How Women Are Making Nashville Hum
By Ethan Epstein
The young people streaming into ‘Music City’ have big career goals and they don’t involve singing at the Grand Ole Opry.
NASHVILLE—It’s a bustling Monday morning at Pinewood Social, a sprawling coffee shop, restaurant and bar set high on a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River, and 30-year-old Amanda Lairsey is already sipping her second Cuban coffee of the day. Lairsey, who blogs at a website appropriately called “The Caffeinated Woman,” opts for that second cup to keep her going as she juggles her responsibilities as a budding construction executive and owner of her own consulting company.
The South Georgia native, who speaks with a soft southern accent, arrived in Nashville five years ago, when her husband’s job moved them from South Florida. Lairsey was working as an office manager at a local construction company. It was an accident that she ended up in construction in the first place: Lairsey had previously worked at a law firm, also in an administrative capacity, and simply moved to a construction firm to run their back-office functions. She had no background in the industry.
Not long after her arrival in Nashville, though, the owners of the construction company she was working for split up. “All of a sudden, I said, ‘Well, I want to own what I do … so I partnered with somebody else.” Today, Lairsey is opening a branch of a construction company that she’s partnered with in Nashville. The company does mostly roofing work, though it also has contracts for gutters and siding.
Lairsey is distinct in her industry. “Construction is totally male-dominated,” she says. “I definitely want to break glass ceilings.” (Perhaps an ironic desire for someone in the roofing business.) The week I meet her, she’s about to sit for the Tennessee Commercial License Exam, which will allow her to expand the business to commercial properties. “I’ll probably be the only woman taking it,” Lairsey chuckles.
“I want to change the way women are viewed in the construction world,” she continues, “Because in construction, women are really viewed more as trophy wives [than anything],” continues.
Chatting with Lairsey, you get the sense that she doesn’t really need all that caffeine. She’s extraordinarily energetic—but then, again she’d have to be given what’s on her plate. In addition to her work in construction, the budding empire builder also owns and operates two other businesses: the Society of Women Business Owners (Sowbo), a networking group for Nashville’s female entrepreneurs, and The Lairsey Group, her business consulting outfit.
In her entrepreneurial zeal, Lairsey is far from alone in Nashville, a city of nearly 700,000, and growing. In 2017, the finance site Wallethub crunched data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Small Business Administration, looking at statistics such as what percentage of businesses are owned by women and the average revenue growth of those businesses. Wallethub found that, among the 100 largest cities in the country, Nashville’s is the best metro area for female entrepreneurs. (There must be something in that Tennessee water; Chattanooga ranked second for women entrepreneurs; Memphis ranked fourth.)