Women in Business: Karla Kopsas Follows in Her Father’s Masonry Footsteps
This is Part 3 of our series featuring successful women business owners throughout Iowa
Construction work is a man’s industry, right? That’s what Karla Kopsas believed as a child. She had always thought she was a princess, not a construction worker. When her parents and she started K&K Masonry in 1994, Karla’s father asked her to work with him. How did he entice her? By pitching one key benefit of the job: “You get to take the winter off.” More than 25 years later, Karla is the sole owner of K&K Masonry, providing brick, block and stone construction services to the Okoboji area.
We had a conversation with Karla to learn about her motivations for deciding to take over the family business and what she has learned about business ownership over the years.
Q: What inspired you to take over as the owner of K&K Masonry?
Karla Kopsas: When I first started working with my dad, I didn’t want to be a construction worker, but over the years I have grown to love it and appreciate the art of it. That’s what motivated me to buy the business from my parents and keep working in this profession.
Q: What financial resources or strategies have you found to be the most helpful for you as you took over the business?
Kopsas: Since I made the transition to Northwest Bank, they have been able to share their insight and knowledge with me about the financial side of the business. I didn’t have that insight prior to owning the business. One strategy I learned from my father was to put money back into the business. If you want your business to grow, you have to reinvest in the company.
Q: Who are the people that have helped you most along the way?
Kopsas: Don Wilson was a businessman in Spirit Lake who believed in me when I probably didn’t even believe in myself. Bob Glover, a bricklayer who used to work for my dad, always made me feel like I was more than a woman in a man’s business. Last but not least, my father. He taught me everything I know about the craft of masonry. I am grateful to all of them for the help they have given me over the years.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part of business ownership?
Kopsas: I love working with the customers and the contractors, but I especially love working with my employees. My bricklayers and masons have been with the business for over 10 years. I feel like they are family. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we are always there for each other. Having a team that shares the same vision and values I have for the business is very important to me as an owner.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
Kopsas: Bookkeeping. My mother was the bookkeeper, and I have no desire to be behind a desk. There are also the challenges that occur daily, like finding the best way for us to work together to solve a problem that has popped up on a project.
Q: What have you learned about leadership over the years?
Kopsas: Encouragement and giving praise is important for getting your employees to have the same vision as you. You have to believe in them until they believe in themselves – just like my mentors did for me over the years. When I can make that shine in my employees, that is a sign of good leadership.
Q: How do you achieve work-life balance?
Kopsas: Work-life balance was hard in the beginning after my parents retired and I took over the day-to-day operations of the business. It was hard to balance work and being there for my family. I have learned that I have to make time for them because they’re the ones who are always there for me. Being able to delegate responsibilities has been the key and has helped me grow as a businesswoman.
Q: What advice would you give another woman who is thinking about starting her own business?
Kopsas: Go for it. Believe in yourself. You have to have confidence and determination to know that if you don’t try it, you’ll never know. You can’t be afraid of what the outcome might be because you’ll never experience the rewards of it if you don’t try it.
Local Connections; Helpful Resources
If you’re ready to go for it, we have the expertise, resources and local connections to help get your idea off the ground. Contact a commercial banker at Northwest Bank today to learn more.
This has been Part 3 of our series featuring successful Iowa women business owners. Check back in a few weeks for Part 4.
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