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Former optician ‘masters’ remodeling

When Dawn Steimer Robison picked up a hammer and saw her life as she knew it would change.

Robison, vice president of Master Remodelers, worked as an optician in Illinois for 20 years adjusting glasses and managing eight doctors’ offices before changing careers to work in the remodeling industry.

“I just kinda [said], ‘been there; done that’ … and was just ready for something different, and in order to really expand in my gifts I knew I’d either have to go on the road as a salesperson or make a career change, and then the Lord just provided, so I did [make a career change],” she said.

Master Remodelers is a family business run by Robison, her father, Chuck Steimer, and her nephew, Troy Wilson.

As an optician, Robison said she did “a lot of youth volunteering and went on a couple of mission projects with the youth from our church in Illinois.” She said she “got a feel for construction and really liked to help people.”

At that time, Steimer retired from General Motors Corp. after 30 years of service to the company and moved with his wife to Tennessee.

Robison said, “My dad and I did a project at my home in Illinois and we remodeled my kitchen. He said: ‘you know you really like this and you’ve got a knack for it.’

“So, he called me when he got back home and said: ‘you know, you kinda think you want to change jobs, why don’t you come to Tennessee and let’s start this business together. … Nine months later I put my house up for sale and moved and haven’t regretted it one minute.”

That was eight years ago.

Robison said, “My dad and I did two years of hands-on ourselves. He knew the business, but it taught me what was going on, plumbing, electrical, framing, roofing, everything,.”

Robison said she thinks the family business is unique for several reasons.

“It’s a three generation business, myself, my dad and my nephew,” she said.

“It’s good because some of my gifts allow us to help our customers more. I’m more into details and the creative side. I think the women that we work with feel heard. … I think a lot of times we get jobs because there’s a woman on the job and they trust that.”

Robison added, “We are not afraid to do things that are different. We are not afraid to take on challenges and do things that a lot of people walk away from and say, ‘huh, I can’t do that,’ like put a lower level under a house that’s existing while people are living in it, build a loft out of a bedroom into an attic and put a ladder into the loft, things like that.

“We have the resources to do the things that a lot of people can’t. They just don’t have the resources, and if we don’t have them, we’ll find them.”

More than being unique, Robison said she enjoys her business because of the relationship she has with her father.

“It’s the father-daughter thing that really is so sweet. I’ve always been close to my dad, and this has given us the opportunity in the middle of our lives to renew all that and just even have a different kind of relationship,” she said.

Robison said she also faces challenges in the remodeling business, but she turns them into positives.

“I have to do things a little different than the guys do, I have to use leverage a little bit more to lift heavier things, and I’m not as strong as a guy, so if I have to put materials on a job, I have to work a little smarter than harder … because I don’t have the strength advantage that males have.

“Of course, Troy’s a huge support for that, but there are times when I have to move that lumber … but the biggest thing is that we work as a team. When there’s unity in the core of the company, then that’s reflective in yourself and they know you’re all unified and we’re all working for the same purpose, and when that all comes down from the owners, then I think we have a business that’s going to strive, and of course, without the Lord in the center of it, it would all be for nothing anyway.”

Robison also faced the challenge of being a minority in her field.

“I think initially it was hard for [men]. I think it was harder for them than it was for me because they weren’t sure if they really respected me because I was a female and they hadn’t seen many females on the job, and I think as we worked together and got to know each other I think that there is a respect because we do know I’ve done what they’re doing and I understand what they’re doing.

“I’m not there to criticize, I’m there to support them and give the customer what they want. Most of our subs have worked with us for years..”

Master Remodelers is expanding to Farragut. Robison said, “We’re based out of Loudon. We are the largest remodeler in Tellico Village, so that’s kind of expanded into the West Knoxville area over the last two years.”

To contact Robison at Master Remodelers, call 865-388-8812.


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