By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I
Triple-I's "Insurance Careers Corner" series was created to highlight pioneers in the insurance industry and to spread awareness of career opportunities in the industry.
This month we interviewed Tasha Fuller, CEO and founder of FloodFrame USA, a Houston-based company that provides homes and businesses with a waterproof fabric barrier against flood damage. Tasha shared her insights as a female entrepreneur in STEM and how previous flood experiences and a background in civil engineering inspired her business.
You started your career as a civil engineer. What made you eventually build your own company, FloodFrame USA?
As an engineer, I wanted to do more for society. I designed large projects around Houston, often office buildings or large industrial buildings, but I went into technology to help the world in some way. It was always behind me to figure out how I could best use my talents for this.
My primary focus was hydraulics and hydrology – how water works and how storms work. Then there were floods in Houston. My family and I went to Denmark about six months after [Hurricane] Harvey to visit the family, and we were introduced to the FloodFrame on the news. I knew right away that this was something that needed to be in Houston. I contacted the Danish engineers, who developed the technology, to discuss how to bring it to the United States. This led to six months of conversations with the engineers, myself and my dad, who is also my business partner. We originally invested in this [opportunity] on the site, and it was a great hope of faith when we realized that this company needed a full-time master to work in the United States
How was the transition from engineer to entrepreneur?
It was a huge risk and it was scary. I woke up in the morning wondering if I had made the right decision. I left a corporate environment where everything was lined up for me and I had colleagues to ask questions. Today's pattern was calculated. As an entrepreneur, you ask yourself every day what is best for your business. Not having colleagues, it's all about you, and it can feel like you never turn off. I have been doing this for almost two years now and I have most recently learned to find the balance.
What advice would you give to prospective women entrepreneurs who want to build a STEM company?  On the days when you feel like giving up, just do not. You will have days when you doubt whether you have the potential. I read a quote the other day that resonated with me, "when you are tired, learn to rest and do not stop." I have used it for myself because I also have tough days. I recommend that you go for a walk or do something that you enjoy. Go back to the challenge after that rest. Things will look much brighter than when you were right now.
In my previous job, I was the only woman and the only person under 40 in the room. I had to learn to stand firm and feel comfortable in that situation. I would say to see that situation as an advantage to stand out and have your message heard versus to blend into the room.
As a Houston resident, you have experienced several severe storms including Harvey. How did you influence these experiences of the business?
We would not have started this company if we did not see the effects of water on our society and how destructive floods can be. During Hurricane Harvey, I remember seeing the water thump toward my parents' house. It was such a hopeless feeling, because we could not stop this force of nature at that time. I remember thinking that there must be a solution out there for people who want to protect their homes. It was really where the seed was planted and why the meeting with the FloodFrame engineers clicked during our trip to Denmark. My family would have been in a different position if we had the protection in our house.
2020 is expected to be one of the worst hurricane seasons recorded and the pandemic will bring new challenges in disaster preparedness. How have these challenges affected your business?
We already have installations in the ground in the Greater Houston area. Our primary goal is to educate as many people as possible [in the area] about risk reduction and property protection. The biggest obstacles have been to reach the people who really need it and educate society in general. Reduction before disaster is important. Floods will continue to happen, but protection can help people spend a fraction of the cost of rebuilding a flooded house. I have used digital platforms and accelerator programs such as Resilience Accelerator to find the right partners and get the word out about risk reduction. We are in this unusual time, but people realize that their homes are important and need the tools to protect themselves. Even if we are in a pandemic, it does not mean that the flood will stop.