By June 17, 2015 Read More →

Marsha Hendler and her quest to build biggest woman-owned oil company

Before starting Terrafina Energy, Marsha Hendler worked in hospitality, owned a marketing consultancy

Marsha Hendler never set out to own an oil company. Or become a well operator, for that matter. She was content in her career as an accomplished San Antonio marketing consultant, but then along came the Eagle Ford shale boom and she got the oil business in her blood.

Marsha Hendler

Marsha Hendler advises young women that when it comes to a career in oil and gas, just do it.

Hendler laughs as she blames the “bubbas,” a group of veteran oil field workers who congregated at a local restaurant and took the fledgling oil executive under their wing. Around 2009, she had taken on a few service company clients, helping them out with their marketing as Eagle Ford businesses enjoyed the prosperity created by the new fangled process called hydraulic fracturing.

She would try to hook up with the bubbas for lunch or coffee because they always had the largest table in the coffeeshop and it was always be filled with the most interesting people.

“I would sit and listen,” she said in an interview. And one day, one of the bubbas leaned over and said, ‘You know, little girl, I been watching you. You get this business. You need to be an operator.”

Hendler looked at him and said, “What the hell do I know about operating?”

“I’m telling you, you could do this business,” he replied.

All the way back to San Antonio that night, she thought about what the bubba had said. The more she thought about it, the more she realized he was right. She could do the job.

She applied for her operator’s license from the Texas Railroad Commission and shortly after, the idea of Terrafina Energy was born.

Marsha Hendler may have been a rookie well operator, but she was a savvy, experienced business owner. She understood her success in the oil business would depend on building a team of technical experts. She is Terrafina’s only employee, all other services – from the engineering and geoscience to the accounting and marketing – are contracted out.

“Managing a team is extremely important in this business. I don’t think you can do it any other way,” she said. “For some of the old-timers, who know far more than I do, that was one of their shortcomings, they’ve done it their way so long they don’t look at new ways of building organizations.”

Oil and gas production is a tough business, as Hendler is quick to admit. The day of our interview, she had learned that a promising drill program came up dry, a hazard of the industry and one she has learned to accept.

The death of her primary client, whose estate was in chaos and is just now being sorted out, was another difficult challenge for the novice operator.

But she has persevered and says the future looks bright. Terrafina is actively operating a number of wells in southwest Texas. When the former client’s estate is sorted, she expects her company will resume operating all or at least some of the wells.

“This is a great industry.  I am now focused on building the largest woman owned independent oil company in Texas,” she says.

Marsha Hendler hopes to see more women in the oil business as time goes on. Women who are getting geoscience and engineering degrees enjoy tremendous opportunities for advancement.

“People talk about the glass ceiling, and I certainly experienced it from time to time in my previous corporate life, but I’ve never seen it in the oil field,” she says.

“From day one it was clear to me there was no glass ceiling and my only limitations would be my own reluctance and nothing more.”

She also downplays the sexism one might expect in the male-dominated – and traditionally macho culture of – oil and gas industry.

“I had far more sexual harassment in my first career [in hospitality management] than I’ve had in this one,” she said. “This is a great place for women. I’ve had nothing but respect from the guys.”

Her advice to young women thinking about a career in the energy sector?

“Don’t be afraid to call your own shots, don’t be afraid to step out and do it,” she said. “It is scary, it takes a big time and money commitment, but it can be done.”

Marsha Hendler has never been afraid to call her own shots. She may not have set out on her career path to own an oil company, but now she’s busy growing what she expects will be the biggest woman-owned energy company in America one day.


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3 Comments on "Marsha Hendler and her quest to build biggest woman-owned oil company"

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  1. Katie Mehnert says:

    We need more women like you. Way to go for pushing and perservering.

  2. Shawn Prytula says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Marsha Hendler. I’ve been in the Retail, Telecom, and Computer industries before entering the oil field and I’ve never received more respect from my clients than I do with the gentlemen in the oil industry. They say, “yes ma’am and no ma’am”, they listen to me without interrupting, they are not condescending, even when my ignorance is waving in their face like the Texas flag. I also appreciate that most of them are confident yet humble and down-to-Earth people that treat people as they would like to be treated. People are people so you’re always going to have a few that weren’t taught right but they are the exception to the rule in the oilfield.

  3. Marjorie McQuerry says:

    Such an inspiration! I had and am considering reopening my biological service company for the oil industry. As a woman in a man’s world I heavily relied on a male counterpart but now realize I, a woman, can do anything he did. It just takes the right product and self belief and of course funding.