Julie Edwards is dedicated to the two businesses she and her husband own, Coastal Machine and Mechanical and Elaine's Fashion and Accessories, but she does not let her business aspirations affect relationships with her family, whose support and motivation she credits for her accomplishments.
Edwards began working for her father at Coastal Machine and Mechanical in 1996, but taking on the role of a leader in the machine business has not always been easy.
When she joined the team at the machine shop 23 years ago, the men doubted a women's knowledge of the construction business.
However, she was determined to prove to them just because she was a woman and the boss's daughter did not mean she wouldn't do whatever was needed for the success of the shop.
"I cleaned offices on the weekends. ... When we've been slow or needed extra hands in the back, I would wear jeans and get dirty and shovel shavings out of machines," Edwards said. "I'm not just this woman sitting up here in the office. I can get dirty and I can help. We're a team and we're going to do whatever it takes to get through whatever we have to do."
Since Edwards began working for her father, he taught her what was important about owning a business — caring for employees and giving back to the community. After she and her husband took ownership of the machine shop in 2010, she has continued to be mindful of these ideals and the lessons he emphasized for years.
"I think the most important thing about having a small business is to make sure that your employees know that they are a part of something," Edwards said. "They're not just here from 7:30 to 4; they're a part of a team, from the guy that sweeps the floors to all of us here in the front, and without one of us everything falls apart."
Her father also instilled in her the importance of giving back to the community.
She has the opportunity to make an impact on the community that shaped her and feels a responsibility to help today's youth, she said.
"The kids come first," Edwards said. "I ask, 'Is it a local charity? Is this going to benefit a kid?'
whether it's The Dream Center, BACH or a local sports team. I'm all about that, because one day they're going to be an adult and you want that donation to benefit them in some way."
She also donates clothes and backpacks that do not sell at Elaine's to various youth homes, The Dream Center or BACH, she said.
However, her generosity does not stop with donations.
She believes that even if you are not in a position to give money, there are other ways you can make a difference in the community.
"If you can't give money, you can give time," Edwards said, adding that she has passed on this lesson from her father to her children, and she encourages them to give back to the community that made them who they are today.
Edwards is very close to her family and is grateful that both businesses allow her to work alongside the family members who have encouraged her to grow into the businesswoman she is today.
Her father, husband, and two sons work at Coastal Machine and Mechanical, and she is excited that her children will be able to keep the business in the family when her son is ready to take over.
At Elaine's, Edwards works with her mother-in-law and niece to manage the store, keep up with social media accounts and encourage customers to come into the store, a task that is becoming more difficult with the growing popularity of online shopping, Edwards said.
Edwards lives by the philosophy that the most important aspect of her life is family, and she is comfortable taking care of family matters before work because she trusts her crews at both locations to manage without her, she said.
"I've always been room mom, team mom and PTO president as my kids have grown up because I wanted to be involved; I think it's important," Edwards said.
"When you're Mom, you make it happen," she said, adding that you have to put in effort and time, but if you want to have your own business and you enjoy what you do, it is possible to make time for both family and work.
"I wouldn't trade what I do for anything," Edwards said.
Miriam Jewell is a reporting intern for The Facts.