As the owner of Spring Lake Park-based Arctic Mechanical, Sarah Carlisle knows she’s in a unique position. And she couldn’t be more proud.
“It’s very exciting to be a female-owned small business leader in the HVAC industry because this is a field that is very, very dominated by men,” Carlisle said. “It’s an uphill climb in a lot of respects, but I really like the challenge.”
Carlisle has owned Arctic Mechanical since 2018, but prior to taking over the reins of the company her husband founded in 2009, she had a decade-long career as a social worker where she spent her days helping individuals and families. Being part of the HVAC industry wasn’t something she’d ever considered. However, once her first child was born in 2017, her outlook changed. She left the hospital setting she’d been working in and joined the team at Arctic Mechanical full time in a support role.
“I was doing a lot of the administrative work but as I grew into the field and learned more about HVAC, it became apparent to both my husband and me that I was going to be the one who would continue to take this business forward,” Carlisle said. “So we transferred the majority of the ownership of the company to me and that’s where we’re at now.”
With more than four years of leadership experience under her belt, Carlisle is more passionate than ever about her work and has developed a deeper understanding of why businesses like hers are so vital
“In the world right now, there’s a lot of awareness about the importance of supporting small businesses,” she said. “In particular, there’s a lot of awareness from women who see the value of supporting other women who are in business and they’re being a lot more intentional about where they spend their dollars.”
Although most of us have embraced the concept of supporting women-owned businesses, we may not fully realize why it’s so critical. Here, Carlisle breaks down a few of the reasons that resonate most with her:
- It shows the next generation of women what’s possible: Young girls often grow up seeing very few businesses that are owned by women, which can make them feel like there’s no way they can possibly become entrepreneurs themselves. It’s a problem across all industries, but especially in ones that are traditionally dominated by males. However, when you support a woman-owned business in the trades, it sends a message to girls who are graduating from high school that fields like HVAC, plumbing and construction aren’t off limits to them. “It shows them that not only is a career in the trades a viable choice, but given the high demand for workers and the fact you can do very well financially, it can really be a smart decision if it’s something you’re interested in doing,” Carlisle said.
- It’s empowering: Though Carlisle didn’t come from an HVAC background, she’s learned an incredible amount about the industry and she’s not afraid to show off her knowledge. “I know that I can do this job and I can do it well,” she said. “I can stand in a mechanical room with over a million BTUs of boiler heat and hold my own in a conversation. You don’t have to dumb it down for me.” By being strong, assertive and confident, she’s proud to show that women are capable of doing anything that men can do. Ideally, over time, what she’s doing won’t seem like such an anomaly anymore.
- It highlights natural strengths: Business owners have to wear many hats every day, which is something most women – especially those with children and families – understand deeply. And this ability to multitask and adapt to changes on the fly has served Carlisle well, especially when it comes to managing and connecting with her team on a more personal level. “We’re still maintaining professional boundaries, of course, but because I’m a woman and a mom of three young kids, I understand that life exists outside of your work van and there has to be some give and take,” she said. That means that if an employee wants to work late one night so he can leave early to go see his child perform in a Christmas program, she’s fully supportive. “Our vision statement for our company centers around creating an environment where our employees find so much joy and fulfillment in coming to work that they in turn provide unsurpassed customer service,” she said. “My focus is on employee satisfaction because when your employees are happy, it’s going to spill over into how they interact with customers.”
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