Editor’s note: For our annual Women in Business issue, we invited women in our local business communities to share insights they’ve gained through their work in Western North Carolina.
Nicole Laethem is the president of TRS Junk Recyclers and The Regeneration Station.
Xpress: What piece of advice do you wish you’d been told prior to launching your business?
Laethem: When I first inherited the company, there were four businesses. I was faced with having to make hard decisions in order for the company to survive. Trying to take my emotions out of it, I took a step back to see the bigger picture and found the answer. I closed two of the businesses that were at a deficit to give my attention to the other two so that I could double down on my efforts. This allowed the company to thrive and enabled us to have a niche in the market.
When faced with a hard decision, try to gather as much information as possible. Having a vision and goals are needed in starting and maintaining a small business. Discover what motivates you because you will get discouraged many times over. Learn to ask for help. Take advice from those who have experienced or have been successful in similar endeavors.
How do you feel women in leadership experience their roles differently today than they may have in the past?
I believe women in leadership roles are more accepted today than in the past. A woman’s place in my grandmother’s generation was first to be a wife, then a mother and ultimately a homemaker. She had decisions that were already made for her because of financial insecurities. My grandmother taught me the importance of education, learning a trade and being independent.
Today, I find more women are prioritizing their careers because there are more opportunities in the workplace.
What is your most memorable experience as a business owner, and what have you learned from it?
When the pandemic shut down the world, the word “kindness” really sticks out in my mind. People came together in support of one another, and kindness is what got me through those very challenging times as both a small-business owner and as a solo parent. My position has taught me humility and to always remain humble. I continue to learn and grow from my own experiences while realizing that making mistakes is all part of the process.