Women to Watch: Memphis Became 'city of choice' for independent-minded engineer

As printed in The Commercial Appeal | Author: Susan Snapp

At age 22, Nisha Powers took a break from college and returned to her native India in search of a true calling.

It was a huge turning point in my life," said Powers, now a Memphis entrepreneur. "It was transformational."

A lifelong student of dance, Powers studied Bharata Natyam, a classical dance of India, during her four-month journey. The training was daily and rigorous, and she was truly alone in a foreign world. She had been in the U.S. since age 9, and was accustomed to all the comforts and conveniences of life here. She discovered that the path she was on when she left -- pursuing a degree in engineering -- was where she wanted to be. She completed her education at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and there met her husband, Memphian Craig Powers. After graduation, they moved to his hometown. At the time, Memphis was not her "city of choice."

"My husband said, 'If you'll just give me three years in Memphis, we will go anywhere you want to go.'"

Fourteen years later, Memphis is home.

"Once I allowed myself to experience Memphis and become engaged in the community, it became home almost immediately. Now, it is my 'city of choice.'"

Powers worked at Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon Inc. for eight years, before forming her own firm with partner Steven Hill in 2005. Powers Hill Design LLC is located Downtown.

"Nisha has an amazing gift of being empathetic to others," Hill said. "She has a thirst for knowledge, and surrounds herself with mentors, and pays attention to the lessons they share. She has a strong work ethic and an independent spirit."

Powers is a member of Mayor A C Wharton's Advisory Council, Mayor Mark Luttrell's Young Professionals Council, the Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art board. Powers was named Power Player in Engineering by Memphis Business Quarterly, Women of Excellence by the Tri-State Defender, Top 40 Under 40 by Memphis Business Journal and Phenomenal Woman by ABC24/UPN 30 News. She also received the Ruby R. Wharton Outstanding Community Service Award in 2005.

What advice do you have for others seeking their true destiny?

Prayer -- my destiny is in God's hands. Every critical turn I have made since I became a Christian has come after prayer. Once you can see that path clearly, don't stop until you get to your destination.

What is the most important lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur?

I am somewhat independent and like to think I can achieve things on my own. I have learned that is foolish. In the last six years as a business owner, it has been people in my life that have been the blessing -- family, friends, mentors, advisers, clients -- who have supported me, believed in me, lifted me up, held me accountable, cheered me on and caught me when I fell. It has surprised and humbled me to see how many people have given me a hand. For that, I am so grateful.

What part of India is most beautiful to you?

I was born in Chennai (Madras), a coastal city in southeast India. When you travel from Chennai to the southern top of India, you witness the convergence of three large water bodies, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Few experiences in this world are as breathtaking as standing at the beach there, early in the morning, watching the sunrise, hearing the waves and feeling the water and sand between your toes.

Nisha Powers Job: Owner/President, Powers Hill Design, LLC

First job:I worked as a hostess at Shoney's during my senior year in high school.

Last book read: "Gandhi CEO -- 14 Principles To Guide & Inspire Modern Leaders" by Alan Axelrod.

Folks would be surprised if they knew: My eclectic music interest. I love Johnny Cash!