By Paige Atwell
While our spring edition has always been dedicated to the strong, hardworking and prominent women in our community, this year has brought with it obstacles that none of us could have predicted. It’s certaintly tested our limits not only personally, but professionally as well, as we’ve all struggled to cope with a new normal. That being said, it seemed more critical than ever to highlight all the good the women in our community are still able to do amidst all the uncertainty, obstacles and chaos. From COVID-19 heroes and medical proffesionals, to business owners and entrepreneurs, here’s to our 2020 Women of Influence!
Abby Gustavson has always been an entrepreneur at heart. While she’s had her fair share of small businesses from a young age, her most recent venture, Primrose Sewing, began when she was just in tenth grade. She is not only a business owner, but she’s also made it her motto to teach the next generation how to become young entrepreneurs as well. Her students range from ages six to thirteen and can learn how to sew and make creative, practical projects through her small groups, weekly classes, seasonal workshops, summer day camps and individual lessons. Most recently, she’s been using her talent to create masks and distribute fabric in the midst of the pandemic. Since March, she has personally hand-sewn more than 200 masks and donated enough yards of fabric to other seamstresses to make 800 masks for local hospitals and assisted living facilities. Using her talents to help others has always beea priority for Abby, which is why she’s encouraged her students to sew things such as baby blankets for hospitals, hats for the homeless and pillows for children in foster care. “I hope that I’m an inspiration for others to also help meet community needs no matter how old they are and no matter what their circumstances might be,” said Abby. “People often tell me that sewing is a lost art, but through Primrose Sewing, we’ve realized that there is a sewing revolution in the Nashville area because I’ve taught about 220 young students in the past three years!”
Born and raised in Williamson County, Angela Hoover has always been proud to call it home. You may know her as a local attorney, a member of the Legal Aid Society or Franklin Noon Rotary Club, but what you may not know is that she also serves as a motivational speaker and spiritual guide. After spending nine years of her life in an unhealthy relationship, Angela decided to work on her own spiritual development and wellbeing. “After my divorce, I was able to turn back to my old ways of personal development and to my spiritual connection,” explained Angela. “As a result, I was able to heal much faster and I think evolve into a better person. I am grateful for this experience because it propelled me to where I am today.” Since then, Angela has dedicated a large portion of her time to use her experience to help others. “There are SO MANY people who get divorced or stay stuck in horrible relationships because they cannot see what their life could be like if they were out of it,” said Angela. “So I decided to start an online business that has evolved over the last few years. It started by just posting videos on Facebook and doing Facebook lives. It has grown into coaching and motivational speaking.” In the last year and a half, Angela has spoken about personal development on five different continents in front of roughly 1,400 people. Since the pandemic, she’s also been guest speaking on podcasts and online summits and working on a twenty-one day challenge to help women encourage themselves. “If I see an area that I think I could improve personally, I know there are other women thinking the same thing. I don’t mind being the odd one out and doing things differently,” said Angela. “I think women of influence are those that are confident enough to show up as their authentic selves every day. Everybody has adversity, and women of influence have turned that adversity into something amazing.”
Julie Walton comes from a long line of strong women. If the name Walton sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because Julie is the owner of Walton’s Jewelry, a staple on Main Street since 1974. Originally opened and operated by her grandmother, Melba Walton, Julie spent a lot of time in the downtown showroom growing up. “My grandmother – Melba “Maw Maw” Walton – cared deeply about her business, but cared even deeper for her family,” says Julie. “Now that I am running the business and have a family of my own, I have a great appreciation and admiration for her determination and perseverance in both aspects of her life. It takes a strong woman to run a business, it takes a fierce woman to succeed in said business while being the unshakable foundation for her family.” As a downtown Franklin business owner, Julie is a passionate member of the Downtown Franklin Association and even served on the board as promotions chair for six years. She also enjoys partnering with the Williamson County Animal Center and sponsors adoptions during annual events such as Main Street Festival and Pumpkinfest. Over the past eight weeks, Julie has been hard at working ensuring the success and security of her business and employees. Thanks to a solid foundation years in the making, she’s proud to say that she’s successfully done both. “A strong woman is only as strong as those whom she surrounds herself with and who have had a positive impact on their lives,” says Julie. “I’m lucky to have grown up amongst amazing women; my mom, my closest friends, colleagues and my grandmother. They have shown me that you must lead by example, make the difficult decisions when others cannot and always stay true to yourself. “
For Katie Rushton, there is no better feeling than that of doing something good for someone else. Lucky for her, that’s exactly what she gets to do for a living. Growing up with a passion for fashion, Katie went on to graduate with a degree in fashion merchandising. After graduation however, she quickly realized that jobs in her field were scarce and hard to come by. After a lot of thought and research, she decided to create the opportunity herself by launching her own personal styling business: Effortless Style! Between her and her team, Effortless Style offers closet audits, personal shopping services and styling sessions. “I'm fortunate enough to get to do what I love every single day, and I wake up every morning being grateful for that,” says Katie. “That gratitude has really helped me stay calm under pressure and be more laid back, which are also qualities that come in handy when you are a business owner.” In addition to their day-to-day operations, the Effortless Style team, along with Holy Family Catholic Church in Brentwood, hosts an annual philanthropic fashion show for a local nonprofit. Due to Covid-19, they were unable to proceed with their 2020 show. Instead, they organized a complete makeover for a family in need, which included several new outfits and hair and make up styling. “I love my job and I love our clients,” says Katie. “They are my ‘why!’ Getting to work with everyday women and men in such a personal way, being able to connect with them and create lasting relationships is what I love most about what we do.” Despite the pandemic, Katie and her team have big plans for 2020. Earlier this year, Effortless Style rolled out an online subscription plan that has given them the option to work with clients all over the country and be more adaptable to the schedules of their current clients. “I have such a passion for connecting with people and helping them feel good in the clothes they wear, and now that we have the ability to do that work beyond middle Tennessee,” says Katie. “I'm so excited for the possibilities!”
