Newly divorced with two kids, Linda Holden was facing a daunting future as a single mom. It was the early 1970s, and at the time she was living in a small apartment in Endicott, N.Y. Desperate for a paycheck, she asked the apartment complex’s owner for a job. This sent Holden down an unlikely career path, yet one that ultimately enabled Holden, a true pioneer, to launch the Charlotte-based Linda Construction Co. With Holden as president, the company has worked on some of the area’s most high-profile buildings, including the Duke Energy Center and Bank of America. But it all started back in New York when the owner of Holden’s apartment, who was also a developer, gave her a part-time job as bookkeeper for his construction company. Holden was a quick study, and soon learned the business from the ground up. When the local homebuilder’s association posted an opening for a new executive director, she applied, and beat out nine other applicants, all men, for the position. This was in the early 1970s, when it was exceedingly rare for a woman to work in the construction industry, especially in any kind of authoritative role. While she ran into plenty of chauvinistic attitudes, Holden was undaunted. “I didn’t let anything dissuade me.” After she landed the executive director position, Holden decided it was time to move out of the apartment complex and give her two children a proper home. Acting as the contractor, Holden hired an architect, subcontractors and builders, and supervised the construction of her new duplex—while gaining further experience to help advance her career. Once complete, she and the kids lived in one side and she rented out the other. About five years later, looking for a change of scenery, Holden and her kids moved to Charlotte, where she started The Linda Construction Co. in 1983. Since then the company has expanded, opening demolition and waste management divisions. About eight years Holden, 73, settled in Cornelius, along with her daughter, Gayle Larson, and son, Gary Olnowich, who’s vice president of his mom’s company. “Out of all my accomplishments, I’m most proud of my kids,” she says And her kids are equally proud of her. “She’s really something special,” says Olnowich. “We’re all so grateful for everything’s she’s done.”
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