Women in Construction: A Q&A with our founder and owner, Karen Roe
During Women’s History Month we want to emphasize the lack of women in the construction industry in hopes to empower other ladies to learn about the wonderful career opportunities available. Though it is a male-dominated field, there are plenty of resources and organizations geared toward helping women be successful should they choose a career path in construction.
We sat down with our founder and owner, Karen Roe, to hear about how she started working in the industry and where it’s lead her over the last decade.
Q: The age-old question – how did you get into the design & construction industry?
A: I feel like most stone fabricators’ response is that it was “by mistake”. My parents were both successful professionals but stone was certainly not the family business. My first job in college was at a glass company and after meeting my first husband we built a glass and mirror business of our own. Due to personal circumstances I left that and took a different career path. After a few years and a cross country move I joined a friend at a granite company.
Q: So did you fall in love with stone and work your way up?
A: You could say that. I did have a great interest in learning about stone and a wonderful friend who mentored me. We worked well together, I had the financial and business experience and he had all the skill side. I’ve used my in-field, hands-on experience and paired it with trainings and seminars to continuously learn and grown. In all honesty though, joining a male-dominated industry has had many challenges but I’ve always stood my ground in demanding respect for my knowledge and willingness to evolve – and help others in the process too!
Q: Speaking of helping others, you’re pretty involved in the industry aren’t you?
A: I am! I’ve found so much benefit and support in being a part of organizations like the Natural Stone Institute, specifically Women in Stone. I’ve been a member the Steering Committee in recent years and was just recently named Chair of the Communications Committee. I’m also a Charter member of the Rockheads Group, an entrepreneurial organization for stone fabricators that focuses on elevating best practices in customer service, sales, operations, marketing and more. I’m a certified CEU speaker and have been afforded several speaking opportunities, including at the Xiamen Stone Fair in China and at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show this year.
Q: From an outsiders perspective it seems like success follows you. What have been some of your greatest challenges?
A: Hah! I can certainly say my journey has been a tough one but I’ve tried my hardest to keep an attitude of positivity and empowerment instead of “woe is me”. I’ve overcome some pretty horrific personal situations that bled into my professional career but finding cheerleaders and groups of people that helped me along the way was key. Unfortunately, as a woman in the stone industry, I’ve had to prove myself more than I would have liked but I’m glad now to have those experiences so I can hopefully be a mentor to other women who are working to achieve great things!
Q: Tell us about your business and some of your “wins”.
A: I own and operate a stone fabrication facility in Central Florida. I started it from my living room nearly 11 years ago with a Makita saw and an old truck and have grown it to be a successful operation with almost 50 employees, state-of-the-art robots and machinery. We are the only countertop fabricator to ever earn the Sunshine Safety Award in 2016 for our annual voluntary OSHA inspections and are one of only two fabricators in Central Florida accredited by the Natural Stone Institute. We’re also minority certified in the State of Florida and the City of Orlando. In the last two years we’ve earned several recognitions by the Orlando Business Journal including the 16th ranked woman-owned business and the 28th largest specialty contractor. I’m super proud to have been named in the 2018 Fast 50 as the 33rd fastest growing business in the region. We have also been recognized as nominees for Fabricator of the Year by the Natural Stone Institute and the International Surface Fabricator Association.