Robin Carter has been a nurse for thirty-eight years, and growing up, she never really thought about being anything else. After experiencing breastfeeding first-hand with her own children, she was inspired to get involved in lactation consulting for new moms. In 1989, she and another nurse started the first outpatient lactation clinic in the Carolinas called The Nursing Mother’s Place. In 2001, she and her husband moved to Franklin, where she now serves as a full-time lactation consultant at Williamson Medical Center. In addition to working full-time, Robin has a passion for serving and “spreading happy” both locally and internationally. As a nurse, she has been able to support The Tennessee Mother’s Milk Bank and travel to Haiti with organizations such as Restore Haiti, Heartline Ministries. Outside of the medical field and in her spare time, she and colleague Tracy Baldridge have started a mobile flower truck business called Lolly’s Garden and Flower Truck. During the pandemic, she’s enjoyed delivering fresh bouquets to neighborhoods while social distancing. “Looking into the future, I am really excited about growing flowers, being out in the community more and meeting new friends while bringing joy through flowers to people,” said Robin. “I love serving people but would maybe like to expand my horizon out of the hospital and into the community. I hope we can do that through Lolly’s Garden and Flower Truck."
Franklin resident Suzette Lane has been catering to the Nashville area for more than twenty-eight years. As the owner of Suzette Catering & Events, she has become one of the most well-known and respected catering and event specialists in middle Tennessee. From intimate parties to large events for over 2,000 people, Suzette loves being a part of the most monumental events for her clients. For those that have experienced it first-hand, they know that her eye for display, décor, cuisine and customer service is what sets her apart. “I do try to run my business with integrity and by example in hopes that it will be an example for other women and girls,” said Suzette. “Remember, you can do anything you set your mind to do. Obstacles only make you stronger. Use your gifts that God has given you to help others and show joy.” When she’s not catering and planning events, she enjoys gardening at home and spending time with her sons and dogs. She also has a passion for serving local organizations such as New Hope Academy, High Hopes Academy, Hard Bargain, Young Lives and Casa and has served as a board member at Bridges Domestic Violence Center and the JDRF Gala Committee. While her current priority is to continue to provide great food, service and jobs to her community, Suzette hopes to eventually take a step back from day-to-day operations to travel and enjoy life.
Sharon Thompson has always enjoyed living an active lifestyle, but little did she know how much that passion would play a role in her life. Not only does Sharon have multiple track accomplishments under her belt, but she’s also a wife, mom of four and most recently, a Franklin business owner. Yearning to open a fitness franchise, Sharon had looked into multiple businesses, but nothing quite seemed to fit. That is until she took her first CycleBar class in Cincinnati, Ohio. “I was hooked and I wanted to bring this company to my hometown of Franklin,” explains Sharon. “There was nothing like CycleBar in middle Tennessee. I could have chosen anywhere to open because I was the first franchisee here. I chose Franklin because I love this town. I love everything about the small town feel and the community we share. I wanted to give back to a community that I have grown to love.” And she certainly has. While CycleBar is obviously a great workout for locals to enjoy, it also hosts CycleGiving Rides, which help raise money for local charities such as the Brett Boyer Foundation. Although CycleBar has been shut down since March 16, Sharon and her team have enjoyed providing their members with bikes to rent and video classes. Luckily, they reopened their doors in May and look forward to continuing to serve their clients and community. “Every milestone you hit, every hardship you overcome, every risk taken, every failed attempt, only molds you to be more intelligent, empathic, and resilient,” says Sharon. “You might not see it at the time, but those early habits you form in life will help you become the best you. I don't know what the Lord has in store for me or my future but I do know it's not finished.”