Evelynn Porter of Santa Rosa’s Poppy Bank wins North Bay Women in Business award

Evelynn Porter

Vice president and commercial loan officer

Poppy Bank

438 First St., Santa Rosa 95401



Evelynn Porter says one of her biggest accomplishments was buying a house at age 28. She is a 2020 North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Awards winner.

Professional background: 27 years in banking

Education: Napa High School and many industry-specific, continuing education classes.

Tell us about yourself and your company: Poppy Bank is truly an amazing place to work and I have felt that since day one. I respect the leadership team, which is essential for me. Our commitment to serving our communities and providing the best products and services has propelled our success.

Poppy Bank is 5-star rated by BauerFinancial and is recognized as one of the strongest financial institutions in the country. The ICBA also ranked us as one of the best-performing banks in the nation!

My first-ever banking job was at Wells Fargo in downtown Napa. They had a real stagecoach inside the bank! I was surrounded by strong, professional women who encouraged and supported me.

From 1993 to 2001 I held many sales-focused and/or operational positions. In 2000 I joined WestAmerica Bank and found my home in commercial lending. I moved to Santa Rosa in 2013 and joined Poppy Bank thereafter.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

In the past year, I am most proud of surpassing a professional goal I set in December 2019, before we had even heard of COVID-19.

I stated I would have $40,000,000 or more in my pipeline by May 3, 2020. When the shelter-in-place order took effect, I was unsure my goal was still feasible, but I reminded myself I am a woman who produces results regardless of the circumstances.

I knew it was a great opportunity to see what I am made of. I believe this attitude and my resulting success are why I was nominated for this award.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

One of my biggest achievements was buying a house when I was 28 years old.

Coming from living in apartments in my childhood and being raised in the welfare system, I told myself very young that I would live differently than my mother. So when I was 28 and a single mom and I purchased a home in Napa, I felt an immense feeling of accomplishment.

At the time I had worked in banking for seven years and was very driven to provide an amazing life for myself and my daughter. It was pretty cool when my nine-year-old told me, “Mom, I noticed we live in a much nicer home than all my friends.” That was a moment I will never forget.

What is your biggest challenge today?

My biggest challenge today is maintaining my desired fitness level and having good spending habits. I believe in the term “mind, body, and spirit” so I like to stay fit and spiritually nourished.

Words that best describe you: Qualities that move me forward are staying motivated, courageous, joyful, excited about life, inspiring, confident and loving.

In what ways have the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders changed who you are as a person that will be a part of you long after the pandemic has passed?

At first it was somewhat nice to have my world shrink to work and home. At some level it felt similar to life before cell phones and social media.

However, I now have a renewed desire to travel and am reminded of the importance of good financial health with small amounts of household debt. I’m pretty sure our grandparents’ generation tried to tell us this!

Also, what ways do you think it will change the way you go about your career and your business?

My business is predicated on a cornerstone of the 5 C’s of lending: Character, Capacity/Cash Flow, Capital, Conditions, and Collateral. These have not changed in decades. It is a little unnerving to know all businesses except for a select few can be shut down and told they are not allowed to operate. That is scary and new.

And when it comes to the COVID-19 issue, what are some the lessons learned for the business community?

Mindset is very important. If you live in fear, creation is limited and so are solutions. Listen to uplifting messages or motivational speakers who have overcome adversity. Have conversations based in positivity and forward movement.

Stay out of complaint. Complainers find more complainers, and not a lot gets created in those conversations. Jim Stovall said one of the best generations came out of World War II and the Great Depression when, to quote Charles Dickens, “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the season of Darkness, the spring of hope...”

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest obstacles is holding myself back based on what others think of me. I call this my “look good program.”

In my twenties I wasn’t afraid of anything. One of my bosses, Diane Bishofberger, used to say, “That Evelynn, she has no problem asking for business!” I had zero fear, nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Then one day, after I had built a nice portfolio and ego, unexpected doubts showed up. "Don’t call that person. What will they think of you?”

I can now recognize this feeling, dismiss it, and do the work so that my ego does not hold me back.

Also, my experience is there are some around us personally and professionally who have opinions which can hold us back, so be careful who you listen to and be aware of their motives. Find a place to work where your performance based in merit is recognized.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

I think we will start to see more professionals showing tattoos.

Who was your most important mentor?

There have been so many important mentors in my life, all professional women from different backgrounds.

Ruth Appleby taught me to be impeccable with my work. Diane Bishofberger told me to be myself, not a fake banker. Corliss Mills reminded me to have integrity and never to use bank jargon with customers. Lisa Kline taught me it is okay to be sassy, smart, have fun—and to be #1 while doing it!

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

Be yourself, be sincere and know your product. With these qualities, you can do anything. We live in a world where people want to be taken care of; they are looking for good customer service from honest people.

Trust is a real quality in the workplace and if earned will move you forward. Make agreements and keep them. If you or the company make a mistake, own it—do not point fingers. No one wants to hear excuses so don’t make them. I used to study other women, how they dressed, how they positioned and framed conversations, and determined what I wanted to emulate.

Create your own form of professionalism which showcases your unique personality. If you’re going to something halfway, don’t do it at all; wait until tomorrow. If you want a promotion, speak up! If someone offers you a promotion, take it.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Jim Stovall and Kimberly Zink

Typical day at the office: Before I walk through the door, I do a quick check-in. “Am I thinking about negative things? Am I feeling frustrated, irritated, or annoyed?” Then I choose the qualities I’d like to radiate to others that day, such as joy, calm, grace, confidence, and focus.

When I get to my desk I think, “What needs to happen by the end of the day, so that I will feel a sense of accomplishment when I leave?” I set my tasks from there and do my best to take emotion out of it and just have fun. When we assign negativity or positivity to our tasks, our emotions will choose our tasks.

Best place to work outside of your office: I love to be with the customers wherever they are. I really enjoy my job and being at the bank. I’ve created an atmosphere that supports me.

Current reading: “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown, “Good to Great” by James C. Collins, and “The Anatomy of Peace “by the Arbinger Institute.

Most want to meet: Queen Elizabeth I and Angela Lansbury

Social media you most use: Facebook

Stress relievers: The most effective form of stress relief I have found is to accomplish tasks before they become urgent.

By staying grounded and setting clear intentions for my day, stress is avoided all together. Stress is created—and usually not by other people. There is a part of me that seems to enjoy backing myself into a corner and, by focusing on where I’m at energetically, shifting my emotions from stress and pressure, to fun and excitement! It’s simply a choice.

Favorite hobbies: Gardening, remodeling and decorating my home. I also enjoy live heavy metal shows.

What would parents or significant others if asked to brag about you?

My dad would say, “She has a heart of gold.” He always has said that.

Evelynn Porter

Vice president and commercial loan officer

Poppy Bank

438 First St., Santa Rosa 95401



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