enjoy all that Idaho has to offer.
Stacey Rutherford & Malea Southward
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Stacey Rutherford and Malea Southward have over 30 years of combined real estate experience and are uniquely situated to provide clients with unparalleled market insight and strategy.
Stacey moved to the Valley in 1979 and for Malea, it has always been home. During a fateful meeting in the Warm Springs dog park about four years ago, the two women connected immediately and decided to go into business together.
They are not only experts in the Valley’s history, local neighborhoods, and current real estate market, but they are also actively involved in the community, volunteering for many nonprofit organizations and enjoying all of the natural beauty that Idaho has to offer. Recognizing that buying or selling a home can be a life-changing experience, Stacey and Malea are always there to provide support to their clients.
whj: Who is your mentor or role model?
Malea: I am lucky enough to work side-by-side with my mentor every day. I know Stacey is always there to offer support, understanding, and advice. What makes it truly special is that she extends the same opportunity to me, calling with her own questions and valuing my opinions. It’s what makes our team work so well, this shared sense of support and mutual respect.
Stacey: We deal with tough negotiations and emotions on a daily basis, and this quote truly inspires me in my business: “You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you, that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.” -Warren Buffett
“I am lucky enough to work side-by-side with my mentor every day. I know Stacey is always there to offer support, understanding, and advice.”
–Malea Southward, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
whj: What milestone in your career are you most proud of?
Stacey: In 2003, I started my own brokerage, with five other people—all male—and being the only female, it was often intimidating and challenging trying to get my voice heard. It was most definitely a leap of faith for all of us, lots of hurdles, but it worked out really well for several years, and the brokerage was later successfully sold.
Malea: I have only been doing this for four years, which is nothing compared to Stacey’s 25 years, but my biggest milestone so far was taking the leap to commit to real estate full-time. In a resort town where the majority of my cohorts (including myself) work a minimum of two jobs to survive, committing to a single unknown one was a huge decision, and one I am thankful for even having the opportunity to make.
whj: How did you grow your business?
Stacey: I was able to develop a loyal client base and grow while learning through my own development project experience. There are a lot of pieces that need to come together when building, developing, selling, and buying real estate. Malea has a natural ability to think through the tough situations, problem-solve, and guide her clients through the process of a transaction. But it is not just the two of us. In order to succeed in this business, one must have an arsenal of ‘go-to’ specialists in your quiver. Your relationships with other professionals who support your business is key. The job doesn’t get done without them. To build any successful business, the ingredients are the same: diligence, hard work, follow-through, customer service, and trust.
Topnotch Fine Furniture & Design
Arianne Heyser is the owner of Topnotch Fine Furniture and Design, an iconic interior design business and storefront that has been a part of the Sun Valley landscape for more than 40 years. An environmental science major, Arianne returned to school to turn her love of design into a career. After deciding to follow her passion, she chose to take another huge leap in 2014 when she and her husband, Joshua, purchased Topnotch, where she was working as a designer.
For the past seven years, Arianne and her team have been helping clients create colorful, welcoming spaces that fit their needs and reflect their personal styles. With a constant focus on her customers, Arianne says that she feels lucky to be guiding a business with such a long history of bringing beautiful things to people and homes in the Valley.
“I always loved design, but as a young person I thought I had to do something more serious. Sit and think on what brings you joy and make a career out of that. When you follow your passion, you will always be successful and happy in life. It shows when you do something you love.”
–Arianne Heyser, Topnotch Fine Furniture and Design
whj: Who has inspired you?
Bret and Lori Berier owned Topnotch for 38 years before we purchased it. Lori was paraplegic. She was so elegant and inspiring, always smiling. She was very determined and did not let anything slow her down. Working with her really taught me that you can accomplish anything. She passed away two years ago. I feel really blessed to have had her in my life to help shape me as a designer and as a person.
whj: What advice do you wish you could give yourself at the beginning of your career?
Just follow your dreams. Kids so often don’t. You get caught up in what you should do and not what you could do. I always loved design, but as a young person I thought I had to do something more serious. Sit and think on what brings you joy and make a career out of that. When you follow your passion, you will always be successful and happy in life. It shows when you do something you love.
whj: How do you handle your work/life balance?
I’m learning to delegate, and that’s really important. I’m very type A and it’s hard for me to do that. But the pandemic really pushed me to let go of some things. With kids attending school at home and running our business from home, I had to allow others to help me. As a business owner, it is important to empower others and let them do the things they do well and just own it.
whj: How does your team help you get the job done?
I am so thankful for our team. We are a great little family network. Our Topnotch team supports us and believes in us. This contributes to our success as a business and as individuals. We have such a great sharing of the minds, and we are always bouncing ideas off of each other. I’m so glad I changed my career path. But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband, my amazing mom, my friends, and the team at Topnotch.