Photo: Courtesy Brass Brick Homes Who says you can't have your cake and eat it, too? Ashley Christofferson-Cunningham, an avid baker and mother of 13 who's equally at home fishing from the dock of the family lake house or penning her latest manuscript, is the quintessential example of Gen-X and Gen-Y females: a veritable Wonder Woman who runs not one, but two businesses while simultaneously raising a family. Managing editor Lisa Brown spoke with the president of Brass Brick Homes about her rise to home building success and the lessons she's learned from targeting upwardly mobile female home buyers.

BB: How did you get your start in home building?

ACC: When I graduated from college, there were no jobs to be had. The unemployment rate then was extremely low, and I went to work for a home builder locally as a sales assistant—basically a hostess in their model. I wanted to get into sales, because sales makes all the money, supposedly. At age 22 or 23, I told the home builder, “I'll work for free for three months, and after that, if I meet my goals, can I keep my job?”

BB: Well, apparently you were able to hold your own. Where did you go from there?

ACC: I worked for that company for a couple years, and then my husband, who was a framer, and I started having some conflicts with the owner, who was trying to cut costs. We incorporated Brass Brick Homes in 1997, and decided to target women. The designs that I saw just didn't meet family needs. They weren't low maintenance; the designs and quality weren't there. We saw a need for a custom home at a more value price point.

BB: You're also vice president of a design/merchandising firm, Platinum Interiors.

ACC: Our customers who want drapery design can contract with our designers. Our design center, obviously, that is all inclusive. Fabric, wallpaper, furniture—we're able to pass along savings to our buyers and do some amazing things for their homes at a savings to us. We try to design and merchandise models that are cost-effective for the average person. All of our models are merchandised for easily under $15,000. People go, “Wow, I can do this!”

BB: You're also an author and “Gen Xpert.” Can you tell me about some of the things you've written?

ACC: I wrote Selling and Marketing to Generation X. My Gen-Y book was supposed to be out in June or July, but I had to take a sabbatical. I just adopted six kids from Ethiopia, so I have 13 kids now. I just graduated with my MBA a few weeks ago, because I had nothing else to do. [laughs] I'm continuing on the book; I have several chapters written, and I'm hoping to get that finished next year.

BB: How would you describe the demographic similarities and differences between Gen-X and Gen-Y?