Jodi van Haren, owner of Advantage Mechanical Refrigeration (AMR) began her entrepreneurial career at an early age. At 11 years old, she created fliers and passed them out in her neighborhood to offer her services of dog walking or babysitting, and also started selling candy out of her 6th-grade school locker around the same time.

She was drawn to the construction industry in large part due to her first job out of high school, working in the office of a mechanical contracting business. She began her first start-up company at 22 and found herself in the role of General Contractor when building her home four years later. In that role, she learned about other trades and contemplated starting a general contracting business, but ended up starting Advantage Mechanical Refrigeration with her now former husband instead.

In 2011, shortly after starting AMR, she recalled reading a business book and explained that it gave her the best career advice she’d ever heard, “when you are just starting out and are a very small company ‘act like a big company’. This means making sure your customers don’t feel like you are so small that you can’t handle their needs or are lacking the ability to give great services due to your size. However, as your company grows, be sure your customers feel as if they’re still dealing with a small company. Make sure you’re not such a ‘big business’ that clients feel they are not well taken care of.”

That business advice struck a chord with Jodi all those years ago, and she has never forgotten it. She believes that this is what makes AMR special. They have created a customer-focused culture and as they’ve grown, they are consistently striving towards making each customer feel like they’re the favorite, “because they are!”

Jodi’s first goal when beginning AMR was to make the business last the first five years, then make it to the ten-year mark. Advantage Mechanical Refrigeration has currently been in business for almost 20 years. It was at that point that Jodi van Haren realized that it was safe to say they were secure, and she could define her goals more explicitly and now has several short and long term goals for the business.

When asked what advice she would give to other women starting out in the construction industry, she said, “Believe in yourself and stick to your values, no matter what. Have confidence in your abilities and yourself. Be difficult to offend. Always do the right thing, and know that you will be problem-solving almost all of the time.”

By encouraging girls in high school, when they typically start thinking seriously about what they want to do to support themselves, Jodi believes that the trades should be presented, discussed, and showcased as a great option for a career.

“Careers in the trades should absolutely be marketed towards both girls and boys with more examples and images of women in construction. I can attest that it is rare for me to see women in my position in the construction industry – as a colleague or even as a customer – but the one that I have had the pleasure to work with are totally awesome and I think there should definitely be more of us.”

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