Lives in: Cornelius
Family: husband, Randolph Lewis; children, Ia, 3,
Abigail Jennings didn’t intend to work for Lake Norman Realty, a company her father started in 1978.
Raised in a family of real estate agents, she studied fine arts at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
But after graduation in 1990, she found it difficult to find a job, so she reluctantly took a part-time job under her father’s wing, “doing all of the things no one else wanted to do,” she said.
Today, she’s the company’s president.
“This is an example of ‘never say never,’” she said. “Now, I love what I do.”
She had worked at her father’s company before, during summer breaks from junior and high school, but this time was different: Her father, who died in 1999, was training her to step into his shoes.
“I didn’t know that I would be heading the company,” Jennings said. “It was quite a big charge for me.”
She was 30 years old when she became the company’s president.
Being in charge doesn’t mean she’s abandoned her artistic side, though.
“Having a creative background helps you think outside of the box, which is what you really need to do (to be successful),” she said.
Further, leadership and other skills “ aren’t really learned in college,” she said. “Those are life lessons.”
Instead of telling her staff and sales associates what to do or how to react when the Great Recession bore down on the real estate market in the Lake Norman area, she asked them what they wanted and then implemented their suggestions, she said.
For one, the group decided that the company no longer needed a receptionist, but they wanted more online marketing, she said.
“It wasn’t all about cutting,” she said. “It was about creating a new vision for a new normal.”
Reimagining the oldest realty company in the Lake Norman area isn’t her only creative endeavor. She continues to garden and create and display her art at showings. She also has created a nonprofit, Lucky Cat, that helps feral cats get spayed or neutered, and she’s involved in historic preservation efforts in Iredell County (her home was built in 1897).
When imagining how she’d advise her two daughters, she says she’d tell them to dream big and work hard.
“The world is wide open. You’ve just got to go for it.”