By Jill Penley
It used to be that Johnson County’s business landscape was a man’s world, but times are changing as evidenced by the increasing number of female business owners and managers from one end of the county to the other. Research has shown the increase of women in leadership is helping businesses to thrive in unprecedented ways, and that is evident locally.
When Wanda Arnold opened Mountain Loans 24 years ago on Main Street in Mountain City, there were very few small consumer loan companies in Johnson County, and even less that were female owned.
“I always wanted to start my own business,” said Arnold, a Butler native, who worked for Johnson County Loans and Security Finance before opening her own business. “I saw the continuing need for this type of business, and I think Mountain City has proved to be a great place.”
Arnold still enjoys helping clients after all the years in business. “There is joy in knowing I am able to help someone when they have a financial need with even different circumstances in life,” she said, “and being able to listen to challenges that they are facing.”
“If I were to offer advice to prospective female entrepreneurs,” said Arnold, “I would say work hard, be honest and treat people like you would want to be treated.” She added that it is important to have a goal in mind. “Work towards a goal you long to achieve,” she said, “all the way to fulfillment.”
While she does not own the company, another local woman is succeeding in the business world specifically caring for others. After graduating from Johnson County High School, Jackie Dugger began the nursing journey. Norris, currently a registered nurse and Director of Operations at Amedisys Home Health in Mountain City, has worked tirelessly to achieve this goal. “I started my nursing career at the old Johnson County Hospital, “ said Norris, “and when the hospital closed I went to work for home health.” While Norris loved it, after several years working and living as a single mom, she ultimately made the decision to return to school and further her education. “I continued to work as I put myself through school,” recalls Norris, who at that time, had one son in college and another in high school. “It was a very trying time for me, both mentally and physically,” she recalled. “If it had not been for the support of my family I would have never survived.”
It is no surprise that many successful women are willing to advise others and share lessons they learn along the road to becoming a female business administrator. “The best advice I could give young ladies or anyone,” she said, “is don’t let adversities and obstacles in life keep you from reaching for your dream. Keep going because you never know where the journey may lead.”
Another local businesswoman, Susie Yoggerst, advises prospective female entrepreneurs to cement their commitment before venturing into any business. “Make sure you are committed specifically to being your own boss,” said Yoggerst, who has owned and managed The House of Flowers on South Shady Street in Mountain City for the past 14 years. “It can be tougher than you might think because you expect more out of yourself.” Yoggerst, in addition to keeping abreast of the latest floral designs, also makes custom cakes, including elaborate wedding cakes.
The latest numbers regarding women in business can’t be ignored. There are 9.1 million women-owned businesses nationwide, employing 7.9 million employees and generating $1.4 trillion in sales, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners