Working Girl: Upton-Neal Interiors

Stages Magazine
January/February 2011

Over the last twenty years, America has seen an increase in the number of eager women becoming business owners.  Susan Upton has been a familiar face in interior design for nearly two decades.  As co-owner of Upton-Neal Carpet One Floor & Home in Pearl, Susan has a knack for transforming homes while still finding time to play the ever important role of wife and mother.  Stages Magazine sat down with Susan to discuss the experiences she faces as a successful female business owner.

 LB:  Tell me about your business.

SU:  We are Upton-Neal Carpet One Floor & Home.  We are locally owned and operated so that means our customers are “buying local”.  This year we became a member of the world’s largest floor covering buying group – Carpet One.  This enables us to buy the best brands for less to sell for less.  It also allows us to offer the “Beautiful Guarantee” which means if you don’t love the floor you choose, we’ll replace it for free. We also offer “Healthier Living Installation” which is exclusive to Carpet One stores.  We are a full service floor covering and interior design store. We sell and install all types of floor covering, wall covering, countertops, blinds, and draperies.  We handle residential, commercial, builder, and property management. This year we became a premier service provider for several insurance companies. It is a great honor to be qualified to provide this service.      

LB:  What was your background prior to joining Upton-Neal?

SU:  I graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in interior design and worked as an interior designer for two other companies prior to joining Upton-Neal.

LB:  What events led to you becoming co-owner of the business?

SU:  I had worked at Upton-Neal for 17 years. I was to the point that I needed to either become a partner at Upton’s or go out on my own. One of the owners at the time decided to move out of the state. God just answered a prayer and opened that door for me. 

LB:  How involved are you in the day-to-day operations of Upton-Neal?

SU:  VERY. Harold Neal -my partner- and I still sell and maintain our client’s accounts that we have built up over the years. We are very hands-on in every part of the daily operation of the business. I have actually been told that I have a little bit of a control problem.

LB:  How do you balance work and family?

SU:  I pray a lot. It’s a daily struggle to achieve that balance. If I am not careful, the store will consume your every thought before and after hours.  My husband and sons have always been so very supportive.   It would have been impossible without their support.

LB:  How do you fight the stereotypes some people may have of female business owners?

SU:  I co-own a business typically owned by men. So I do get the usual “So you and your husband own this together?”  Or “So Harold is your dad?” because there is 19 yrs difference in our age.  I am usually assumed to be the sister, wife, or daughter-in-law or something!   It does frustrate me to hear these comments because I have worked very hard all my life to achieve where I am in this business and I find it very demeaning when people “assume” a woman couldn’t co-own a multi-million dollar business without being related or married to a man in the business.  But I usually just laugh it off and just go on.         

LB:  What is your motivation?

SU:  I absolutely love what I do.  When a customer says “Susan, I absolutely LOVE my new house” or “Thank you for transforming my existing space into something beautiful and functional – and within budget” it makes the long hours worth it.

LB:  What tips do you have for other women who are business owners or are looking to launch their own business?

SU:  Most women are more detail-oriented and make great business owners and managers.  The hardest job in the world is to raise small children and manage a household.  If you have done that well, owning your own business will be easy!  You may want to start small and when you are ready, then expand.   Do not second guess yourself.  If you think you are ready to own a business then you probably are! 

Upton-Neal Carpet One Floor & Home
322 Airport Road South
Pearl, MS