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Women in Business

Women In Business: Kyanite Design and Build

Posted by Cara Treybal on Friday, April 16, 2021

Liz Lathrum feels right at home working in an industry dominated by men. Learn how she came to start her own company, Kyanite Design & Build.  

image of Kynite Design Kitchen

Liz Lathrum Fuels the Des Moines Housing Boom; Inspires Women Business Owners

As young professionals and new families move to the Des Moines area to put down roots, there are new houses and condominiums popping up all over the metro to accommodate them. Kyanite Design & Build, located in Ankeny, has been in on the housing boom since its origins in 2017. At the head of the whole operation, you’ll find the company’s owner, Liz Lathrum.

Kyanite Design & Build offers custom or predesigned new-construction homes, remodeling, interior design and home staging. They also offer rental homes in Ankeny.

The business is named after the kyanite crystal which is believed to have properties that promote positive energy.

“The description of kyanite says that it doesn’t retain any negative energy,” Liz said “It’s all about positivity and that’s what I want for my customers. A good, stress-free experience.”

image of liz A Real Estate Upbringing

Liz was introduced to the real estate business as a kid. The daughter of two real estate agents, she frequently spent her weekends helping at open-house events. After high school, she joined the Iowa National Guard, and when she returned in 2002, she got her real estate license and continued in her parents’ footsteps.

Liz credits her military experience for giving her some of the personal skills that have driven her work in the building industry.

“I’ve always been brave and a self-starter,” she said. “I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, and I think my military experience gave me some self-discipline.”

Liz sold real estate for more than 20 years, focusing mostly on new construction. In that time, she has represented many builders. When one of the main builders she represented went under in 2008, she decided to get into the building game herself. Years later in 2017, Kyanite Design & Build was born.

Her real estate upbringing has gotten her where she is today, and Liz is ready to put 100% focus on her business.

“I kind of came up through the school of hard knocks in all things real estate,” Liz said. “But I’m hanging up my real estate license this year to focus on remodeling, building and land development through Kyanite.”

A Role Model for Women in Business

It’s no secret to Liz that the building industry is dominated by men. She admits that, in the beginning, it was intimidating being the only woman on the job site.

“I have dealt with some adversity, but a lot of it was with my own thoughts,” Liz said. “I wondered if I was good enough, and I had to prove to myself that I could do it.”

It didn’t take long for her to prove her worth as the owner of a building company and start inspiring other women. After one of her first jobs — remodeling a friends’ kitchen — her friend told her that her 9-year-old daughter was impressed and didn’t realize that a woman could own a business.

“It was very eye-opening to both of us that a 9-year-old girl didn’t realize that a woman could own a company,” Liz said. “And so that was inspiring to me to have that kind of impact on her. It still makes me teary-eyed to think about it.”

Getting a Start With Northwest Bank

Commercial bankers at Northwest Bank have been there for Liz from the very beginning. At 18 years old, she was a successful real estate agent, and was ready to buy her first rental property. This was a pretty tough sell since she didn’t even have a credit score yet, but Northwest Bank found a way.

“They were able to look at my income and all the stuff I had going on in my real estate career and they took a chance on me,” Liz said. “They were able to finance the condo and they have been by my side ever since.”

Today, Liz works closely with Cara Treybal, a commercial banker at Northwest Bank in West Des Moines. Cara visits job sites around Ankeny to make sure everything is coming together as planned and to make sure Liz has everything she needs.

Working with Northwest Bank is much more than just financing for Liz. It’s a true partnership.

“I can bounce my ideas off them, show them my business plan and get their opinions on things. They have industry reports that I take into consideration. They can help me fine-tune my ideas so that I’m set for success before approving a loan.”

If you have an idea, consider letting us be your sounding board. We would love to be your partners. Meet one of our commercial bankers today.

Small Business Financing for the Next Step

You’ve worked hard to build your business. Now make sure it continues to thrive. Local businesses are vital to the community, which is why helping yours grow is our priority.

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The Author

Cara Treybal

Cara Treybal

Commercial Banker, AVP

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