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Title: An Interview with Candus Stewart
Project: Lakeland Oral History Project
Interviewee: Mrs. Candus Stewart
Interviewer: Heather Stewart
Location: Heather Stewart's grandparent's house in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Date: March 22nd, 2008
Length of interview: 28 minutes, 6 pages
Name Index: Candus Stewart, Heather Stewart.
Abstract: An oral history interview with Mrs. Candus Stewart concerning her experiences as a businesswoman in the 21st century.
Introduction: This interview was conducted by Lakeland College student Heather Stewart as an assignment for Rick Dodgson's HIS 400 Practicum in History Class. The interview focuses on the business career of Candus Stewart, mother of interviewee, Heather Stewart. The transcript of this interview has been edited for easier reading. All verbal hesitations, stutters and false starts have been deleted. Certain questions and answers unrelated to the focus of this interview have also been edited out.
An Interview with Mrs. Candus Stewart
Ms. Heather Stewart: My name is Heather Stewart. I'm a junior at Lakeland College. I am a biology major with a history minor. I work in the Bradley Theater at Lakeland College. I come from California and I have two sisters and I'm interviewing my mom and this is a little about my mom.
Mrs. Candus Stewart: I am Candus Stewart. I was born in Wisconsin I grew up in various countries because of my father being a military person. I graduated in California from high school and took some college classes. I married in California and have three daughters, two of them are in college and one is in high school.
Ms. Stewart: What was your first job?
Mrs. Stewart: My first job I worked in a uniform place in a mall. For part time with two elderly ladies who taught me a lot of stuff with regards to the medical uniforms; what they all needed, stethoscopes and stuff like that. It was a part time job while I was going to college.
Ms. Stewart: What was the job you had when you got out of high school? Did you go to college?
Mrs. Stewart: My next job after the uniform job was for a paving contractor. Where I worked for eighteen years in the accounting department where I started out it was just supposed to be part time accounts receivables person and ended up doing all of the accounting functions took and did that for sixteen years because the first two years were a training process at that point ended up leaving them because I wasn't really getting ahead. It was kind of scary because of being in a job for one place for so long and ended up trying to start my own company doing accounting consulting. Then found another job doing consulting where I am now still working where I they hired me on after two years of consulting. Which at this point and time I am the owner of that company. It is an electrical repair company where I have learned many, many things and I enjoy it.
[Deleted a question because it was a rephrase of the previous question]
Ms. Stewart: When you left there did you know where you were going afterwards?
Mrs. Stewart: No. I had no idea because it was a good thing because my husband ended up having a heart attack, and I was eligible to stay home and take care of him and watch my children grow up. Where when I was working at the paving company I was putting in anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day I was away from home because it was taking an hour each way driving were sometimes there's an old saying that when one door closes another door opens and I really believe that that's true and I believe that if you're not happy with your job then there is always a place that there is a job that is for you.
Ms. Stewart: How did you get hired onto this job that you have now how did it start out?
Mrs. Stewart: I had a neighbor that was up the street that was friends with my husband that introduced us, and he at the time needed someone to take care of his bookkeeping and ended up going up there and interviewing and he couldn't hire me on but he took me on as a consultant. I took the position and ended up doing all of the work which was not only the accounting but packing parts up, labeling parts and receiving parts in. Pretty much what this is a very small company so it's not big company were everyone has their own jobs pretty much one person does everything from the time the part comes in to the part goes out. I've learned all the basics and it's very interesting and I enjoy it still.
Ms. Stewart: How long did it take you to learn this?
Mrs. Stewart: The accounting part was very easy the parts to learn what goes on breakers and stuff like that was where it took a little time, but I had a lot of help from we have reps [representatives] that help us out by selling our parts. The vendors that sell the items to me helped out a lot saying what they're for, how they're used, and I had a lot of help from a lot of people in the office too.
Ms. Stewart: Was going from your first company to your second company difficult?
