Westchester County's Most Accomplished Women Entrepreneurs

Meet 28 of the county's most successful, move innovative, most respected business women.

(page 16 of 26)

Leed-ing by Design
Renée M. Brown

Founder, President and CEO, C.W. Brown
Renée M. Brown of South Salem, the president and CEO of construction company C.W. Brown Inc. in Armonk, was working as a facilities coordinator in 1984 when she and her husband, Charlie, who worked for a small contractor, decided to strike out on their own.
“We started in our basement,” says Brown, 53, a Mount Pleasant native. “We moved out the pool table to make room; the shop was our garage. It was like a one-man show.” Renée did the books

when she got home from her job at Northern Telecom in Tarrytown, and Charlie drummed up work during the day, partially because many people didn’t take his wife seriously.
“It’s a more male-dominated industry,” says Brown, who today runs a 75-person company. “I remember times when we first started out, I’d pick up the phone, and people would say, ‘I want to speak to a man.’ I was a little outraged, but politely said, ‘Fine, I’ll have him call you back, and he’ll say the same thing.’”
By 1995, C.W. Brown had bought a building in Thornwood. More recently, C.W. Brown hit its last five-year goal—$50 million in sales—in just three years. Even during the recession, the company has managed to stay steady in sales, and hold on to all staff through strategic cuts in overhead. “We built our business the way we continue to run it today: it’s based on repeat business, long-term clients, and service. Our word is our word. If something goes wrong, we’re going to make it right.”
Renée and Charlie also ran the business based on causes close to their heart: their middle daughter’s “banning” bottled water in their home coincided with the couple’s new ultra-green headquarters in Armonk. Their 10,000-square-foot office runs entirely on solar power and is the first building in the county, indeed the State (excluding New York City) to have attained LEED Platinum status. C.W. Brown gives tours of its headquarters to green architects, school groups, and curious private citizens.
“Our hope was to build a place where we’d be able to attract the younger generation,” says Renée. “We wanted young people to want to be here.”
Sadly, in June, a year and a half after the opening of the Armonk headquarters, Charlie died suddenly.
Since its beginning, C. W. Brown had been mentoring Westchester students and donating work to charitable causes, such as Friends of Karen, My Sister’s Place, and the Westchester Land Trust. This year, it will be helping to expand the internship opportunities for men at Westchester Community College, where Charlie went to college. “There’s this string of men throughout the county who looked up to him. It seemed logical to expand that program,” Renée says.

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