My name is Andrea Graham, I am an Alaskan. Born and raised in the true Alaskan “can-do” spirit, I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to express my entrepreneurism from the time I was a small child. I believe my first business plan was officially transcribed in first grade and involved all of my neighbors, newspapers, and some very patient parents.
As many Alaskan born go through, I to went through the “I have to get out of Alaska, NOW!” phase- and, I did. I moved to New York, I moved to Hawaii, and I even moved to Colorado. I am very happy to call Alaska home once again for many reasons, but the “can-do” and the crazy “well, why not?” attitudes towards business and entrepreneurship rank as one of my favorite reasons.
Business in Alaska is different. Yes, its cold, its dark, and a lot of people are a little bit insane. But, we have community; we have a network, and we help each other; – I use to describe Alaska to my outside friends like that really secret club you know exists but you have to be a member of to get any information. We are like that. I came home to be close to people that I love and because I believe Alaska is a place with a growing future in International Business. I am looking forward to being part of it.
What projects are you currently working on?
Anyone who knows me, knows the question is what am I not working on? Again, I thank Alaska for the curiosity I was born with and my drive to do and want more always. Business wise, today I am proud to have three businesses licensed in Alaska. In 2012 with the assistance of a lifelong friend, Alicia Busick, my dream of opening an online women’s wellness company became a reality with Lolihanna, Inc. In 2013 alongside my husband, Chad Graham, I co-founded Graham Commercial Real Estate; a full service commercial real estate firm that offers entrepreneurial service with corporate results. In December 2014 a few of my closest friends and I celebrated being incorporated, and in January 2015 the official opening of Commercial Content, Inc., a content generation and blogging service for brokers across the United States.
Business aside, I have a few near and dear to my heart projects that I am working on with members in our community. One project that I’ll name is the Belize School. A trip to Belize at the end of last year left me both loving the country and with my heart hurting for the children, and scared for the country’s future. One of my personal projects is to build a lottery style school in the next 15 months, offering free education to children. I could elaborate here paragraph after paragraph, but instead if your interested in helping please get in touch with me. I’m also finishing up my first book, set to e-publish this fall.
How do you view the work environment for women in Alaska?
The best part is that we are a strong community here in Alaska and we help each other. We all know each other, or someone who knows someone who knows you, or your cousin. Alaskan businesses tend to look at how things affect the business community as a whole rather than just their business.
Speaking on the work environment for women specifically, I will say what no one else wants to. Yes, in Alaska it is still harder for women to break into what have been predominantly “men dominated” industries. This is an issue that exists in many places- but we see this more in remote areas such as Alaska, Hawaii and we see this in the South often. In cities where the infrastructure has been laid for gender equality in all industries you see more affordable childcare options and often employer offered options. Flex work schedules, or remote set ups are also common. I feel from my personal experience in Alaska that there are quite a few old boy club networks to break through. But, that is not representative of all of Alaska and I am starting to see some progress in the right direction. Like most change, it will just take time.
What words of advice do you have for those women in Alaska that are trying to make their mark in the work place?
Honesty is key- female or male. In Alaska, you can’t BS who you are or what you are up to. Never, ever assume you know everything or everyone for that matter. Move your pride on over, and be humble; you will learn so much. Find just one female mentor who inspires you to do better, to be more and check in with her at least once a week. Lastly, as a woman in the work place, understand there will be good days, there will be bad days; you will get frustrated, and you will want to give up- know that right before you are about to succeed is usually when that feeling of wanting to give up creeps in. JUST HOLD ON, YOU GOT THIS!