Women in business are smashing glass ceilings all across the country, and East County is no exception. Here at home, women are successfully climbing or building their own ladders in a variety of businesses. Three local ladies, Michelle Campos of Campos Vineyards, Jill Fister with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Debra Westlund with PrimeLending, are examples of hard work, dedication and professional ethics. Connected through friendship and work, these women share their stories, philosophies and backgrounds in this week’s special edition of Women in Business.
Michelle Campos is one of those people whose confidence in the possibilities of life is inspiring. She and her husband, Ric, bought and took over Campos Vineyards two years ago with no idea how to run a vineyard or make wine.
Still, they have managed to learn the ropes and make their venture a success. After running a thriving storm-water and environmental business out of Brentwood for two decades, Campos thought she and her husband were headed for retirement.
“My husband said we were going to ‘re-fire’ our lives here instead,” Campos joked. “I just love this community, the people, the families and the opportunity to make a difference in our community.”
After purchasing the property, Campos jumped into her role as general manager and visionary for the winery. She surrounded herself with a strong team and learned quickly how to run her tasting room, book events and make sure everyone went home happy.
“It was the scariest thing at first,” Campos admitted. “My role has been as general manager, but God has brought us the most amazing people, and it has been an amazing journey.”
Recently, Campos made the decision to have her daughter replace her as general manager in order to focus on community events. Having her business family-run and an integral part of the community is important to her. With her daughter there to oversee day-to-day operations, Campos is free to make her property a gathering place for events both big and small.
“I like to see the big picture – that’s really what my gift is,” Campos said. “And I feel so much more confident than I did two years ago ... We knew we wanted to make wine and name it after our grandchildren and do some special blends. Someone once told me that a winery without a story is just a winery. So, we tell our story.”
The Campos story includes great wines, a packed calendar and a crowded tasting room. When she isn’t running the winery, Campos prefers to spend time with her loved ones.
Campos credits her achievements not just to herself but to her team. She also said she never let her gender hinder her.
“I believe that God created us to be creative and gave us gifts,” she explained. “Realize what your (gifts) are and go for it ... Seize that opportunity.”
Campos Vineyards is located at 3501 Byer Road, in Byron. For more information, visit www.camposfamilyvineyards.com or call 925-308-7963.
Jill Fister is a real estate force to be reckoned with.
Hard work and perseverance have earned her the appreciation and trust of her clients. Born and raised in East County, she is an award-winning realtor who has worked her way to the top of her field. And as a Brentwood resident, Fister loves living and working in her hometown.
“I love that East County is my home,” said Fister. “I grew up here, know the area well and have many longtime friends and acquaintances.”
Fister got into real estate out of curiosity. She thought it seemed interesting, so she obtained her real estate license and never looked back. One of her favorite things about her work is solving problems.
“There’s plenty of that in real estate,” Fister joked. “Creating that clear pathway to get each client with their specific needs and wants through the tedious process of buying or selling a home to their goal thrills me.”
Fister believes that real estate has allowed her to utilize her ambitious and enthusiastic ‘type A’ personality – being highly organized and aware of time management.
“It has taught me about that daily stuff – those responsibilities that most folks want to rush, avoid or just get through to get on with bigger and better things of life,” she said.
During her 18 years of helping clients buy and sell their homes, Fister has learned a thing or two. One of her favorite sayings is, ‘Surprises are for birthdays, not moving day.’
She has been with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties since 2015.
“I became impressed with the leadership standards that Warren Buffet, founder, and the culture our president and owner Gretchen Pearson have created,” Fister explained. “Additionally, I simply adore the wisdom, support and heart of my Brentwood managing broker, Dan Barnes. Dan was the catalyst for my decision to make the move to his team.”
She and her husband of 30 years, Darin, have raised two children in East County. Fister said she feels very blessed to be the mother of two such kind, ethical and hardworking individuals.
“My advice for success to anyone in business is ‘show up,’” Fister said. “The successful person has made a quality habit of doing the things that failures can’t be bothered with or don’t feel like doing. Successful people don’t necessarily enjoy doing them either, but their disliking is subordinate to the strength of their purpose.”
Fister can be reached at 925-634-3200 or at www.thelistinglady.com.
Debra Westlund is a home loan professional who has served the residents of East County for nearly four decades. With her start as an escrow officer where she later transitioned successfully into the mortgage industry, Westlund’s longevity in the business has given her a unique set of skills.
“My experience gives me a well-rounded background and knowledge to serve my clients well in 38 states while working for PrimeLending who offers service in 50 states,” said Westlund, who is the production manager at PrimeLending. “I have assisted families with (both) purchasing and building their dream home or facilitating a refinance for an existing homeowner.”
Westlund’s passion for the industry stems from a deep-seated interest in helping individuals and families make their dreams come true.
“It’s a two-fold kind of thing,” she said. “It’s service before oneself. So I think that my calling is that I really enjoy homeownership and blessing people with that first big major purchase in their life.”
Life in East County with her husband, their five children and eight grandchildren has provided Westlund with deep roots, and giving back to the community is one of her top priorities. A member of the Rotary Club of Brentwood and the Women’s Council of Realtors, she also supports many of the local real estate associations in their community efforts and was recently instrumental in coordinating a senior’s tea party at Trilogy.
“I try to stay involved, I go out and help the Rotary with flipping pancakes and hot dogs to facilitate their functions – whatever I can do to help,” said Westlund. “Service and giving back are so important.”
Westlund believes her drive and passion set her apart from other loan officers in the area. She also gives credit to the people she works with.
“I’ve aligned myself with a wonderful team,” she said. “They have been great. And I would say to any woman, stay true to yourself and what your goals are and what your passion is. That will let everything fall into place for you.”
For more information, contact Debra Westlund at 925-783-2052 or visit https://lo.primelending.com/debra.westlund.