Sharon Kay Moore
Co-Owner and President, Sunraay Electric, Inc.
Categories: Business, Golden Rule
Sharon Kay Moore is co-Owner and President of Sunraay Electric, Inc., an electrical contracting company that does commercial and residential wiring. She truly has been a pioneer -- a woman in a man's world. During our interview, she talked about trusting in God for protection, comfort, and courage, which enabled her to overcome disrespectful treatment, succeed as a single mom, and create a company based upon respect as it's established in the Golden Rule.
What was it like to be a woman in a man's world?
It was extremely difficult -- especially if you were smart, and, as in my case, a single parent trying to create a profession, which was not encouraged. It felt extremely sexist and limiting. A lot of women didn't argue with this. Most women worked in accounting, which was considered acceptable, and they were fine with that. I wasn't. It wasn't in my best interest. But I was willing to work. The bottom line was that I had to do things twice as fast and twice as well.
And obviously you did that. Where did you start?
I started working right out of high school for an electrical wholesale house that sold materials to the contractors. I sold lighting fixtures on the showroom floor. All the fixtures in those days came in parts and pieces, so I learned how to put them together, how to wire fixtures. I liked that.
Did you move up in the company?
Well, after about two years, I got married, quit my job, and stayed home.
Were you glad you stayed home?
I loved staying home. It was the best job I'd ever had. I loved being a mom, and I loved my children.
How did you end up going back to work?
I went back when things got rocky in my marriage, when my boys were 5 and 2.
That must have been tough.
It was really tough. But I had Shepherd School, a school based on principles in the Bible, that made working possible for me. Shepherd was a safe place for my children in which to learn and grow. It provided an environment that was similar to the way I wanted them raised. Shepherd was one of the biggest blessings for me.
How did your career progress from there?
I went back to work at the electrical wholesale house doing inside sales, lighting quotations, bidding jobs. They changed my title to "secretary," though. It was hilarious. I wanted to take advantage of classes that were being offered, but when I applied, I was told that women were excluded from the classes.
Did any men in the industry support you?
Yes. The manufacturer's rep who was teaching some of the classes got wind of this and told me he would teach me if I was willing to come in at 6:00 in the morning two days a week before our work days started. I had the kids go to a sitter. I learned how to read blueprints, among many other things. It was worth it. When I accepted my next job as a buyer with a contractor, an employee of that company asked if I would be an assistant estimator as well because I could read blueprints. (My two small sons and I spent many a Saturday working so that I could keep up both jobs.) I was blessed with this type of kindness every time I was denied growth or progress in the industry, which in the construction business was pretty often. The manufacturer's rep showed a lot of courage. He was a good example for all the other men.
You certainly weren't afraid to work hard. What happened next?
At that point in my life, working for a contractor was just too many hours for me with kids. I wanted to go to an 8:00 - 5:00 job, so I went back to the wholesaler as a buyer. The only way to progress, though, was to go into outside sales where I could earn as much money as I could work. At that time, women did not do outside sales. I made the mistake of saying I was going to leave if I couldn't do outside sales. They gave me the job, but reluctantly. I say it was a mistake because they made my life hell. I was a little ahead of the times. When I called on the contractors, who were all men, they took it as an offense that I was a woman. They wouldn't see me, wouldn't take me seriously. They made me feel foolish. Their behavior was inappropriate and sexist. There were only 2 women in the U.S. who were in outside sales in that industry. All the subcontractors, people who sold materials, anybody dealing with construction, other than the financial departments, were men.
It's amazing that you were one of two women in your field! What helped you have the stamina and courage to deal with the disrespect?
The Bible stories of people who had been in much more difficult and life-threatening situations than me comforted, steadied, and encouraged me. Daniel survived in the lions' den (Dan. 6), and the three Hebrew boys who were thrown into the fiery furnace did not even have the "smell of fire" on them (Dan. 3:27). Their conflicts had been peacefully and successfully resolved. Their faith in God and their right motives saved them. Because I had faith and knew my motives and reasons for working were right, pure, and God-directed, I trusted that God would protect me and help me progress. These Bible stories served as examples that I was never alone.
How did you maintain your self esteem?
