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Power Women

Trailblazers in the pool industry


Covington, Louisiana

Four remarkable women stand out as trailblazers on the POOLCORP leadership team, each bringing expertise and passion to their roles. Together, these women — Kendall Large, Donna Williams, Melanie Hart and Jenn Neil — exemplify the spirit of leadership, empowerment and dedication, shaping the landscape of the pool industry for years to come.

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Kendall Large

Vice president, marketing

Of POOLCORP’s four power women, Kendall Large is the newest addition to the company.

After college, a mentor advised her to work in a place where she could get a variety of experiences. The fast-paced world of an agency was the right place for the start of her career, and Large took on roles from branding, market research and data analytics to strategy, government relations and public relations. She found she loved working in areas that had the potential for change. 

“I really liked the automotive [sector] and financial services because they were traditionally antiquated industries that were primed for disruption and innovation,” she says.

She soon seized an opportunity to work for New York Life in a marketing department that was “blazing trails” in her eyes, where she honed her skills for nearly a decade.

When the pandemic struck, it reshaped her industry and led to burnout. In January 2021, she was approached by a recruiter about an opportunity to work for Pinch A Penny, a retail pool supply and service company.

“The thing that drew me to it was the opportunity to work with an independent franchisee — not only building the Pinch A Penny brand but working for the independents and helping them grow their business,” she says.

Within a year of Large joining, Pinch A Penny was acquired by POOLCORP, leading to her current role as vice president, marketing for all of POOLCORP. 

Large says she loves supporting people in the field as they care for pools and customers. 

“In marketing, we are always at the intersection of everything — products, data, technology,” she says. “I love developing customer programs that are going to drive value.”

She is honored to be part of the POOLCORP team, calling her colleagues a “spectacular group of women.”

“We’ve got varying skill sets and styles, and each of us work really well in this industry in different ways,” she says. “But it’s not just the POOLCORP leadership group. You look at the female business owners, service associates, builders, office managers, marketers — each of them plays such a big role in this industry.”

Large credits other strong women and mentors in her life for paving the way, beginning with her mother.  

“My mom was the CEO of a major nonprofit,” she says. “I saw how hard she worked and how important she was. That’s what I wanted my destiny to be. I always knew I wanted to be in a leadership role.”

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Donna Williams

Vice president, product management

Before accepting a position with POOLCORP in 2007, Donna Williams had worked in the lawn and garden industry as well as the HVAC industry. When she started with POOLCORP, she made it a priority to learn as much as possible about the field. 

“Because I had originally worked in operations and manufacturing, I was very comfortable in warehouses,” Williams says. “I loved [knowing] what was going on at the field level to understand customers and what they go through on a daily basis.”

Williams enjoys being in the middle of the action as part of the distribution world. 

“In distribution, we’re pulling it together,” she explains. “We’re the ones bringing in the product from the manufacturers and trying to get all of that right in the inventory and then getting it to our customers who ultimately get it to the consumer.”

The customer experience is something she emphasizes to her product management team, as well, working not just to develop them but teaching them how to help customers and others in the industry. 

“I really enjoy my team,” she says. “They are experts in their field and are passionate about their product lines and what they do. They bring their expertise every single day into this world.”

Industry education and collaboration is key for Williams; she has been involved with the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance for several years — she was chairman of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals when it merged with the National Swimming Pool Foundation to create the PHTA — and currently serves as the chair-elect on the PHTA board of directors. 

“Bringing those two organizations together was really good for our industry,” she says. “I try to be a good advocate to help people understand that we need our association and we all need to work together. You can’t do some of these things all on your own.” 

Williams is a cheerleader for all in the industry, but she has a soft spot for women taking on service and maintenance roles. 

“Women running pool crews, working on a pool pump or taking care of pools … I find that so gratifying,” she says. “They’re the ones who are revolutionary.”

No matter the role, Williams believes everyone can elevate one another and reminds all in the industry to remember the fun things. 

“I have a passion for this industry,” she says. “I always say, even on a bad day, it’s still swimming pools. We’re making people happy.”

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Melanie Hart

Vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer

Melanie Hart wasn’t planning on being in the pool industry, but it drew her in regardless. 

After being with POOLCORP for nearly two decades, Hart has seen changes within the company as the industry grows, and she loves what she sees. 

“Even early on as a public company, POOLCORP showed a strong history of organic growth,” she says. “Being part of an industry that builds upon itself, as the installed pool base gets larger each year, provided an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing expansion of a terrific industry.”