Mrs. Stewart: No. It was different from paving streets to electrical utilities it's a little different but the concept is the same. You just have to learn what your items are, what you sell, and get to know the people. If you get to know the people the people will talk to you. You can't be a snob and think you know it all and you give them the opportunity to explain things and you listen then you can learn every day.
Ms. Stewart: Did you know when you got hired that you would be owning the company?
Mrs. Stewart: There was talk about that after I was hired that there was the possibility because the original owner was not located in California, so I was handling the California branch of this type of company. We had talked about it and he'd given me the option and a year and a half ago I had decided it was time.
Ms. Stewart: Where do you expect the company to go from here?
Mrs. Stewart: I'm not expecting it to make millions. I'm looking to be able to help the utility companies out, which is what I find enjoyable, which is talking to them and make a suitable living for when I retire and hope to pass it on to somebody that would like this job.
Ms. Stewart: How do you want to go in this business?
Mrs. Stewart: In this business you know I'm getting a lot more people that are needing parts that I supply in, specialize in and it's kind of getting exciting cause I don't have a lot of internet access to do a lot of this I do have a website, but a lot of mine is done but a lot of guys out in the field; which means if I have more people talking about me then the more jobs I'm getting which is what is happening. So it looks like it's going to grow pretty good as long as I keep up the nice rapport, the on time deliveries, the stuff they are wanting is very good quality. I believe the job can go on for many, many more years.
[Deleted a question because it did not relate to the topic]
Ms. Stewart: Can you tell where the business started out and where it is at now?
Mrs. Stewart: This company was formed in 1981 by a guy that had worked for the utility companies and he retired out of it. He just wanted to start up a little business to make a little extra money and went to the utilities company and said 'hey I can go ahead and make you these parts cheaper and they work better and more efficient than some of the people you are getting them from now.' A lot of utility companies are huge so they need to have more than one vender to be able to supply these parts they are looking for, so they hired him on. He, at that time, had sold the company when he decided to retire he sold it to two other gentlemen. One was a CPA and the other one was an engineer who had the idea that it would be a good side job. At that time they had hired on one of their sons and decided that he would run the business and apparently it really wasn't working out for the best of interest so they decided to sell the company again. At that time there was an out of state person that decided to buy the company but this person was really just purchasing the company for the books. Not for the accounting books but for the instruction books of old breakers. He came out did a little interview and decided maybe I could run the company out here.
Ms. Stewart: Here as in California here?
Mrs. Stewart: Here in California. He at that time decided to go ahead and try it and I've been working there since, and a year and a half ago he had decided that he had wanted to retire and not do so much in this type of a business, so he gave me the option to purchase the company which I did.
Ms. Stewart: With the possible recession that's going to happen; how do you think it's going to affect your company?
Mrs. Stewart: What kind of a recession? As price wise? You still need your electricity. These guys still need to keep you in electric stuff. They can't afford not to purchase the parts when the parts are broken. I mean they're not going to purchase as much so they have it in stock so that gives me the opportunity that I better have it in stock for them on hand because they're not eligible to do it.
Ms. Stewart: Before you purchased the company was there a difference in gender in owning the company?
Mrs. Stewart: There is an advantage of being a woman owned business. There are big companies that I don't deal a lot with the purchasing department what they call bidding on jobs, which means there are several companies to bid on this one particular item that there looking for. Some companies that are big; there is one in particular in California that has to meet a minority quota. Me being a woman owned business how it works with this one particular company is that; say I bid a hundred dollars on this one item and Mr. Brown bids ninety five dollars he will not get the job because I am a woman owned business; a minority. On his bid they will take ten percent which would be nine dollars and knock it off my bid, so my hundred minus the nine dollars makes me bidding at ninety one which is under his bid so I now become the lowest bidder, but I will still get paid my hundred dollars because they have to meet a minority quota. It's kind of tacky but that's what the rules are in some of the companies.
