“It’s not what you do but that kind of job you do that makes the difference.” ― Ben Carson, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
“I want to leave a job and feel proud of the work I have done. I want to work with people that are proud of the work that they do.” – Teresa Schoader of Seven Hills, Nantucket
When you first meet Teresa, you will be met with someone who is caring, mindful of her surroundings, and solid in her values. Maybe this is why she is known around island as an owner of an island business that does exceptional work. She’s the owner (and worker) at Seven Hills, an interior and exterior painting company on Nantucket Island. Not only has she built this company from the ground up as a ‘wash-a-shore,’ but has overcome the challenges of being a foreigner, hailing from Portugal. No small feat, in either case, to start a business on island. As a woman who was brought up with the notion that the work she does is accomplished only by men, she has broken that barrier and succeeded, giving Nantucket a much valued service.
How did Seven Hills on Nantucket come to be? Teresa said it wasn’t entirely her idea. She was working for another painter when someone came to her and asked her to paint the houses that they were building on the island. At first, she wasn’t sure if she could do it – go out on her own. She had insecurities and doubts. He replied with an inspiring and encouraging evaluation of Teresa, ‘You are someone who believes in what you do, you are a very hard worker and that shows.’
“When he said that I thought, ‘Yes, I am!’” she said sweetly about the moment she became more self-assured in her line of work, and owning her own business. She has come a long way from questioning herself. Now she’s not afraid of anything. She knows she can do it.
“I have been through a lot in my life. I was always able to turn something around and turn it into something really good.” As she spoke further about the beginning of her company, she was proud of overcoming her insecurities, and for starting her own business. She loves painting and said, “I love what I do and I am proud of what I do. I love taking something that is far from perfect, working on it, and watching it go from ugly to beautiful.” This is the very notion that keeps her coming back to the job day after day, and why her company continues to do exceptional work.
Personally, I always want to know how someone feels as though they have made it. I really enjoyed Teresa’s answer. “Every Spring! When the phone is ringing off the hook.” Teresa described her perfect work day and what that feels like: The phone is ringing non-stop and Teresa is running around trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. She once counted sixty phone calls in one day. “At the end of the day, everything was working properly. We were able to get everyone working, and get everything we needed to get done, done. Everything was working smoothly. To me, that is a very good day! Not only because I could handle it, but that I handled it well.”
To achieve what Teresa has, everyone has someone who inspired them, or has at least one mentor. That person for Teresa is Michael Woodley. He’s the painter who taught her most of what she knows, and he helped her a lot. “He still helps. Every time I have a question, I call.” She spoke fondly of the support he has given to her over the years.
Her passion doesn’t end with painting. Teresa has a great love for Nantucket and its community. “I love the tranquility, the peace, the beaches, the people, I love the community. I love how life is so easy here. Even in the peak of summer. I can pick up my kids from school and in five minutes I can be at the beach. This is the place I have been able to find quality of life.” She met her husband while shucking scallops at the Shanty. They have four beautiful children ranging from six to two years of age and are raising them on-island. Her perfect summer day is being able to go on her husband’s boat with the children to Coatue and BBQ with friends, and relax with her family.
When Teresa was speaking about the Nantucket Community, her face just lit up from within. “This is where I have learned how to give back. I come from a huge city, two million people (Lisbon, Portugal.) It isn’t personal, you don’t know your next door neighbor. Here (Nantucket), you not only know your next door neighbor, but you can help them through something. It’s not always money that they need, it depends on the circumstances. Here, you don’t feel alone. You feel like you’re a part of this group of people, that all we want to do is be happy. I really love that about Nantucket.”
Her work is known as some of the best on island. Teresa wants to walk away from a job and say “I did that.” She wants to feel proud, and for the homeowner or business owner to walk in and say “I love it!” When the Nantucket Hotel was completed, people were walking through the hotel commenting on how beautiful it was. That was one of the many moments that the proof was in the delivery for her. She was able to complete a project that took a lot of work, and do it well. No small feat in itself. Additionally, she had just had a baby! She would go home to nurse and then go back to the jobsite.
One thing I appreciated while speaking with Teresa about her back ground in Portugal is that the opportunities that women have in the United States are more diverse. “Back in Portugal, the only acceptable job for a woman is in an office, a bank, or an insurance company,” Teresa said. If she were back in her home city, and knocking on doors to paint, she would have been told, “Are you kidding? Go home and sew some socks.” She wouldn’t have any credibility, and she wouldn’t be able to work in the trades back in Portugal. “There’s more opportunity for women in the trades businesses here on Nantucket. I have never had a situation where I felt disrespected as a professional woman.”
I would have to agree with this. On Nantucket, many of my friends and I grew up thinking we could be anything we wanted: a princess, astronaut, car mechanic, or someone in musical theater. This did not seem like a farfetched dream of mine growing up. In fact, my parents would encourage my imagination and education. As a little girl, I was often down on the ground, getting greasy while handing my father tools, him showing me how to fix a car. When I was in high school, I could take apart and then rebuild an engine. I also wanted to go to Space Camp, which my parents didn’t discourage while I was talking about it, even though I never went. As Teresa mentioned, there are more options, and on Nantucket we have the choice to do what we love.
Her home is Nantucket, but Portugal will always be a part of her. I can relate to that. When I asked her what she missed about Portugal, she sighed, “Bread…the bread!” She would love for someday to be able to spend more time in Portugal. Currently she is able to get back at least once a year. She has a strong connection to her family. She’s one of eight children. Her family is all in the same area and she misses that close-knit family circle. Still, her quality of life with her husband and children here on Nantucket currently cannot be matched anywhere else in the world.
She’s a woman thriving, and is helping others to thrive in a typically male-dominated field. What she brings to her jobs is not only her heart, but the desire to walk away full of pride in her company for doing what they do. She hires those who are proud of what they do and share the desire to do exceptional work. “I have an amazing crew working with me.”
When I asked why she decided to become a Nantucket Ally, I felt honored by her response. “I think the idea is fresh, it’s intelligent. I think it’s very smart to get people together so they can exchange knowledge and services. This is a small community and we need to be close to each other. Nantucket Allies does exactly that. It puts all these businesses together with a goal in mind and a network.”
We all want to be honored for the work we do and for Teresa, she really gets to live that desire out-loud, turning around homes and businesses, and making them beautiful from the inside out.
Her work speaks for its self!