As the CFO, Hart is responsible for all aspects of the company’s financial operations. On a day-to-day basis, she represents the company to external stakeholders such as investors and analysts, and she handles banking and audit relationships. But Hart says she also has internal customers. 

“Everyone within the company is my customer,” she says. “My team and those across the entire organization have a winning mindset. They show up every day and focus on doing better than they did yesterday and strive to provide the best service, whether they are serving internal or external customers. As the industry grows, we all get to expand our responsibilities and spread our reach.”

To be as effective and efficient as possible, Hart says inclusivity is essential.

“We as a company have done a really good job of understanding that diversity within our workforce is important to be able to bring unique and innovative ideas,” she says. 

Hart also emphasizes the necessity of goals in driving professional growth. 

“I always have goals,” she says. “I’m always striving for my professional best and ways that I can make myself better. I’m looking for the ability to continue to enhance my skills.”

Hart remains enthusiastic about the industry, and she’s passionate about getting the word out to bring in more talent. 

“With over 6,000 employees and growing, POOLCORP continues to provide increasing opportunities for our current employees, as well as attracting those new to the industry,” she says. “The wide mix of both field and support teams across a broad geographic presence, coupled with our robust history of promoting from within, shows that the opportunity for education and growth, supported by our internal resources including our WIN (women in leadership) network, provides support and solutions to advance in your career.”

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Jenn Neil 

Senior vice president, secretary and chief legal officer

Before POOLCORP, the only experience Jenn Neil had in the pool industry was working as a lifeguard in her youth. After attending Tulane Law School, Neil worked for the Skadden law firm in Manhattan before returning to New Orleans. When a general counsel position at POOLCORP opened, she felt it was the right fit, especially with her background in SEC transactional work, commercial litigation, employment and real estate work. She accepted the job, and more than 20 years later, remains with the company.  

“It’s such a unique organization,” Neil says of POOLCORP. “I’m not just ‘the lawyer.’ I’m able to work in the field and build those relationships. I try to meet with our customers and understand what their challenges are … being proactive so we can make their businesses more productive, stronger and better.”

To Neil, a measure of success in her role, especially as a woman, is having the confidence to make decisions. 

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“Whether there’s an issue in my area or somewhere else inside of the organization, [I want to be] in a position to gather all the facts and information and have the confidence to make the decision that’s the right decision for the organization and not look back,” she says.

Neil also gives credit to POOLCORP’s leadership team for building a culture where women leaders are valued and respected. 

“Our general managers and leadership team don’t hesitate to call me to ask advice,” she says. “We’ve built that level of trust.”

Neil hopes to be part of the tradition at POOLCORP that identifies women within the organization and helps them grow. 

“Because there aren’t a lot of females in the industry, [I can use] my position to reach out to those who have a question or want to develop and support them, congratulating them and helping them build that confidence,” she says.

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Kim Langley 

owner, Tried & True Pool Company | Lancaster, South Carolina

In 2017, baseball brought Kim Langley a new career opportunity. After working as a waitress for several years, she needed a job with a schedule that would work for her family, as her oldest son kept them busy traveling for baseball. When she posted on Facebook, a friend reached out and asked if she minded working outside. 

“If [being outside] was my idea, I was OK with it,” she recalls. “But for you to tell me, ‘Oh, we’re going to go outside and do yard work,’ — it wasn’t for me.”

After expressing her uncertainty, her friend countered with, “Well, you get paid to get tan.” And that sealed the deal. 

The job was with a pool service company, and for a while, Langley struggled, but her husband encouraged her to stick it out. She started to learn the ropes, but when she noticed gaps in the training she received, she voiced her concern to the owner. 

“I said, ‘I’m really enjoying this, but I feel like there’s more to it than just this cheat sheet you’ve given me to ride around with,’ ” she recalls. 

The owners were pleased with Langley, saying they saw potential in her, especially because no other employee had ever asked for more training. That conversation was the catalyst for Langley to be sent to classes, and in less than a year, she took over the lead technician role and became operations manager a few years later.

After some company ownership changes and feeling she was maxing out in her position, a boss recommended she consider starting her own company, which led to the founding of Tried & True Pool Company around two years ago. Langley calls Tried & True a family-based business, as her crew currently consists of her husband, two sons, father-in-law and a son’s girlfriend. As a small-business owner, she is committed to providing quality service but taking things day by day. 

“I will not grow any faster than what I can handle,” she says. “I will not bite off more than I can chew; at some point, you lose quality. I want to not only talk the talk but walk the walk and be able to build relationships with our clients.”

