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Architectural skills meld with Williams’ entrepreneurial spirit

Throughout her career in the field of architecture, Terri Williams has been able to see the results of her accomplishments in buildings throughout the Southeast. But beyond her design and restoration skills, she has also built a base of knowledge in entrepreneurship. Recently, North Carolina-based Enterprising Women magazine named the Tupelo-based principal of ArchitectureSouth as one of its winners in the 2008 “Enterprising Women of the Year” awards.

The publication, which chronicles what it calls the “growing political, economic and social influence and power of entrepreneurial women,” selects winners in five categories based on annual sales revenues. According to a news release announcing this year’s honorees, award recipients in the five categories are assessed on the growth of their businesses, their mentoring or support of women or girls involved in entrepreneurship and their leadership skills in their communities. Williams received her award in the up to $1 million in annual revenues category.

Much of Williams’ work is commercial in nature, and projects have ranged over the years from university and community college buildings to municipal facilities to churches. She has served on the State of Mississippi Architectural Registration Board and has been recognized as one of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women, among other honors and leadership roles. She says that it has been a privilege to work in a field that provides ongoing opportunities to “learn and create,” and she is an ardent supporter of initiatives that support entrepreneurship.

As an Auburn University architecture graduate in the late 1970s, Williams found that there were not many female role models in her field, but through various leadership programs, Williams says that she had the opportunity to learn from successful women in other professional disciplines. While many of these women were employed in more traditional roles, Williams says that they offered great insight into areas such as “work ethic, respect for others and respect for ourselves.”

Given the fact that the business world is always full of obstacles, Williams stated that a key ingredient to long-term success is the ability to learn and adapt. “The insight gained from any `character builder’ is the groundwork needed to meet the next challenge,” Williams notes. “In business, there are always challenges, and the excitement and gratification of meeting the challenge is the reward of entrepreneurship.”

Williams says that she believes it is important for female business owners to develop strong teams that “buy into the mission of the firm.” She says it is critical to find good consultants, supportive peers and trusted mentors to “lead, push and sometimes kick you to succeed.” The development and maintenance of business contacts is also vital, as are patience, respect and trust.

In terms of mentoring and community service, Williams has spoken to various student groups and has been active in the New Expectations for Women in Mississippi group in Tupelo and has been involved on several community boards. She says that women in business want to achieve success, while being able to make a difference for their family, their community and future generations. “The reward,” Williams concluded, “is the ability to give back.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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