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Episode 184 Elevating Women in Building Materials with 84 Lumber’s Amy Smiley

Elevating Women in Building Materials with 84 Lumber’s Amy Smiley

How can our industry be more effective in adding — and elevating — women to our organizations? This week’s show is all about how building materials companies can grow and succeed in ways that bring in more women to the industry.

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Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov
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More About This Episode

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

This week, we welcome Amy Smiley, Vice President of Marketing for 84 Lumber. She talked about how manufacturers can help grow the industry by hiring and empowering more women in the workforce, and it’s a conversation we’re excited to have.

Welcoming More Women Into Construction

Amy Smiley has been with 84 Lumber for more than six years now, and she might be the company’s biggest fan. “I joined the company back in January of 2016,” she says. “Six wonderful years.” Amy is head of the marketing department for the globally recognized brand.

That means she handles public relations, events [and] community philanthropy, “anything that you associate marketing with, we handle it here out of 84 Pennsylvania, which is where we were founded in 1956 and where our team headquarters is located.”

The company has already had a digital presence for several years. “We were very fortunate that we laid that groundwork prior to the pandemic, but it's definitely shifted how we do business and how we market,” she said. “We learned so much during those times and obviously we're carrying that with us moving forward — and how we best plan for the future.”

Photo of Amy Smiley, 84 Lumber's VP of Marketing

And that future includes more women in building materials. “Well, 84 is already in a unique position in the industry already because we are owned by a woman,” says Amy.

In 1992, the company was taken over by its founder’s daughter, Maggie Hardy Knox. As the largest privately held building materials supplier in the States, they’re leading the way in empowering women in our industry.

“Already, we're set apart. It's been really great to see other women like myself taking on leadership roles,” says Amy. 84 Lumber has been recognized for the opportunities available to women in the company, and sharing that story is part of Amy’s role as a marketer.

“I think what we've really done is yes, obviously we love to share Maggie's story and how she's transformed our company and how we are just set up for the future, but also highlighting these women in these different positions that we do have,” she explains.

Using TikTok to Boost Your Brand

Part of how we grow our industry is by showcasing what working in building materials is like and what opportunities are available. Amy and the marketing team at 84 Lumber knew that digital media would help to amplify those messages — she turned to TikTok.

Screenshot of 84 Lumber Company’s TikTok video. There is a comment shown on the side of the image.

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“That's where you're reaching that next generation of potential associates. That's where they're spending a lot of their time, and they're seeing our name pop up and see that brand recognition,” says Amy. “I would say before TikTok, [I] would've been like, ‘Eh, our customer’s not really on there,’ — but the future of the company is on there.”

As a bonus, the video content created on TikTok can be used on Instagram, so 84 Lumber has a presence there, as well. They’ve done an impressive job of sharing industry stories, and we talked more with Amy about what kind of content and strategies work best.

  • Don’t underestimate going behind the scenes and telling personal stories. “We focus so much of our video content on sharing success stories, focusing on some of our stores, those operations,” she explains.

  • We’ve talked about it before, but working with influencers can help grow your presence in big ways. “We have more customers who are on TikTok, and we partnered with some social media influencers, and they're on TikTok. So, it's definitely building,” she says.

  • 84 Lumber took advantage of Women’s History month to help share stories about women in all types of businesses and to raise awareness through fundraising. “We've done different things where we've highlighted other women businesses,” she explains. “We've donated to specific organizations. We partnered with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and we gave away an EmpowerHER grant, which was $25,000.”

Spreading the word through social media has made a difference in 84 Lumber’s audience and in the industry today. “There's been more conferences and meetings [and] publications within our industry,” says Amy. “Whereas I would say maybe five, six years ago, it was not part of the agenda … I think it's definitely headed in the right direction.”

A Bright Future for Women in Building Materials

Photo of 84 Lumbers CEO, Maggie Hardy Knox

We’re thrilled about what’s ahead for women in the building industry, especially with amazing people like Amy leading the charge. “Obviously, it's going to take time — but you know, when you have brands like 84 [and] Anderson who really get on board and support it, I think the future is super bright.”

She knows there is work ahead for all of us, especially with the industry’s increasing labor issues. We talked about what manufacturers can do to bring in more women to their teams. “My vision is to continue to hire and retain and promote as many women as possible. I actually have an all-female team,” she says.

84 Lumber also trains its team members to be leaders in the industry and in the company, no matter which path they’re on. “The great thing about this industry as a whole is that there is such a wide variety, and I think continuing to showcase those stories is really what's going to make the difference,” explains Amy.

It’s important that women feel like the construction industry is a place where they are welcome and can grow in their careers. Beth, Venveo’s own CEO, explains that our industry has the potential to be “a place where they can be successful, a place where you are not a second choice.” We just have to keep the conversation going.

Want Even More Insight?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made up just 11% of the construction industry’s labor force in 2021.

But with stories and opportunities like 84 Lumber, we’re hopeful that number will grow. “You don't have to be this construction wizard,” explains Amy. There really is a place for everyone in the construction industry, with exciting roles and careers that offer everyone a chance at success.

Listen to the full interview with Amy Smiley for more insights on engaging more women in the building industry.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn, and be sure to check out what 84 Lumber is doing online.

Need more ideas to grow your brand and share your stories? Be sure to subscribe to Smarter Building Materials Marketing for more great strategies and tips.