If you've seen some of the natural stone in the Time Warner Center, Bloomberg building, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Tiffany's and Harrah's Casinos, then you've seen the work of entrepreneur Karen Pearse.
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Ms. Pearse rapidly has grown her stone products company in Long Island, New York into a global leader in her industry. We asked her a few questions to learn how she has done so well.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Innovative Stone is a leading international supplier, fabricator and installer of natural and man-made stone products used for dimensional stone, hard-surface flooring and branded residential countertops. Essentially, we sell natural stone products.
The company serves as a distributor of natural stone slabs throughout the United States and Canada.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Raised in a family-owned residential stone and tile business, I founded Innovative Marble and Tile in 1981.
Where did you get the startup money?
I grew the Company from an initial investment of $5,000 and was able to break $1,000,000 within the first year of operation. Almost thirty years of consistent growth has enabled Innovative to become one of the largest companies in the industry.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
Other man-made materials including countertop companies such as Cambria, DuPont, Silestone, etc.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Being a female CEO in a male-dominated industry has been more difficult than I imagined.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Yes, been more knowledgeable about how people cannot be trusted completely.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
In 2006, my company was the first to introduce branded granite countertops for residential use in the U.S., which is a $12.7 billion industry today.
To solidify the company's global competitive advantage, I remain dedicated to innovation: I also changed the way the commercial market bought stone in the early 1980's by creating a system for selling direct to the end-user.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Dream big and trust your intuition. You can always do the things you want.
Karen, thanks for all your great advice!