Alumna Day Coker gives back to GTCC, creates scholarship for females in HVAC and trade programs

Published on: June 21, 2022
Day Coker
Day Coker awards an annual Invicta Trade Scholarship for female HVAC students.

When a Guilford Technical Community College student receives the Invicta Trade Scholarship awarded annually by Day Coker, it's all because the owner of AC by Day C HVAC once took constitutional law.

In an odd turn of events, that class eventually led Coker to work in HVAC, forming her own business and most recently setting up a scholarship at GTCC.

When she graduated from high school in 2001, her sights were set on becoming a lawyer. "When it was time to go to college, I thought, 'What am I going to do to make money and have a good career?' Back then, to do that, you were going to be a doctor or lawyer."

So, Coker headed off to High Point University with legal plans in tow. Then she was introduced to corporate law, and everything changed.

"My first day of American constitutional law they assigned me 250 pages of reading, and I thought, 'This is going to suck.' I didn't enjoy it. It wasn't at all what I thought it would be. When I went to take the LSATs, it further solidified how miserable I was going to be. I did some soul searching and decided it wasn't for me."

After receiving a Bachelor of Science in political science with a minor in French from High Point University, Coker had a realization.

"I started asking myself, 'What was the last thing I remembered having fun doing?' Then I remembered there were two electronics classes I took in high school."

These were a couple of elective classes she excelled in while in high school but steered away from when thinking about college. She figured it was time to revisit the idea and enrolled in an electronic engineering program at GTCC in 2008.

While attending GTCC, she landed a paid internship with RF Micro, a company that manufactured chips for cellphones. What started out as a six-month position lasted almost a year. When Coker graduated from GTCC, though, she was still searching for something that sparked her interest.

That's when she first got interested in the HVAC industry, working as a maintenance technician for First Service Mechanical out of Greensboro, a company that serviced HVAC systems for fast-food establishments throughout the southeast.

"They were really nice guys. They gave me a lot of latitude," Coker said of her first HVAC experience. "They gave me the training necessary to get my EPA certification in preparation to become a service technician."

She picked up more HVAC experience working for a large apartment complex, but then her career veered a bit off track. She was hired by a major retailer for what she thought was an air conditioning repair job. Instead, she wound up working on refrigerator repair for several years while making plans to start her own HVAC business.

During her time as a refrigerator repair person, she started an HVAC side hustle that began moving her toward her own business.

"While repairing refrigerators back in 2016, I would hand out my HVAC business card and tell the homeowner to give me a call if they had any issues with their system," Coker said.

By 2018 Coker had built a large enough client base to officially open AC by Day C, LLC, a company specializing in residential HVAC service and repair, ranging from preventative maintenance to full system installations.

In less than five years, her business, which is licensed by the state of North Carolina, has grown from a handful of service calls a week to 40 or more.

"It's quite amazing to me … because I do very little advertising. Most of my customers are by word-of-mouth, and 70 to 80 percent of them are women," said Coker, adding that some customers who contact her via text are surprised when a woman shows up. "I try to speak in layman's terms with all of my customers, relating failures to everyday issues. It shows them that I'm not trying to confuse them with HVAC jargon. I think it carries a lot of weight with them."

Even though she has strong ties to GTCC, Coker ironically never took any of the college's HVAC classes.

"When you go to get your state license, you have to show proof to the board how long you have been doing this kind of work. I laid out my timeline, and the director of the board said, 'You really took the long way around.' GTCC had an HVAC program, but I was unaware of it when I was in attendance. I completely skipped that route and went and got 10 years of field experience instead of the two years of class that would have given me what I needed to take the board exam.

"I definitely took the long road but came out with a lot more knowledge. It's safe to say I've learned from my mistakes."

Once her business got up and running strong, Coker decided it was time to give back. She sees very few women on job sites she works, and that's what motivated her to come up with the idea of funding a scholarship for females. She had the inspiration but wasn't exactly sure how to make it work.

"I thought, 'Why don't I go back to my school and pitch it to them?' and they were like, 'Oh, yes, we love the idea!' They rallied behind it. I knew then that this was going to work," Coker said.

Two years ago, Coker awarded the first Invicta Trade Scholarship for female students enrolled in GTCC's HVAC or trade programs.

While it may seem odd for Coker to make a scholarship pledge to a college she attended more than a decade ago and for a curriculum she never experienced, she believes it all makes perfect sense. The college, its curriculum, and its instructors prepared her for anything she faced in the engineering industry.

"If you minimize it to the two years I was there, it seems like not much," Coker said of her time at GTCC. "I had an amazing teacher, Cindy Kiger, who really knew her field as the head of the electronic/electrical engineering department. She gave me a whole new outlook when I was in her classes, as I'd watch her work through electrical calculations with such ease … She was awesome. I knew if I could be half as impressive as she was, I would be amazing."

For more information on the Invicta Trade Scholarship, visit GTCC's Financial Aid page.

Back to All Articles