This story was originally published in opportunityfund.org.
Teri Beckett is the founder, President, and Chief Engineer of SKS Engineering and Planning, Inc. As a civil engineer, ocean engineer, and arborist leading a team of four, Teri works to ensure coastal construction projects are environmentally compliant.
Early in her career, Teri served as an environmental projects manager in Everglades overseeing manatee protection, seagrass planting and protection, and dredge projects. In the 135-year history of the Port Everglades project, Teri was its first woman engineer. She soon branched out from environmental engineering into ecological restoration, striking out on her own to “build swamps for a living.”
But five years after founding the firm, she lost her business partner to cancer. Then, in 2008, Teri herself received a breast cancer diagnosis.
The most difficult decision
The week after completing her chemotherapy treatments and a week prior to her daughter beginning kindergarten, Teri—a Bay Area native—moved her family from Florida to California. Despite her years of engineering and restoration experience, Teri now had to re-establish the positive reputation she’d built in Florida.
Chemo and being self-employed is a bad combination. she shares. The company transition to be near family in California caused a severe downswing in my company finances. Impacts from this move were still affecting me and the firm nine years later.
Despite having four business and personal accounts with her bank, her banker couldn’t offer her a loan. Instead, Teri’s banker referred her to Opportunity Fund: “Opportunity Fund saved me, basically.”
Amidst re-starting her business in the Bay Area, Teri found time to lend her expertise to Hurricane Sandy recovery. Over five months, she managed a team that rebuilt 700 homes, working 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Now, having firmly established her business in the Bay Area, Teri is tackling a contract with the Port of San Francisco. She used her most recent Opportunity Fund loan to purchase a small boat to navigate her latest job site.
Throughout unexpected health and associated financial challenges, Teri has stayed fiercely loyal to her employees, her community, and her vision for her small business: “If I’m working for somebody else and I’m not kept busy, I’m miserably bored. But I will work 80 hours a week if it’s mine.”