In a male-dominated industry, Nicole Newkirk has made research and knowledge her secret weapon. She says she makes a point to be knowledgeable about construction methods and not only focus on design: “I want to be respected without changing the way I present myself,” she says, adding that she’s struggled throughout the years with people wanting her to downplay her ‘look’ to earn respect. “I’ve had customers initially judge me based on my appearance, and numerous employees and subcontractors disrespect and try to financially take advantage of me,” she says. “It has pushed me to research and really study the industry and market, and helped make me stand up for myself in difficult situations.”
Newkirk was working for a defense attorney in 2007, but realized she had a passion for design. She took online certifications, taught herself CAD and started Artistic Group, which specialized in building custom outdoor living spaces. When she met her now-fiancé, Chip Unnerstall, and his business partner, Chandler Rinderer, she subcontracted the swimming pool portion of her projects to the pair.
“We eventually decided to join forces and all work together,” Newkirk says. She helped the two expand their business into shotcrete pools, hardscaping, masonry and landscaping, and now manages the office, designs and helps with sales. Unnerstall and Rinderer finalize sales, and manage the employees and job sites. “We make a great team,” Newkirk says, “and our company, Oasis Pools, has grown tremendously over the past few years.”
In addition to starting a plastering division at Oasis and working to create a showroom, Newkirk also wants to start a staging company, using her experience staging outdoor projects and taking it indoors.
“I love the gratification of seeing how much our customers enjoy the space I’ve helped them create,” Newkirk says. “The before/after is always so rewarding to see it all come together in the end.”