The way I was raised and the environment in which I grew up empowered me. There was no gender difference in my family. My father respected women as equals and supported me. My mother loved the Bible and read to us everyday. Through the Bible, we learned that God created us "male and female" (Gen. 1:27). There were always wonderful examples of God's unceasing love, protection, and guidance. No man could alter what God created. No power, no person, was more supreme than God. You know, intimidation only works if you (the victim) allow it, if you buy into it. It was still very difficult, very painful, because I didn't understand such unequal treatment. I was totally taken aback by it. Here were successful people who had no reason to be threatened, but were, just because I was a woman. The rejection still hurt, but I refused to give up.
What helped you deal with rejection?
Whose opinion counts? I learned how I felt about other people's opinions: they didn't matter. The only opinion that mattered was God's. You can't go through life trying to meet everyone's opinion. There were a lot of tears and anger on my part, but it was a turning point in my life. When I went into business for myself, I was ready. I knew nothing could intimidate me, and nothing ever has.
How did you go into business for yourself?
I went to work for a contractor as project manager. The next year I bought the owner out and started Sunraay Electric, Inc. I was in the right place at the right time.
How did you come up with the capital?
He let me pay him back in a year. All his employees stayed with me, which was significant. It was 1984, and women were still not accepted in this industry. But all of his men, younger or older, supported me completely. Some of them are still with me. For the first five years, though, the developers didn't know I owned the company. They thought I was an estimator, as that was what I had been doing.
Did you not tell them you were the owner?
No. I didn't make a big deal about it. I was not out to push that issue. I've never been interested in reinventing the wheel. I just wanted a fair shot.
That took a lot of humility for you not to announce your position.
It was also smart. All I wanted was to be paid well for working hard. I felt I should be rewarded fairly, just like the men were.
So you were seeking justice?
That's true. I didn't want to be paid more. I didn't want to be paid less, either. Eventually the people who were doing the projects did not have the same problem with women in the industry. They were more accepting. Plus, time passed.
What have you learned that has been most important in the development of your career?
It would have to do with understanding where true strength and success come from. I'm proud of myself when I can approach something in the way Christ Jesus did, when I can operate my business on that premise. The Golden Rule is my business creed, my beginning and end. It works: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke 6:31). With this premise, you bring others up to your level; you raise the whole bar. This is how my electricians operate. They have respect for whatever home and whichever individual they meet. I get a lot of compliments on the attitude of the electricians, which is rare in this business.
Are there any other Bible passages or stories that have helped you?
Noah's ark is one of my favorites because the ark had no rudder. There was no way for Noah to steer the ark, which meant he had to have absolute trust that God was in charge. The 91st Psalm, which I read often going to sleep, also provided a great sense of comfort. Whenever I read it, it's like having someone's arms around me. Also, the story of Moses is a perfect example of how God takes us all the way. I relate to Moses because I feel that I had to learn some of the same lessons Moses had to learn. I became an extremely strong individual as the result of all of my experiences. Once I stopped being intimidated, I thought I could power through anything. This isn't always the best policy, though. Like Moses, I had to be willing to listen to, trust in, and yield to God. When we don't, we hit a wall.
What else did you learn about yielding to God?
I had to learn to be quiet sometimes and listen for the still small voice. Just because we're able to do something, doesn't mean that we should. Being quiet didn't take any power away from me. I learned that we don't always have to stand our ground humanly. This has its drawbacks. I had to remember that my power comes from God and that my first responsibility was to respond to God.
Any advice about owning a business?
It's important to do a lot of research to find out what's involved. For example: right now, owning a business in California is very difficult, so I don't know that I would encourage somebody to do that. You need to be aware of the climate so that your expectations are not dashed.
Any thoughts on being the odd one out?
Remember whose opinion really counts. That's an individual thing. God's opinion of me was the only opinion of me.
What is God's opinion of you? How do you see God seeing you?
I am God's child -- protected, guided, guarded, and loved by God. That's how He sees me. Also, He sees me as a woman of integrity, honesty, one who is trying to grow spiritually. This concept has been a part of my upbringing from the very beginning and has made me resilient and empowered.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Well, you're welcome. I'm so flattered that you asked. I hope my story will help and encourage others. There may be people out there who don't or can't go to college or who are trying to start over. It's all possible. But you do have to be willing to work. I don't think you can sit back and say, "God, make this happen." It's a partnership.