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Queens of the Castle

Queens of the Castle

Meet the Fierce Women who Lead in the Home and Energy Industries 

By Celia Goodyear 

The Fierce Awards honor the inspirational women who have changed the landscape of the Greater Gainesville community. The winners embody the tenaciousness, strength of conviction, perseverance and determination that makes them influential leaders in their respective fields. Among the 2023 class of Fierce winners are three women who have crafted successful careers in the home and energy industries. 

Home Energy 

Staci Bertrand oversees government and community relations at Duke Energy, a leading utility provider in Greater Gainesville. Through her work, she makes a difference in the lives of Duke’s 150,000 customers. Bertrand leads through interpersonal relationships, deep connections and celebrating others for who they are. She also tackles challenges with an optimistic approach and chooses to see the glass half full instead of half empty.  

“I truly value the relationships in my life, whether it be a stranger I’ve just met, a long-time friend, family member or colleague. I seek to understand their perspective and life experiences. I love understanding the filter that each person is looking through, as it helps me to understand how they process life experiences.”  

Interior Design 

Sarah Cain is the founder, visionary and CEO of her interior design firm, Sarah Cain Design. She pursued her master’s degree in the field when she was 38 years old and had two young boys at home. She would pull one all-nighter a week for the first year and a half of the program to complete all her work– and still be able to be a mom. Overcoming that challenge made her stronger and helped define who she is today. In addition to being a top interior designer in Gainesville, Cain works to empower other women.  

“I push my limits and challenge myself constantly. I’ve always believed that I can do anything I set my mind to and that if I can dream it, I can create it. I have certainly experienced many obstacles along the way and have had devastating detours that I did not expect, but that’s life. Overcoming challenges like these have made me stronger and help define who I am today.” 

See Also

Real Estate  

Zabel Thur de Koos is the owner and broker of Lexis Real Estate Group. She is also managing partner of Nalbandian Properties, a real estate investment company founded by her father. Thur de Koos began working in the family business for little or no pay when she was young. She did whatever needed to be done. While attending college, she became a leasing agent, then a general manager. Later, as her family’s real estate portfolio grew, she served as CFO. In addition to her love of real estate, she wants to encourage others to follow their dreams. 

“I have always had a love for real estate and dreamed of one day owning my own brokerage and encouraging others to achieve their dreams.”   

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