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Profile: Small Business VP Kathy Van Newhouse

She said she###d give the job five years. Nine years later, the family business has gotten into her blood and she can###t imagine giving it up. Kathy Van Newhouse, vice president of Custom Painting & Remodeling Inc., based in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, has applied her marketing and financial expertise (her background is in accounting), honed at large companies, to her husband###s start-up. When she took the position in 1996, CPRI was comprised of her husband and two other employees. Today, they have 40 employees, two divisions (CPR Home Store and Automated Solid Surfaces), and a rapidly expanding business, at a time when many similar companies have failed or had to retrench.

At the time Van Newhouse decided to join CPRI, she was vice president of a computer disaster recovery company. She helped take the company through an acquisition and was offered a job with the surviving firm. Her husband asked her to help him grow his business, and she told him she###d give him five years before returning to her own career path. What###s kept her involved? "Once you###ve worked for yourself you enjoy the flexibility and control," she notes. "On the other hand, you have to work extremely hard, because everything depends on you. But I feel integral to our success. I knew how to take it to the next stage."

Kathy is proud of the fact that they have self-financed their growth. Now, that investment is paying off, and she expects 2005 to show some significant increase in profit. When Kathy joined the company, its office was a 10 x 10 space in their home. Soon they moved the shop and office to a 20 x 40 building constructed behind the house; then four years ago they moved to their current location, where they took 1,800 sq. ft. and thought they were in "hog heaven," says Van Newhouse. In less than a year, however, they needed to take over another 1,800 sq. ft., and then another. In 3 ½ years, they had expanded to 5,400 sq. ft. Van Newhouse developed marketing, budgets, and a business plan of action to steer the rapid development.

Van Newhouse stresses that the company###s main goal in business--and the key to its success--is its focus on customer service. "Our customers are our paychecks," she says. "When you own your own company, you depend on yourself. We do repeat business for our customers. If we remodel a bathroom, it###s very likely they###ll return to ask us to remodel the kitchen. Our commitment to the customer is we will be back within three business days to take care of any problem. Of course, if it###s an emergency, we###ll be out right then and there.

CPRI###s showroom is private and open by appointment so that the sales staff can concentrate on the customer. The employees are skilled, with remodelers required to have 10 years experience and designers required to be certified.

A recent new direction for the company is an expanded countertop division. Opened a year ago, the division represents a partnership with Avonite. Automated Solid Surfaces fabricates countertops and will also be available through E-Bay. It is also one of only a few companies nationwide that can do custom showerpans, which are a boon to older homes in particular because they avoid the cost and hassle of having to jackhammer up old floors to relocate drains. The Avonite comes in acrylic, polyester, granite, and manmade quartz, and in a multitude of colors.

Van Newhouse was raised in Florida , where she earned her degree from the University of Central Florida . She came to Colorado as many do: She came for a visit, in this case to see a relative in Grand Junction , fell in love with the state, and never went back.

How do Van Newhouse and her husband handle the pressures of working together as entrepreneurs and husband and wife? "It can be difficult at times," she acknowledges. "But we###ve learned to keep our work separate. He does the sales, and I run the financial side and handle day-to-day operations. When we go home we###ve learned to leave the business at work. We had to go through some trials and tribulations before we were able to successfully do that. Now, we really try to keep the personal and the professional private."

The Van Newhouses have "great" hobbies, which helps. They love to do motorcycle tours and boat. Offering further respite from work is a granddaughter. In the meantime, they###re busy building their business to the next level.

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