Power Women: Susan O’Con

The Co-Owner

The Co-Owner
Susan O’Con
Cedar Works Spa and Sauna
Eugene, Oregon

In the early 1990s, Susan O’Con and her husband Jeff O’Con purchased a hot tub from the company they now own. But before that, having bought a hot tub was the extent of the couple’s industry experience. In 2004, she got her contractor’s license and underwent an industry crash course, to say the least.

“When I think back,” she says, “I think, ‘Oh my goodness — how in the world?’ ” 

As Jeff O’Con maintained their tub, he kept contact with the company’s owner. Years later, the owner of what was then called Cedar Works Spas asked if the couple would be interested in taking over. The three reached an agreement that involved the purchase of the company name, a forklift and the previous owner’s customers.

The owner was supposed to train them, but a sudden injury meant he was unable to do so. “I didn’t even know how to answer the phone or a chemical question — but I am an organizer,” O’Con says. “I read every book I could — chemistry, everything. I called the chemical manufacturers and asked them questions. I wanted to give the right answer, not just an answer.”

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To this day, O’Con changes hats from one moment to the next. She was the company’s primary salesperson for years, and now as president, she handles taxes, payroll and all legalities, to name a few responsibilities. She is also a legal PSW (personal support worker) for her medically fragile 11-year-old grandson, Deyakenga O’Con, which necessitated a step back from hot tub sales. The outdoorsy family also spends time camping and riding side-by-side RZRs (a brand of small recreational off-highway vehicles).

Deyakenga O’Con’s father, Susan O’Con’s son, Dustin O’Con, is Cedar Works’ head technician. Four generations of their family live on a single property. 

The line between her family and her worklife may continue to blur, as she says that even her niece, who is in her early 20s, wants to become a welder. “She said she’s going to need to be better than the guys,” O’Con says, “but I disagreed. I told her that she should hold her own standards.”

O’Con says their company is about 50/50 male to female, and hopes that, like her niece, more young women will see the pluses of joining a hands-on industry.

“Women in the industry need to raise strong women in the industry,” she says. “My mom raised me to get the job done.”