MBJ's "A Conversation with: Nisha Powers of Powers Hill Design"

Nisha Powers, President, Powers Hill Design LLC

Nisha Powers worked for a local engineering firm for eight years, learning the intricacies of how such a business operates. A developer friend promised her that he would give her her first project if she would start her own firm.

With the support of her family, friends and a circle of experts who believed in her vision, she pulled together a business plan, and she worked that plan. Part of it included convincing her former boss and mentor, Steve Hill, to become her partner.

“She asked me if I would join her, knowing I would be a minority partner and with no promise of making a salary the first year. I said ‘yes’ because I believed in her,” Hill says.

Powers Hill Design celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2015 and has experienced slow and steady growth in the past few years. It has been engaged on several community enhancement projects, including the Main to Main Multimodal Connector and the Overton Garage Detention Basin projects.

First job: Shoney’s hostess

Education: B.S. in civil engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Residence: Memphis

Business philosophy: Say what you will do and do what you said you would do.

Best way to keep competitive edge: Stay current with industry trends, but don’t let go of the foundation the business was built on.

Guiding principle: Try. You just don’t know what is possible until you try.

Yardstick of success: The number of clients who stick with us for the long haul.

Goal yet to be achieved: Entering the federal marketplace.

Judgment calls

Best business decision: Asking my mentor to be my business partner

Worst business decision: Hoping that hasn’t happened yet

Toughest business decision: Choosing to walk away from a project where we could not come to terms with a client

Mentors: Steve Hill and Jim Speakman

Word that best describes you: Tenacious

True confessions

Like best about job: Knowing that the work we do serves our community

Like least about job: Time away from my son

Most important lesson learned: It all comes down to people and relationships.

People most interested in meeting: Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, who hails from the same city in India as I do, Madras. And my grandfather, who had barely a middle school education and built a business empire with hard work and perseverance.

Three greatest passions: My extended family (including my dear friends), the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and Powers Hill Design.

First choice for a new career: Dancer, but I’d need the body back that I had when I was dancing in my 20s.


Favorite quote:“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

Favorite cause: Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis’ Vision 2020: To reduce poverty by 1 percent a year for five years in the 38126 ZIP code.

Favorite status symbol: Mother

Favorite movies:“The Sound of Music” and “A Few Good Men”

What’s on your iPod: Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Pharrell, Billy Joel

Favorite way to spend free time: Doing anything with my son. We love to dance!