She is also committed to personal growth, knowing education and raising the bar can help make the industry better, especially for women. 

“I’ve gone toe to toe with men in this industry — never to be the one that’s always right but to explain my thought process,” she says. “And if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But I think women are getting more respect in this industry. The walls are slowly starting to be broken down because women are showing up and showing out. Women have an eye for detail; they’re seeing things that are overlooked.”

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Tracy Bond 

owner, Great Valley Pool Service | Frazer, Pennsylvania

Tracy Bond worked in corporate finance for more than two decades when her company was downsized. The company brought in resources to help people find new jobs; one was a business broker who, rather than representing sellers, represented buyers and helped them find suitable businesses for sale, even if not currently on the market. This piqued Bond’s interest. 

“I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to work for myself, but I never had enough nerve to do it,” she says. “[Losing] my job kind of pushed me to do that.”

After narrowing down the types of industries she wanted to be in, along with other preferences, the broker presented her with options. Nothing stuck until the broker brought her a good business with great cash flow; however, it was a bit outside her geographical preferences. Upon reviewing the books and company details, Bond decided she could live with the distance. 

“I’ve been commuting my whole life,” she says. “What’s another 10 to 20 more years for my own business?”

After meeting and hitting it off with the owners of Great Valley Pool Service, a company in Frazer, Pennsylvania, providing pool service and maintenance, Bond closed on the purchase in July 2014. At the time, Bond had been a pool owner for 25 years, so she felt attuned to what customers wanted and knew her financial background would help as well.  

“My experience was in financial planning, analysis and budgeting,” she says. “This was a good meshing of my skill set.” 

With some tweaks, Bond made Great Valley Pool, already a well-run business, even more successful and efficient. 

Along with the success, there have been some challenges. 

“There’s always the [issue of] establishing credibility because you don’t have 20 or 30 years of experience,” she says. “It is hard to make up for 30 years of industry knowledge. But I’ve really taken the bull by the horns.”

Bond makes time to educate herself through webinars, meetings, articles and more. She also brought in her brother to help with the operations side of the business, which has helped gain the trust and respect of the team, something that Bond tries to give back to her employees. 

One way she does this is by diversifying the business’s offerings, enabling employees to work the majority of the year instead of being laid off during the winter. To allow this, Great Valley Pool bolstered its awning sales, branched into holiday decorating and even opened a Christmas shop in the retail store.

“It’s not a big moneymaker, but it keeps our store staff busy and employed all winter,” Bond says. “It’s something nice and different, and the store smells like pine needles instead of chlorine.”

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Christen Mogavero Schmitt

Vice president of sales, Anchor Industries | Evansville, Indiana

Some can say they got in the pool industry to carry on the family business or tradition, but not many can say they are 5th generation. Christen Mogavero Schmitt is the vice president of sales for Anchor Industries, a company started by her great-great-grandfather in 1892 as a riverboat supply business. 

Though times have changed, the company still manufactures some of the same products it did then, like awnings. Now, Anchor Industries also manufactures safety pool covers along with other fabric and frame products like tents, pergolas and event structures. 

The company started manufacturing safety pool covers in the ’70s to mitigate seasonal swings.

“Pool covers are a direct result of my grandfather wanting to have a reason to keep team members and skilled craftspeople here during the off-season,” Schmitt explains. “There used to be a seasonality to certain products. Now, seasons do not matter. They do not exist. And for the last five years, we have never shut down our pool cover manufacturing lines.”

Schmitt says she loves being able to provide peace of mind for pool owners and parents with a quality safety pool cover that can help protect their loved ones, falling in line with the company’s mission statement: “We protect lives and assets, celebrate life and increase productivity for people who live, work and play outdoors.”

Though Schmitt is proud of Anchor’s quality products, relationships and legacy, she did not start with the intention of going into the family business, instead, she worked in politics and policy for over a decade. 

After several intentional conversations with her parents and other mentors, Schmitt decided to transition to Anchor. 

“I needed to figure out if I was ready to be the next steward of this company,” she says. “We provide livelihoods for 400-plus people. We have an incredible customer base. They expect a level of quality, service and innovation that I want to make sure we don’t just maintain but we increase.”

Schmitt’s journey at Anchor has included sales, sales support, production and purchasing before her current role, and the position of CEO is likely on the horizon. She highlights her purposeful nature as part of being a successful woman coming up through the ranks and earning the trust of her team.

“This didn’t just happen,” she says. “I challenged what needed to be challenged. And I’ve gained respect because of that. Now people are looking at me to make decisions and make sure we’re asking the right questions.”

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