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August 14, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Kragenbrink describes himself as a “modern Renaissance man”

Estrada(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series on Kevin Kragenbrink, a local business executive involved in coaching that includes small business clients and entrepreneurs.)

He describes himself as “a Wisconsin farm kid but a vagabond,” adding, “I’ve never lived at an address more than five years, but I hope I break that record.”

The “he” is Kevin Kragenbrink, President and Chief Executive Officer of Estrada Strategies, a coaching company that has a focus on a number of sectors including the entrepreneurial community.

“I think of myself as a modern Renaissance man, because I’ve done so many things,” Kragenbrink told us in a recent interview. As has been the case every time we have talked, he is enthusiastic about his career path and the calling that he feels he is now following.

His future, however, was anything but clear when the then 17-year old dropped out of high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army. In fact, Kragenbrink says quite simply, “I grew-up in the Army.”

He reenlisted, earned his high school diploma and, especially important, learned a specialty – logistics and materials management. The Army experience served him well with Allen-Bradley (two and one-half years) and Printronics (two years).

Like many entrepreneurs, Kragenbrink decided he did not like working for others and “thought I wanted to be a minister.” He quit his job and moved to California in January 1983. For the next 13 years, Kragenbrink successively pursued a bachelor’s degree in ministry, a master’s in religion, and a doctorate with majors in history and religion in American culture.

“To make ends meet, I became an accidental entrepreneur,” Kragenbrink said. The field he entered was desktop publishing, a profession that he described as being “revolutionary at the time” which was 1984.

“We started doing newsletters for community groups, grew to producing books, theses and dissertations,” he added. Kragenbrink stayed in the business, although he relocated from California to Alabama during the period to continue his education at Auburn University. As if he did not have enough work to do, Kragenbrink also served as a minister from 1988 to 1992.

He describes the years running his own business and pursuing his education as the “foundation for my success.” Part of that success was a series of great mentors.

“I knew the technology (at the time he started the company), but I knew nothing about sales and marketing,” Kragenbrink added. “I wish I had kept a catalog of every mistake I made.”

He reached a pivot point in 1996. Kragenbrink had finished his doctorate and decided that he did not want to stay in the desktop publishing business. “There were emerging technology challenges,” he said. So, he sold the company to an employee and pocketed the money which allowed him time to decide what he wanted to do. The family moved back to California where Kragenbrink did some part-time teaching, consulting, and church work.

In June of 1999, he received a call from an administrator at California State University at San Bernardino that would lay the foundation for his current work.

NEXT: The impact of the call from California State University at San Bernardino.

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