Scott and Maria Gates: Awake Windows and Doors

February 9th 2021

Scott and Maria are the owners of Awake Window & Door Co. Awake Windows and Doors is a mission driven, second chance employer with the goal of giving people real opportunity to build a career after incarceration. This episode is full of practical insights on life and on business so we're really excited to share it with you.


Brief background on Scott Gates:

Scott spent close to 10 years working at Western Window Systems. During his time there, he took the company from 6 million to 150 million revenue. One key growth initiative that made the company so successful was their rebranding. Western Window Systems started as a more technical branded company, and after their rebranding, they started focusing on how the product improves lifestyle. They focused on copy, reworking the website, and creating marketing assets that would appeal to their ideal customers. By the time Scott left the company, it had sold for 350 million. 

His time at Western Window Systems included a significant amount of growth not only for the company, but for himself. Here are his thoughts for balancing his work and family life: 

“A lesson for entrepreneurs: It’s not for the faint of heart. You can’t sacrifice your family along the way or you’re not going to be happy with the end results.” 

Scott earned his MBA during his time at Western Window Systems. He was able to implement the things he was learning in class and apply it to his role as CEO. 

“I would leave a statistics class learning about how to understand trends. None of the statistics and final exams had any relevance, but wait, how could I apply this?  We had to do a paper, and I turned my statistics class into an understanding of employee retention.” 

While he believes it to have been a truly great experience for himself at the time, he wouldn’t necessarily say everyone in business should go out and get their MBA. Here’s what he offers instead:

“The best advice I try to give to entrepreneurs or business people is to just keep learning. So listening to podcasts like this, constantly reading books - that’s actually what is more valuable than the three letters (MBA).” 

Scott and Maria’s motivation for starting Awake Window & Door Co: 

“Let’s go build something together, do something that is going to be significant to us as a couple, try to make an impact in society and have the freedom to build something that is truly ours. I think that was a big decision, but I think it was the right one.” 

Awake Windows & Doors Co is a luxury window and door manufacturer offering massive sizes, narrow sightlines, & indoor outdoor living spaces. More importantly, their mission is to combat recidivism and the mass incarceration challenges we are facing in the United States.

Maria shares the purpose of starting Awake and giving second chances to individuals with criminal records: 

“[We want to] give people a second chance but in a meaningful way. McDonalds is great, but it’s not a career. Really helping people come out of prison and acquire real skills that they need to have a career and support a family.” Giving them a real career path with a solid salary will allow them to not take on multiple jobs to pay their bills. 

Scott and Maria weren’t sure which industry to start their business in, but as they thought about it, they realized that the best use of their time is to utilize the experience Scott gained (20+ years) in the window and door industry. They had an advantage in that industry because he already knew what was trending, how to grow, and where to invest their time. 

“The best way we can have the biggest impact on people is we first have to make the company successful. So if this is about creating jobs, we better make a business that actually creates jobs.”

Their mission to lead by example for other businesses: 

“I think that’s the only way to break down the stigma - is just by example. Doing it, and showing it can be successful, and it can work. Modeling it for other business owners.” 

Additional Links:

Awake Windows & Door Co website (going live in February 2021):

Follow them on Facebook:

Follow them on Instagram:

Connect with Scott:

Connect with Maria:

The Last Mile prepares those incarcerated with business and technology training:

Scott recommends - Just Mercy the book:

The New Jim Crow book:

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