Chantell Preston is CEO of Facilities Management Group, a lead partner in Active Aging and Longevity I and II Fund from Portfolia, a venture partner for the Houston Mercury Fund, and owns a consulting firm called Preston Partners. She’s been named a Breakthrough Woman from Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce in 2021 and as part of the Top 50 Women Leaders of Houston in March 2022. On top of her multi-faceted career and accolades, she enjoys coaching her daughters’ softball teams. She has been a C200 member since December 2022.
Eva Glassman: Could you please introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Chantell Preston: I’m currently the Chief Executive Officer for Facilities Management Group. We own and operate different types of healthcare facilities throughout Texas, with our main focus being hospitals. I’m also a lead partner in Active Aging and Longevity II Fund from Portfolia, which is a venture-based VC firm out of Silicon Valley. Our focus and mission are around teaching women how to invest and to invest in companies that we want to see in the world. 80% of decisions are made by the women of the family; therefore, we feel like we should have a voice regarding what companies are supported and what companies have opportunities. This will be our second fund for Active Aging and our thirteenth with Portfolia, which is, again, not only about investing in companies but also educating women on how to invest in the VC world. I think there’s this false perception is that women feel as though we must have a lot of money to invest in venture capital, but that’s not necessarily the case. Our minimum investment is $10,000, and the reason we do that is because it’s more of a learning tool for women. We want them to sit in on our pitch calls with potential companies and actively be a part of due diligence if they have an expertise that’s needed. It’s a different mindset on how to change the dynamics of investing. I am also a venture partner for the Mercury Fund here in Houston. Oh, and I have my own consulting firm called Preston Partners! We offer coaching and strategic planning.
EG: What do you believe is the biggest factor that has led to the success of your career?
CP: The biggest factor has been confidence. I think sometimes women are our own worst enemies. We feel like we don’t deserve a spot at the table. Maybe in my earlier days I was more naïve than smart; I felt like I deserved to be everywhere that I was. I found a niche for myself very early on in my career. My forte is actually building different types of healthcare facilities—everything from full acute care hospitals to rehab. At my first job, I got in there and I wanted to learn every aspect of the business, so I was never pigeonholed in one area. I wanted to be somewhat diverse across the board, and it really paid off well for me. At 27, I went out on my own as a consultant building facilities for different clients, and then started our business Atlantic Health Group and ultimately Mentis Neuro Rehabilitation.
EG: Did you have any female mentors at the beginning of your career? What women have inspired you and why?
CP: In regard to mentors, I have a few mentors that, when I was really young, felt that I had the drive and ambition to really be successful. They took me under their wing—I was very eager, listening and absorbing information more than talking. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could. I had one mentor that took me on as I went out on my own. She was pretty brutal! She was very particular about how she wanted things done, when she wanted them done, and I think at the time it wasn’t that great, but as I look throughout my career, it probably built me into the person that I am now: resilient, a chameleon in different situations, knowing when to speak and when not to, but also possessing the ability to follow through and really understanding my own value. I think that was the most invaluable lesson I learned: never discounting the value of what I offered and what I brought to the table.
EG: Any other women that you can think of that have inspired you?
CP: You have folks that broke the glass ceiling. Judith Rodin is one of them; she was the first female president of an Ivy League school. Just being in her presence is amazing. I have been able to really learn from her and how she dealt with things which has helped me throughout my leadership journey. I can say I am a different leader today than I was probably ten years ago, so that’s age and just being wiser. I think having role models that had a different leadership style and being able to learn from them was important—Judith was one of those women for me.
EG: What does being a “woman in business” mean to you and how do you apply that thinking to your work as an entrepreneur?
CP: Great question. I think there’s a lot of pressure to being a woman in business. I think we have to work twice as hard to achieve the same successes. I was very fortunate to have business partners that never treated me as anything but an equal. However, when we went through the process of building a company called Mentis Neuro Rehabilitation and selling a private equity in 2015, it was a very eye-opening experience for me. I was the only female in the room, I was the youngest, they always spoke to my partner, and then he would look at me to answer the questions. It was a real eye-opening experience that probably not everyone was treated the same way that I was. However, I had blinders on because I was in my own world. After that, I made it my mission to help women really achieve their successes by building confidence, being an advocate, being a mentor. We all have our stories.
EG: Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?
CP: There’s a life outside of work? [laughs] No, just kidding. My family is very important to me. When I was building my business with Mentis, I sacrificed a lot of time with my daughter. Once we sold, I swore I would never do that again, realizing she was already five and I had missed out on a lot of very important events with her. It’s really about spending time with the family, spending time with my friends, having that balance. I think that makes me a better leader, person, and parent to have some things that I enjoy doing myself: I love to play golf, I love to collect wine, I love to network with other women. So again, those are some of the things that I really spend my time doing outside of work. I coach my daughters’ softball teams, and I love that because I want them to see that females can do anything that males do. I want them to never have those same challenges that we had when we were younger as they grow.
EG: What’s your advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs and leaders as they want to advance their own careers?
CP: Great question. Here’s the advice I wish I would have taken a long time ago: I think women are resistant to networking or asking for help. We want to come across like we’ve got everything under control at all times. Be vulnerable, ask for help, take help when it’s offered. Networking with other women is so important because we’re not going to get where we want to be unless we help each other. Men do it great! They all hang out on the golf course; they all do business deals together. Women are less likely to talk about business aspects when they get into certain situations, so I think it’s important for us to continue to network together, continue to get involved in organizations such as C200. I’m also part of WIPO. I think it’s very important to continue to network, build, and support each other in every aspect. I was a little late to the game; I didn’t network much in my younger days. I would encourage people to do that. Ask for help! People are willing to help if people ask. Also, find your group that supports you and lifts you up. Find the folks that are like-minded, who are in the same positions as you’re in, and really depend on each other. Support each other. I have a set of friends that I love hanging out with that are in the neighborhood and then I have my business friends, because one may not understand what I’m going through like the other does. Find your tribe, find the folks that are going to be supportive of you.
EG: Last question! What are you most excited about as a new C200 member?
CP: The opportunity to continue to network with these amazing women! I hope to get, but I hope to give back at the same time. I love the fact that it’s all women and they’re like minded, on the same level as I am, we can have similar conversations, we’re all going through the same situations professionally and personally, it doesn’t matter what sector you’re in. I think it’s really the networking aspect with the other C200 members that excites me the most.
EG: Anything else you’d like to share?
CP: As you can tell, I’m pretty passionate about bringing women together. And I love it. Even people like yourself, you’re young, I could turn all these questions around and ask you! You guys are a different culture, a different generation. We were driven by money and titles, you guys are driven by purpose and helping. It’s so fascinating to watch and it’s made us better people at the end of the day. And I’m a lot of fun to work for. [laughs] I’d love to talk about Mentis Neuro Rehab a bit more, because that’s kind of my big one, my claim to fame, taking a company from concept all the way to exit to private equity, the mid-market fund. That’s a pretty significant milestone—sometimes I devalue it a little bit, but there’s not a lot of women who have done that and it was an awesome experience. And I was only 41 years old!