For this month’s edition of our Women Entrepreneurs We Love series, we chatted with Elizabeth Gatlin, founder of Southern Athena, a real estate development firm here in Middle Tennessee.
Women Entrepreneurs We Love ~ Liz Gatlin Of Southern Athena
Elizabeth, tell us about your business.
I own a Real Estate Development Firm, Southern Athena. We are “Building a Beautiful South”. We integrate Real Estate, Architecture, Interiors, and Construction to take clients from start to finish on both Residential and Commercial projects. Serving all of Middle Tennessee, our headquarters is located in the Melrose area at 2508 8th Ave. S. in Nashville. In fact, I grew up in Nashville driving by my current office on my way to Hume-Fogg High School.
When I graduated from University of Tennessee’s School of Architecture, the market had just crashed. Despite being the top graduate, there were few jobs to be had in the industry. I decided to venture into Real Estate because I wanted to make a bigger impact on our built environment. I’ve been in this business over 15 years, and I am the only licensed Real Estate Broker and Architect in the state (and possibly the South). By combining expertise in all of our different disciplines, we are able to create timeless designs and make a lasting impact on our communities.
What inspired you to take this path?
I was always talented at art and math, and I have a knack for investing. As I was just starting out during the last market housing crash, I had a friend ask me what I really wanted to do… And I knew I wanted to build beautiful buildings. I was encouraged to talk with the developers in town, as they all got their start in Commercial Real Estate. At that point, I joined a local commercial real estate firm and worked my way up to Broker. In the background I was also working full time at a local Architecture firm and cutting my teeth on personal projects. I went out on my own to create something special. No one else was combining Design and Real Estate, so it made sense that I needed to carve my own path.
What is your favorite part of doing what you do?
My favorite part is hands down the people. It is amazing to transform both our built environment and people’s lives. I love getting to know people and having the inside scoop and am always telling my clients, “The more I know, the more I can help you reach your goals.” I can intuitively see the big picture and make it into something special. I also know that the work we do is not only impacting single clients, but entire communities. We are literally adding value to the market everyday.
How do you balance work and personal life as a business owner?
Ha, what balance? All jokes aside, I am lucky I love my work and believe in mixing business with pleasure. I have built Southern Athena with my ability to have successful long lasting relationships, so it makes sense I have a hard time compartmentalizing the two as separate. My husband joined our company a couple of years ago, and I recently had a sweet baby boy, JT, who I bring to work most days while he is still nursing. I have tons of support from both our families here in town, as well as amazing friends and clients who all make running a business easier. Southern Athena is indeed family owned, and we lean into our intimate personal culture. When things get stressful, I take time with those I love. We brunch, laugh, celebrate all the amazing experiences life has to offer, and things magically seem manageable again.
And now for a little fun…
If you designed your dream home, what would be some of the finishing touches you wouldn’t be able to live without? Or, what are some of your favorite current trends when it comes to home design?
This is a tough one! It is so hard to design for myself because I am super analytical, and I get paralyzed with decision fatigue. I have always loved natural materials, am obsessed with lighting, and use the landscape and place to inform and ground all of my designs. My dream home would have incredible views, centered elements, and tons of natural light to reflect sparkle in all of the little details. It would be cozy and light at the same time. It would definitely include a pool and lots of outdoor spaces… Something classic that beautifully transitions from season to season without me having to change a thing but decor.
Because most of our readers who follow us are interested in fashion, what’s one thing in your closet that you cannot live without?! Where is your favorite place to shop?
You might have heard that Architects wear a lot of black, and I definitely do that! I love how classic (and slimming post pregnancy!) it is. I generally wear it with neutral pieces or brighter jewel tones. And I definitely cannot live without heels – they help with good posture, confidence, and sales! I am still old school and like to shop in person, so that I can try things on and feel the fabric. My favorite shopping is in Brentwood where I can hit up Target, TJMaxx, and Nordstrom Rack all in one afternoon. Before I hired Katey, I was in a shopping and wardrobe rut. She has completely opened my eyes to how the right pieces can mix and match. It makes me feel wonderful and lights up other areas of my life.
What is one thing your followers might not know about you?
My followers probably don’t know I am working on starting a TV Show. It may be some time before coming out, but it will be super juicy and fun.
Be sure to check out Southern Athena via their website and socials!