There are some people who do excellent work but really don’t want to be leaders; they would rather follow. That’s not Valerie Steele. Not only does she want to control her own destiny, she’s done a pretty good job at it throughout the years.
Steele was born in Leadville, Colorado. When she was quite young, her family moved to Albuquerque, where she grew up. Her father was a chef and her mother was in restaurant management.
While she was in high school, she met a guy. They dated for a while and when she graduated, he convinced her to move to New Jersey, where they married a few years later. Steele attended Morris College, eventually receiving her degree in Business Administration.
While attending college, Steele began working for a trade show display company and quickly moved up the ladder to become general manager of the New York and New Jersey operations. After a few years, she changed her career and took an upper management position with a document filming company. She loved the opportunity and really got into the job, learning skills along the way.
“The best way to learn a business is to work for a small company,” said Steele. “You can learn from the ground up.” It seemed that business skills came easy to her. After working there for a few years, she left and formed her own document imaging company.
Steele lived in New Jersey for 12 years. When her marriage didn’t work out as she had anticipated, she sold her company and moved back to Albuquerque to be close to family and friends. Not one to sit around and do nothing, Steele began to think about which path she should take to start up a new business in the Southwest. Her intentions were to continue in her own business and not work for anyone else.
Around the same time, she met Chic Kelty, who was running a successful pond distribution business, International Pond Supply. He was also looking into developing his own line of products. Reluctantly, Steele signed on with Kelty as operations manager and to assist with the new development of products.
It soon became evident that not only was there a new line of products to develop but also a new manufacturing company to build— Savio Engineering, Inc. Steele found the water gardening industry very interesting, and developing a new line of products very exciting. It held her interest longer than she anticipated (nine years longer!). Along the way, Kelty promoted her to vice president.
Kelty is a pilot and loves to fly.
With Steele competently running the business end of the business, he would fly to visit and set up various distributors. Within a relatively short period of time, Steele was made president.
So how did she become a top executive at a water gardening company? Steele says that she was hired because of her knowledge of business management and operations. “I knew nothing about water gardening,” Steele remarked. “To me, a pond was a little plastic container that you bought from Home Depot.”
Five years after she joined the company, she met Keith. Among other things they had in common was that they both worked for Savio. He was handling the financial end of the business, and love struck. They have been married for three years and are hoping to have children, to raise a family.
In January of 2009, Kelty decided to explore other opportunities.
He decided he would sell the company, so Steele made an offer to purchase it. The offer was accepted, and she is now the proud owner of Savio Engineering.
Like the former owner of Savio, Steele too enjoys flying. Even though her new responsibilities as owner of Savio prevent her from spending much time in the air, flying is still a big passion for her.
She also enjoys being with her family. “I have a huge extended family,” Steele laughed. “Between spending time with them and running the company, I barely have time for anything else.”
The year 2009 was not the best time to go into the pond and waterscape business. However, after running Savio for nine years, Steele is confident she has built the company on a solid foundation.
“The road ahead is going to be difficult,” Steele said. “But Savio will make it through the hard times that are upon us, and will be a better company in the end.”
There are many obstacles she will have to hurdle, of course the main one being the economic climate. Steele will have to be creative in marketing Savio products and reaching out to more clientele while retaining those clients they already have.
Steele has been a leader all her life. Now, at Savio Engineering, she plans to use her leadership and management abilities to build her company’s success. Her goal is to ensure that Savio will continue in a leadership position and continue to operate as an efficient machine.
Valerie Steele is a born leader.