Elizabeth Verna joined the family business in real estate development shortly after working as an editorial assistant at Vogue Italia in New York.
The career jump was unplanned, she said, but as a member of an Italian family with a family business, “It was a great opportunity. I really never thought I would work in the homebuilding industry. It really wasn’t something that I was raised to do,” Verna said. “My dad had faith in me and I was good organizing things and I had a good business [mindset].”
Verna now owns and operates Verna Properties LLC and continues the “tradition of her father, Vincenzo Verna, who emigrated from Italy and built the company from the ground up,” said Laura Bunnell, administrative assistant at Verna Properties.
“It truly takes an entire family to build a family business,” Verna said. “It was constant work, constant commitment [to build] something better for his family. He taught me hard work, but he also lived by the golden rule – treat others the way you want to be treated – and that’s how I live every day.”
Verna manages the commercial end of the businesses, working on leases with various tenants and commercial brokers. She also acts as the liaison with town officials. As a female in a primarily male-dominated industry, she has noticed subcontractors at construction sites often make assumptions about her role.
“I will walk on a job site and my subcontractors think I’m either the homeowner or the Realtor,” she said.
Verna said when she tells people she is a builder, she often gets the question, “What do you mean you’re a builder? Do you go out there and bang nails?”
“I don’t know if they would ask that question if I was a guy,” she said. “I think that after 25 years I’ve gained the respect of subs and other builders around the state, and I hope that someday their daughters will be doing what I’m doing.”
One of her current favorite projects is Hillcrest Village in Southington. Verna said that sometimes subdivisions just appeal to new homebuyers or empty-nesters, but this one appeals to both.
“These are the perfect plans and I can truly said I nailed it,” she said. “The community, location, product and price standpoint appeals to all sectors of the community.”
Two of the most rewarding aspects of her job, she said, is creating jobs and being an advocate for good housing.
“The best thing is when you drive through a community that has been built a decade later and you see neighbors walking a dog and families enjoying the entire community, and you remember when you poured the first footing. It truly is a sense of pride.”