Meet Margaret Smith
I was born in Ohio, the middle child of five children with a large extended Irish-Italian Catholic family. Family circumstances prevented me from going to college immediately after high school. Instead, I lived with family friends in Washington D.C. to find a job. I married young and had two children, but found myself a single mother at the age of 23.
My dream since the early age of 8 was to become a lawyer. With the generous help of employers who offered tuition assistance and time off during the day, and with the support of many neighbors and friends who offered child care, I was able to enroll in George Washington University, taking both day and night courses. It took me five years to earn my B.A. degree in Sociology while working full time, having full-time custody of my children and attending school year-round. It was an achievement that still gives me pride.
I moved to California and married my wonderful late husband Paul Shepherd. I completed my law degree at the Santa Clara University School of Law for my Juris Doctor, passed the bar exam and began my law career at a mid-sized firm on the Peninsula. Women entrepreneurs were starting to flourish and I decided to leave the firm and establish my own practice with an emphasis on small and mid-sized women-owned businesses. I helped to establish the Silicon Valley Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and eventually was elected the National President of NAWBO, a role that took me to many states, and to a number of foreign countries for meetings and trade missions.
I had long been a fan of Domus, the iconic kitchen and home accessories store that was the centerpiece of Los Gatos for decades. While at a business meeting in New York City, I learned by chance that the store was for sale and I jumped on the opportunity and became the new owner in 1996. In the next few years, I opened Domus locations in Pleasanton, Palo Alto and Willow Glen. The Palo Alto location did not survive the 2002 dot-com bust, but the other two stores thrived and were sold as part of my strategic plan. After my initial long-term lease ended in Los Gatos, I was unable to find another commercial space large enough for Domus, so the Domus era in Los Gatos came to an end after 40 plus years.
I have many fond memories of Domus – the fabulous view of every Children’s Christmas Parade… decorating the store for every major (and sometimes minor) holiday… the heart-wrenching morning of September 11th when customers flooded the store telling me they needed to take a break from the awful scenes on television and come to someplace that gave them comfort.
My law practice has continued, but I have increased the amount of time I spend as a community volunteer over the past dozen years. I’m fortunate that both of my sons and my four grandchildren all live locally so I can volunteer in their schools as well as spend countless hours at athletic and performing arts events watching them with pride and joy. I am a member of the Rotary Club of Los Gatos and the Los Gatos High School California Seal of Civic Engagement Committee, and I am on the Board of Directors of KCAT/Los Gatos Public Media.
After serving as President of the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce, I became more interested in town government. I helped launch Leadership Los Gatos and the first July 4th celebration. I was appointed to the Los Gatos Planning Commission and also served on the General Plan Committee, the Historic Preservation Committee, and the Housing Element Advisory Board. Through these years of involvement, I have become knowledgeable about municipal government responsibilities and processes, and fully understand the impact Town Council decisions can have on the quality of life of our residents and the viability of our businesses.
My time as national president of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) took me to 30 states (and the Oval Office) where I talked with hundreds of business owners representing every industry and type of business you can imagine. They all had different perspectives and problems, but we were able to listen to one another, find common ground and reach consensus on a set of goals. When we put our voices together, we became a powerful force for getting things done, including persuading Wells Fargo Bank to establish a $1 billion loan fund for women business owners. This experience has framed the way I approach complex issues and decision-making that affect people’s lives.