Ms. Stewart: So you think this business will do better because a woman owns it?
Mrs. Stewart: Not necessarily it's only if you do business with big companies. If you're doing it out in the little utility companies and the men in the field working on the parts they don't care they want the parts. They don't care if your male, female, black, white, Hispanic they don't care. It's the big corporations that have to meet what they call a standard minority balance are the ones that would be an advantage to me, but I can't always quote those do the fact that they want huge quantizes, and I don't deal with huge, huge quantizes. Also to a lot of companies now days they want you to purchase a minimum balance you know like they want you to purchase a hundred and it has to be a hundred. Whereas my company is still were you need one part little o-ring I will sale you that one little o-ring. I may have to purchase them but at least I'll have them on hand for you.[Question and answer was deleted because it did not relate to the topic]
Ms. Stewart: Do you have employees and do they feel gender wise?
Mrs. Stewart: At this point I have two employees. I have a female and I have a male. The male person at this moment he's a little bit older than me and in the electrical utilities no matter how old I think you get that there are still men that feel that woman are not capable of owning or knowing this. He's come around and we get along and as long as I feel you can get along with your employees and they get along with you then your company can grow.
Ms. Stewart: Due the fact that you do business all over the states do you find anything unusual or interesting about different companies from different places?
Mrs. Stewart: There is because of me moving around because of a military person you get used to understanding languages as far as their dialogs you get to hear in their tone of voice their attitudes you can pretty much tell when they start talking how they're going to treat you, so you kind of go with it and you ease into it because a lot of these guys are a lot woman orientated and actually I've blown out some of these guys from the water because of knowing exactly what I have known and they could not believe it. Which makes you feel really good, because at that point you know exactly what you are saying and it's a nice, nice feeling, but to know what is different from each state they're all looking for parts to repair the kits they don't care where they are getting from as long as they can possibly get it because when they're calling me; their unit is down which means they need to get it repaired fast and if I can help them I can get more service because that's where the word of mouth comes into effect. Because not only does that company know me they have friends in other utility companies. They go 'oh go with Candy she knows where it's at and she can probably have it.' There's your word of mouth because a lot of these utility companies for instance when a hurricane hits or a storm hits it's not just the utility company that's working on the repairs. It's just like a fire or when a disaster happens you got firefighters, you got utilities call over the United States going to help these people. So you're not only have just one person because all these of all of them they have word of mouth and they help each other out in all the utility companies.
Ms. Stewart: Do you think that going back in time that this company would have existed with a female ownership let's say a hundred years ago?
Mrs. Stewart: No. When I first started working in this company the guys in the field didn't even want to talk with me because I was a woman and even some of them even said that. But since the years I have been working with them, these guys know me and they have no problem with me because they know what I'm talking about. It takes a while, but you kind of go with the flow and you work in there with them. You don't give them the option of not talking with you. You talk with them, you explain, and you let them explain.
Ms. Stewart: In your first job did you have any of this kind of conflict too.
Mrs. Stewart: Yes. Paving contractors a woman is not allowed to estimate. She was not allowed to be an estimator. She can do accounting, secretary, answering phones that type of stuff. Most of my jobs have been … well I only had three jobs … but the last two jobs I have had were pretty much men orientated businesses and I have overcome them and I know how to work the system and as long as you can give and take you can make it.
Ms. Stewart: How does that make you feel?
Mrs. Stewart: How does it make me feel as a woman? It makes me feel proud because I know that my daughters will grow up to be able to do the same thing.
Ms. Stewart: What do you think your children think of it?
Mrs. Stewart: Well I believe that if they see me work the way I do and know that a woman can do it and I have done it. I believe and I have tried to raise my children that they can do anything they put and set their minds too and that's what their father also tells them too. We're equals whether you're male or female you should be able to do the same positions. Sometimes it may take a little longer on a woman, but then again on a man's part too they can't do everything a woman does. So you need men and women in this world.