BY ETHAN KAMINSKY
A pilot, a paver, and a planner — the winners of this year’s Women in Business Awards include a broad spectrum of enterprising Coachella Valley women. Palm Springs Life presents this second annual tribute to our desert’s most exemplary female leaders. Diverse as their achievements may be, all three awardees share a firm commitment to their community, the determination to give back, a strong belief in potential, an inquisitive spirit, a taste for innovation, and the courage to seek out the right resources yet follow their own way. Their stories are inspiring beacons of possibility for Coachella Valley women and their counterparts everywhere.
A panel of three judges chose candidates in three categories: Entrepreneur (started own business, profit, or nonprofit), Corporate Leader (founded nonprofit or profit), and Business Leader in the Community (made largest impact, change, and contribution in the community). Introducing this year’s awards as the event’s keynote speaker is Mariel Hemingway, brand ambassador of Cambria and celebrated actress, author, eco-activist, adventurer, and advocate of balanced and mindful living. A Renaissance woman with myriad accomplishments under her belt, she’s a fitting embodiment of the personal and professional best to which people everywhere — men and women — can aspire.
Corporate Leader: Charissa Farley
To call Charissa Farley active is an understatement. Awake at 4 a.m. for hot yoga, she keeps both a hard hat and cocktail dress in her Range Rover, as her life is equal parts construction and “schmoozing.” Owner of Farley Interlocking Paving, which installs exterior hardscapes, the highly social subcontractor has been dubbed the “queen of pavers” — which also describes her as a charitable fundraiser. Her calendar is packed from October to May; she’s served on the Desert Cancer Foundation board for nine years and has co-chaired its annual gala for four.
Farley markets a durable interlocking paving system that actually dates back to ancient Rome’s Appian Way. For her, work and civic commitment also interlock: “It’s good business to be a member of your community. It’s good business to show up.” She’s convinced local loyalty helped her rebound from the 2008 recession by “sticking to doing one thing well” and importing cutting-edge equipment.
In a traditionally male, hands-on field, seeking out research-based expertise makes her a path-paver as well. She tells her staff, “You don’t have to know all the answers, just where to get them. We don’t have to be perfect.”
The same goes for giving back: “It doesn’t matter how you help — just volunteer. I moved to this area not knowing anybody, so I went to organizations and said, ‘Pick me, that sounds fun. Tell me where to go and what to do.'”