Having grown up as the child of two entrepreneurs in Maryland, Meredith Leapley saw firsthand the challenges that come with being a business owner. But when she moved to the South in 1998 and embarked on a career in the overwhelmingly male-dominated construction industry, she didn’t realize what was stacked against her. She came to work for the Atlanta outpost of her father’s business, but a year later, she founded Leapley Construction Group, a commercial interior general contractor.
She joined industry networking and advocacy groups to plug into her new home city, and a big break came when her company won the bid to build Coca-Cola’s new headquarters in 2001. During that vetting process, an executive asked if her company was “certified woman-owned.” Leapley had never considered that what she was doing was unique, but the experience provided a lightbulb moment. “Seeing through that lens helped me understand that it was important to make sure that other women get a shot,” says the CEO, whose team of 90-plus full-time employees now generates more than $200 million in annual revenue.
While constructing buildings is Leapley’s business, building up and mentoring others has become her passion and life’s work. “People have nicknamed me a ‘people grower’ because I love to uncover their talents,” she says. She often mentors other women to make sure their talents are not overlooked, and she’s structured her company to prioritize inclusivity so that employees can thrive. She also serves as the chair of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation and even endowed a professorship at Georgia State University through the WomenLead program.
Leapley sees excellence at work as a platform for the greater good of investing in individuals and giving back to the community at large. “That’s what business can be all about,” she says. “It’s not just about building a construction project.”