There is a certain mentor in my life with an affinity for fabulous millinery. I treasure her for being so inspirational and relevant to me in a ton of ways. Anne Ballard, president of Universal Storage Group, is known in our industry as “The Hat Lady.” You might even call me obsessed with this legendary figure, to the extent that one of my own nicknames at SpareFoot is “Mini Hat Lady.”


On a recent visit to Atlanta, Anne gave me a very special gift—not one but three gorgeous hats plucked from her collection. Can you believe what a sweet and thoughtful person she is? Here are seven reasons I think she’s so awesome:

  1. Anne is a leader, widely respected in the storage industry as a proven marketing expert. She is a friendly, helpful educator on these topics, and her speaking sessions at industry trade shows resonate powerfully with audiences of storage business owners and operators.

  2. She is a charming Southern belle who appreciates our shared native region for all of its friendliness, fun, culture and sweet tea.

  3. This woman knows how to have a good time! She is one of the best dinner companions you could ever want at your table. She appreciates the finer things in life, including good conversation with friends or colleagues—they’re one and the same to Anne.

  4. Anne knows herself and indulges on her favorite fashion accessory: hats. She wears them well and keeps them organized in a custom closet at her home in Atlanta. Anne’s look is always thoughtful, elegant and striking. I consider her among my style inspirations because she has such fun with fashion!

  5. She is a world traveler who has spent years of her life on amazing voyages around the world, including stints living abroad. This is something that I think is super important for people to make time to do in their lives, and she has done it well. She’s currently a U.S. road warrior, bouncing around the country to speak at industry trade shows. On a related note, Anne has loads of fascinating stories.

  6. This leader has cultivated a great team of employees who love and respect her so much. They have an amazing relationship and tons of fun in their office. This is the kind of company culture we try to foster at SpareFoot, and she is the kind of leader I hope to be. She is so easy to talk to and not intimidating, despite her celebrity.

  7. Anne is an amazingly positive person who always has wonderful things to say about others. She balances this with being a very “real,” down-to-Earth person who is a blast to dish with on just about any topic. She is famously deft at connecting contacts in her huge network to each other for both business and friendship.

Many thanks to Anne for being a unique friend and mentor to me in self-storage!