Redefining the face of the
By Laura Archbold
Photography by Elaine Pardi
It’s been said that true beauty can be found in a woman’s strength and goes beyond what is seen on the surface. Jennifer Lawver’s strength is undeniably beautiful, as her inner qualities of courage, tenacity and resilience radiate for the world to see.
A trailblazer, Lawver has been breaking ground and building the future in a predominantly male-dominated construction and development industry for over a decade. She has touched all facets of the industry—heavy machine operation, land purchasing, site design, home building and real estate sales. Lawver owns and operates ERH (Earth. Road. Home.) Developing, Inc., and with her husband she is developing Serenity Hills and Catalina Ridge properties. Lawver also serves on the Rochester Area Builders board of directors. She’s comfortable on the construction site moving dirt or inside the city council chambers working with planning and zoning boards.
Early foundation set things in motion
Lawver’s interest in the construction industry can be traced back to her childhood growing up on a large fourth-generation family farm outside of Chatfield and Stewartville. Although she didn’t realize it, being around large equipment and wide-open spaces allowed Lawver to have a sense of adventure that would become foundational. “I loved growing up on the farm. Being outside and exploring nature trails, catching crayfish and snapping turtles in the creeks and streams,” she beams. “It was so much fun. I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty.” Lawver has fond memories of driving large equipment like tractors and combines. She also remembers scaling hundreds of feet into the air alongside gravity bins and climbing into corn silos.
Attending Stewartville High School, Lawver did post-secondary coursework at Rochester Community and Technical College. Through her studies, she was exposed to the world of interior design, discovering she enjoyed it and had a natural talent for putting together different textures and layers. She received an associate’s degree in interior design and pursed a business degree at Saint Mary’s University.
Lawver was introduced to her husband, Tobin, while working at Beetle’s Bar and Grill. He owned a business with crews digging, framing and building houses. They had a strong connection immediately and discovered similar interests including the love of being outdoors. “After dating for about a year, around Christmas time, he asked my dad for permission to marry me,” Lawver said. “My mom and dad are pretty old school, and it meant a lot to them to honor the tradition.”
After they married, Lawver got into the business and tried her hand at excavating and operating heavy equipment. It proved to be a fit as she had natural aptitude with great attention to detail, a sense of balance and peripheral awareness. “On the construction site there are so many moving parts. The 12- to 14-hour work days can be mentally exhausting. The bulldozer is one of the strongest and heaviest pieces of equipment in the industry, and it’s a dangerous job. You have to constantly be paying attention and have the highest level of alertness,” Lawver explains.
CREATING awareness for diversity and inclusion
In a mostly male-dominated industry, Lawver has felt disrespected because she’s a woman. In the same breath, she’s quick to point out that adversity should be met head-on with resolve and confidence. “Although I can get frustrated, I’ve always tried to take emotions out of situations. I’m straight to the point, confident in my abilities and won’t back down when it comes to moving things forward,” she says. Despite some resistance, she’s also met champions along the way who have advocated on her behalf and have been open to collaboration. “I represent a change in the industry. If I’m not developing goodwill along the way, nothing will ever change. I love this community and am committed to helping it grow through collaboration and working together.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationwide, the need for construction workers and laborers is expected to grow faster than other industries through 2026. With Destination Medical Center in full swing, local construction will continue steadily into the foreseeable future. “It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. Corporations and federal and state government agencies all want to do business with disadvantaged companies. More women should get into this field,” says Lawver. She has dreams of one day starting a nonprofit to help with awareness and training.
Bodybuilding offers a sense of mastery for new challenges
Lawver makes time to take care of herself. She focuses on taking care of her body through nutrition, exercise and bodybuilding. Her driving force has been about personal achievement and determination that goes hand in hand with her overall outlook and perspective on life.
When Lawver gave birth to her son Christian, she gained 80 pounds and had a hard time taking the weight off. Years later her daughter Emma was born, and she gained 50 pounds and the stubborn weight came back, in addition to having low energy. “I was in my late 20s and in the worst shape of my life. I just wasn’t happy with myself. When you’re unhappy with yourself, it makes everyone around you unhappy too,” Lawver explains.
Lawver took matters into her own hands and joined Northgate Fitness Club, where she enrolled in a weightloss program and began lifting weights. Her endurance and dedication paid off when she entered her first bodybuilding competition in 2017 and took first place in her class for bodybuilding. She continues to compete regionally, garnering more titles.
The ripple effect of leading a healthy lifestyle has a broader reach as Lawver sees the impact on her family. “The other day my daughter asked what she should have for a healthy dinner. She went on to ask if chicken had protein and if broccoli was a healthy choice. She then said that she knows she shouldn’t eat candy if she hasn’t had something healthy first.”
Strength from her family and a positive attitude
Lawver is thankful that she found her life’s passion and calling at such a young age. She attributes her success to the strong foundation of support she had from her family. “My mother, when she was alive, was an amazing person. She was a very strong woman, outspoken and confident. Everybody who knew her loved her. I always felt her support and love. My father worked so hard and provided a solid foundation for our family. As a result, we could pursue our dreams and ambitions. Now as a parent, I reflect back and really appreciate my parents and upbringing as it allowed me to become the strong woman that I am today.”
The future looks bright for Lawver as she continues to grow an inner strength that sends an empowering message to other women. “Women need to take care of themselves. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself and put some of your needs first. When you build yourself up first, you will know who you are and what you want out of life—you will find your purpose,” advises Lawver.
Laura Archbold is the owner of Encore Public Relations, a communication, public relations and marketing consulting firm that crafts purpose-filled narratives that inspire, educate and unite to make the world a better place.