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"If they can do it, then I can do it' // TERESA A. NIXON: ENGINEERING

Teresa A. Nixon quit her job, cleaned out her desk and climbed into her car.

Her first thought: "What am I doing?"

Impulsively, Nixon had decided to quit her job working for an environmental consulting business and start her own company.

Suddenly, she found herself doing what she never intended.

"I never, never wanted to own my own business," she said. "That was the scariest day of my life."

She had no clients, little startup money and no experience running a company.

But she did have 10 years' worth of experience in the field, faith that she could do as good a job as the company she had worked for, and guts.

"I get this attitude: If they can do it, then I can do it," said Nixon, 35.

That was nearly two years ago. Nixon went out, found investors and, within a couple of months, had her first client.

So far, so good. After two years, Nixon's company, Advantage Environmental Services Inc., has a steady supply of clients who need hazardous wastes cleaned up, assessed or moved. The company's six employees can test for hazardous chemicals in tanks or barrels and clean up or dispose of the wastes.

Getting clients and giving them good service has been the easy part. More difficult has been the business of running a business _ hirings, firings, paperwork.

So far, Nixon said, she hasn't faced prejudice because of her sex or race. Her clients just want good service for a fair price.

"It's just so price-driven," she said.