Paving the way in a male-dominated industry: Meet the area manager of Capital Concrete who’s following her mom’s footsteps

When Sarah Beasley was planning out her life, the family’s Norfolk-based concrete business was not part of the mix.

But, the area general manager of Capital Concrete, who sports steel-toed boots and jeans to work every day, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I spend half of my day in an office doing certain things, whether it’s financial reports or budgets, but then I’m also out in the field with my drivers helping clean a truck or work on a project,” Beasley said.

A 2000 graduate from Norfolk Academy, Beasley earned her bachelor’s degree in French and European history from Washington and Lee University in 2004. She worked in the concrete business during her junior and senior years of college, but had career plans to go into the jewelry industry, even earning degrees in diamonds and gemology from the Gemmological Association of Great Britain and working for Tiffany & Co. in Atlanta.

In July 2007, her mother called to ask Beasley to return to Hampton Roads to join the family business.

Throughout her 15 years in the industry, Beasley has worked as a subject matter expert, in human resources, in plant maintenance, as a front-end loader, as a job site supervisor and in dispatching. Appreciative of the fast-paced industry that incorporates a variety of skills, Beasley said she was encouraged from day one to learn hands-on and work side by side with other employees.

“If it was picking up a shovel to dig something, you learn the value even in those small things,” she said. “I was really fortunate that I had other women leaders, especially my mom, to encourage me to do that.”

The family’s venture has a solid history in Hampton Roads. In 1928, Beasley’s great-grandfather John Twohy II founded Commonwealth Sand and Gravel Corp. in Richmond and his son, John Twohy IV, started a ready-mix concrete branch, Capital Concrete, in 1959 and moved the company to Norfolk.

Beasley’s mother, Elizabeth “Boo” Twohy, joined the company in 1975 and became its president 20 years later. Boo Twohy was chairwoman of the Virginia Ready Mixed Concrete Association and first chairperson of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

Beasley’s aunt, Helen Whittemore, joined the business in 1988 and her son, Waller Whittemore, a dispatcher, is part of the next generation at Capital Concrete. When her mother and aunt retired this past spring, the company torch was passed to Beasley.

Beasley followed in her mother’s well-defined footsteps: She too served on the state association’s board of directors and is currently on the national board.

Only 2% of workers in the concrete industry are women, said Doug Easter, executive director of Virginia Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to recruit women not only into the association, but also the industry itself,” he said.

Although it’s been challenging, Easter said the business has a great deal of opportunities for both men and women from truck drivers to managing a facility to working in the office.

Beasley, he said, is a leader in the industry. Making sure her voice is heard — with confidence and competence — in the male-driven industry has always been Beasley’s modus operandi.

“I’ve found that people are very welcoming, and especially nowadays, people are interested in hearing new perspectives, and I think women in our industry can bring some new perspectives and ideas to it,” she said.

Mark Brinkley, president of C.W. Brinkley Inc., a general contractor in Suffolk, said Capital Concrete has been its primary concrete supplier for the past 25 years.

“She can fill her mother’s shoes in a heartbeat,” Brinkley said. “If she tells you something, you can take it to the bank. It’s going to get done.”

Acquired by Alabama-based Vulcan Materials in April, Capital Concrete has grown from five trucks and five employees at its inception to a fleet of 60 vehicles — including mixer trucks, tractor trailers and dump trucks; 75 employees (six women) and five plants.

Capital Concrete handles large commercial projects such as apartment buildings and warehouses; road work including paving, curb and gutter; and residential projects from new home construction to driveways.

Married to Will Beasley, a commercial property manager for Colliers International, the Virginia Beach couple has two young daughters, Adelaide, 7, and Liza, 3. Beasley said it’s too early to say if they’ll be the fifth generation, but she would encourage them to work in the industry.

“I hope they see and learn from my mom and me that being a strong, self-confident person and leader, they can do anything, including run a concrete company,” she said.

But, for now, the girls are both quick to point out “mom’s trucks” on the road.

Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836,