When you see Donna Evers strumming her guitar and singing at her Bluemont, Va. vineyard, Twin Oaks Tavern Winery, you might rightly conclude that she's a relaxed woman who loves the leisurely pace of country living.
But while Evers enthusiastically enjoys every part of her multifaceted life, this dynamic entrepreneur probably wouldn't meet most people's definition of mellow.
In addition to owning and operating the vineyard since 1998, Evers started her own real estate brokerage, Evers & Co. Real Estate in Washington, D.C., in 1985. It is now affiliated with Long & Foster Real Estate.
Evers is also a frequent contributor to D.C.-area publications, which allows her to indulge her love of historical research and writing.
At the same time, she and her late husband Robert Evers, who passed away in 2010, together purchased and renovated about three dozen investment properties, some of which she still owns and rents to tenants.
Evers sees opportunities for pleasure and profit everywhere around her and has the confidence to act on them – a skill that research shows many women still need to develop. In fact, fewer than 35 percent of women in developed economies around the world believe they have the capabilities to start businesses based on the opportunities they see, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's Women's Report.
But Evers knows that if she's passionate enough about it, she will be persistent and create success for herself.
“I don't think anyone should go into any endeavor unless they like it enough to stick it out for the long-term," said Evers. “Whatever you do, it needs to be inspiring. You'll keep at it if you love it enough."
For Evers, her success started with her passion for and expertise in residential real estate.
She became a real estate agent in 1975 at a time when all the owners and managers of real estate companies were men even though most agents were women.
“Women make great real estate agents because they pick up signals of what people are thinking and feeling more than men do," said Evers.
Evers was moved to start her own brokerage because at that time there were numerous small companies with a handful of agents, so she could start small.
Evers credits her decade of experience as an agent for her success as a broker with multiple offices and more than 100 agents.
That experience also lead her to purchase investment properties as another way to scratch that entrepreneurial itch.
“My husband and I had lots of fun renovating and renting or selling houses," said Evers.
Evers' background in real estate and the couple's experience with renovations gave them the confidence to take on the vineyard after they bought a vacation home with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, across the street from an historic inn that was damaged in a fire.
“We planned to buy the 6.5-acre property with the inn, redo it and sell it," said Evers. “But we had been vacationing in Europe for years and loved the way vineyards there look like a patchwork quilt. So we kept the property and started a vineyard that now has 3.5 acres of vines. We've even won some awards for our wine."
The Evers got lots of advice from winery owners before they decided to pursue the business. “Everyone said, 'It's great, but don't do it,'" she recalled. “It's very hard for a winery to be a moneymaker because so much depends on the weather. You're farming, making wine and marketing the vineyard and the wines."
Knowing the risks, she still decided to pursue it. “I don't worry, because that's a non-productive activity," said Evers. “Of course I make mistakes, everybody does. But I don't dwell on them."
Evers advises other entrepreneurs not to spend time worrying about what might go wrong. “Make your decision, go with it and keep it simple," said Evers. “Even if you fail, it's not that big a deal. Don't let fear or worry hold you back."
For six years, Evers and her husband ran the vineyard on their own. Eventually, they brought in more experienced help and family members, who discovered they love working at the winery.
“My grandson is now the manager. He started working here on the weekends and in the summers when he was in junior high," said Evers.
The historic inn, one of many in the area built in the late 19th and early 20th century, appealed to Evers' deep interest in history, which she enriches with research and writing projects about historic people and places around the nation's capital.
“I have a master's degree in English and I always loved writing papers," said Evers.
While having fun with her pursuits is important to Evers, she's no slouch when it comes to her business interests.
“Before you go into any business, you need to look seriously at the money and decide if you can afford it," said Evers. “You need to be aware of what you can make and what you can lose."
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