(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of several articles that will publish over the next few weeks spotlighting companies in the Knoxville region that made the latest Inc. magazine list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in America. Today and tomorrow’s spotlight is on K&P Remodeling. The accomplishment by the 11 was the point of a celebration earlier this year that was organized by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and sponsored by PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz.)
Those who attended the late January celebration of the Knoxville area companies that were on the latest list of Inc. Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing companies in the U.S. certainly heard some interesting stories about persistence.
One of those was the one told by Ken Baer who, along with Pattie Capezza, his fiancée, are the owners of K&P Remodeling. The company provides sales, installation, and service for kitchen cabinet refacing, and closet organization systems for stores of a major national chain. The K&P territory includes Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, and Indiana.
We caught-up recently with the Baer and Capezza at their West Knoxville location to learn more about their story that involved literally losing a business, their home and almost everything else they owned during the great economic downturn that started in 2007-08. How did they climb out of that deep hole and now be one of the nation’s fastest growing companies?
Both grew-up in the State of New York – Baer in Westchester County and Capezza in Queens. Both started working at a young age in a variety of jobs with Baer finding his calling in sales and eventually starting his own company that eventually closed. In Capezza’s case, she migrated to Florida where she found her calling in office management and operations.
The two divorced parents met on a blind date, fell in love, and decided six months later to make Florida their home. It was the late 1990s, and a couple of years later, they decided to launch their own business.
“We took $900, placed an ad in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and launched Laminates ‘R’ Us Inc.,” Baer explained. The two-person start-up was clearly a shoestring operation, but that fact did not deter them, something that showed their grit and determination. After all, with Baer’s extraordinary ability to sell anything and Capezza’s operations success, they made a perfect start-up team.
The two explained that the ad had their cellphone number. When the phone rang, Capezza would answer and tell the caller to wait a minute. Then, she would put the caller on hold and transfer the phone to Baer who would continue the call and take the order.
“You have to fake it until you make it,” he said, explaining that they wanted to appear to be a larger company than they were. That philosophy included where they located their initial office – a Dunkin Donuts. “We would take an order, then drive to Miami to pick it up. We were always worrying about what would happen if they did not have the product the customer had ordered.”
Over the course of the next few years, Laminates “R” Us outgrew several locations in Fort Lauderdale as the company grew quickly, expanding to a number of other Florida cities – Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Pensacola.
Next up was Atlanta where Baer says a lot of their success was because of their marketing, coupled with his ability to train very successful sales people along the lines that had earned him kudos earlier in his career and Capezza’s operational acumen.
Then, two blows took their toll on Laminates “R” Us and Baer and Capezza.
NEXT: Going from the absolute depths to success once again.