Occupation: Principal, Mary Beth West Consulting.
Family: Married to Charles West. Three daughters: Elizabeth, 7, Maggie, 5 and Rachel, 7 months.
Mary Beth West learned at an early age the importance of looking and acting like a professional. She came by it honestly because at her house, every day was “take your daughter to work” day.
The daughter of Don and Nan Chunn, West grew up on her parents’ farm in Columbia, Tenn., near Nashville. Her father was a title attorney, and her mother ran their home office for 25 years. Now they are enjoying retirement.
“From those days I understood and appreciated the value of owning and managing your own business. I really got first-hand exposure,” she says. “I can remember coming in from playing, and mother would be on the phone with a client. I had a real appreciation at a young age of what it means to sound and look professional and how to project yourself in a certain way. It was an excellent way to grow up.”
After earning a degree in communications with a major in public relations from the University of Tennessee, West moved to Nashville and worked with Corrections Corporation of America for three years. On a blind date set up by neighbors, she met Charles West, who was working at a Nashville Chevrolet dealership.
“Our first date was on Valentine’s Day in 1997. We were engaged six months later and got married the following May. He’s very quick-witted and lot of fun to be around. It was definitely the whirlwind romance. We were pretty inseparable after our first date.”
When Mary Beth and Charles married, they moved to Blount County. She worked in the banking industry for about four years until they had their first child, Elizabeth.
“I decided I needed more flexibility, and I wanted a different direction but still wanted a career. I started dabbling with freelance (public relations) and just waded into it,” she says.
Mary Beth had a home-based business for several years until her daughter, Maggie, was born, and then she opened a office downtown in the Law Building.
“My business started growing, things took off, and I realized I needed to hire a team in-house to manage everything,” she says. “I made a conscious effort to start growing things as aggressively as I could.”
West says that while the firm has a diverse slate of corporate clients from across the nation, she also enjoys working with local clients.
“It is a lot of fun to work with companies based locally. They’re your friends.”
Here is Mary Beth West:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“I try to have my mother’s positive outlook, and my dad’s tenacity about getting the details right.”
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“Joan Cusack’s character in Mike Nichol’s ‘Working Girl’ from 1988. ‘Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna; never will.’”
What are you guilty of?
“Quite a bit, but with each new day, there’s fresh hope.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“The ring Charles gave me last Christmas with all of our daughters’ birthstones, all three of which happen to be blue -- March, September and December.”
What are you reading currently?
“ ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,’ by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“So many moments, so few column inches! I’m sure it involved calling someone important by the wrong name with spinach stuck in my teeth while falling down with my pants half-zipped and toilet paper stuck to my shoe.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“Charles’ and my 50th wedding anniversary, seeing my kids achieve happiness on their own terms, and making my company a long-term vehicle for people’s success.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Busy. It is the proverbial act, when you have kids, marriage, a home and a business, it’s a four-ring circus, but that makes life worth living.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“In the wake of three C-sections, my waist circumference.”
What is your passion?
“The public relations profession and how the work we do helps organizations and people communicate well and achieve meaningful goals, both for themselves and for society.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My great-aunt six generations back, Rachel Donelson Jackson, Andrew Jackson’s wife. She experienced our country in its infancy, and our state as a true frontier. She bucked convention to be true to herself and was part of a marriage that became legendary for its mutual level of absolute love and commitment.”
If a movie were made about your life, who would play you and why?
“An unknown, desperate for a paycheck.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“The ’80s, totally with Reagan, the World’s Fair, perestroika, shoulder pads, John Hughes’ box office - the works.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“My parents gave me a perfect arrowhead they found on their farm where I grew up and had it framed for me. It’s a sentimental reminder of home and of them, plus I’m fascinated by the Native American hands that crafted it.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Be independent - few things are quite as challenging or as rewarding.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“My husband Charles, by far. I owe my greatest sources of joy and happiness - and there are many - to him.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“Yes. Facebook for the love of it; Twitter by necessity; and MySpace because I can’t find the time to take down my profile.”
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
“Woof - with apologies to Scoop from Blount Today and the ‘cat’ people at my office.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“Driving wrought-iron posts into the ground for a new barbed wire fence in a 100-acre field on a hot summer day as a kid.”
What is your theme song that best describes you?
“Loretta Lynn’s, ‘You’re Lookin’ at Country.’”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“I was always a Looney Tunes girl - Bugs, Daffy, Foghorn Leghorn and all the crowd. I love the references to 1940s and ’50s culture.”