INDIANAPOLIS - Lisa Jeff thought New Orleans would be home forever, but when Hurricane Katrina blew through in 2005, her plans changed.
Jeff became a full-time Hoosier, planting her business in Indianapolis.
"I actually started in New Orleans as a drilling engineer for Exxon," said Jeff.
Her career began after she earned a mechanical engineering degree from Tulane University in 1977. It didn't take long for her to realize she'd be a major minority.
"There were maybe six women in my entire class of 100," she said.
That didn't deter Jeff from continuing on in her profession. In fact, it was a challenge she accepted whole-heartedly.
In 1987, Jeff realized she was capable and ready to launch her own consulting firm. Thus, L’Acquis Consulting Engineers was born.
In 2003, her business expanded to Indianapolis. Two years later, everything changed.
"My family experienced Hurricane Betsy in 1965, and Hurricane Katrina was just a very painful reminder of the fact that I believe it's going to happen again," Jeff said.
Hurricane Katrina was the last straw. She decided to leave Louisiana forever.
After the storm, L’Acquis washed up in Indianapolis full-time. Then, she opened a Louisville, Ky., office, too.
She's tried other cities, but the business hasn't panned out.
“I opened an office in Chicago, but never really fully staffed it because I wasn't able to make the work generated there the way I wanted to," said Jeff.
The failed office in Chicago was a learning experience she's taken to heart.
"You have to have the chicken first," she said, explaining why she believes the chicken is first, not the egg, when it comes to business. "You have to have the work. You need a contract in hand.”
Through literal and figurative storms, Jeff said it's her faith in God that has gotten her through. A little help from women's group, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners, has helped, too, especially as she navigates her leadership role in a mainly male-dominated industry.
L’Acquis work can be found on the Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis campus, at Lucas Oil Stadium and in the arts district in Carmel.
Jeff doesn't have immediate plans for another office yet. However, she plans to expand work once the construction/ engineering industries pick back up after the recession.
With that expansion, she hopes to bring on more women, expressing a passion for getting more women into the field of engineering.
"Those of us who are in positions to make a difference need to make a difference," she said.