In celebration of small business month, we’ve re-launched our business profile series giving brief snapshots of MN’s Black-owned businesses.
With a shortage of skilled trade workers looming across the country, trade companies are helping workers keep pace with — and even surpass — the income of those with four-year degrees.
South Minneapolis-based KMS Air Duct Cleaning is one of those companies. Owned and operated by Ken McCraley, KMS employs over 30 people working in residential apartment complexes, commercial buildings, federal buildings and industrial businesses.
Read on to learn more about this Black-owned business.
MSR: What exactly is your business?
Ken McCraley: We do air duct cleaning, which is our primary business. We started out doing apartment buildings and houses. As time went on we got into commercial air duct cleaning in hospitals, schools, an account for the airport — targeting big business and commercial buildings.
MSR: Do you have a college background in the business?
KM: No, not at all, I started out working for a guy for a year, until I realized I could do this on my own. I struggled mildly for six years until I was able to establish accounts and figure out a way to bring in revenue consistently.
MSR: What was one of your biggest challenges when you first started?
KM: The whole struggle of having that first employee is a barrier to any small business, to find out how to legally hire someone — making them an employee, making sure you pay the taxes with payroll and sales tax, and figuring out the accounting side of business. With being in business for 27 years, it took 10 years to understand the business.
MSR: What would you say the key is to running a business?
KM: The first thing is make sure you know your business — if there’s a national standard or certification, be a part of that. The other part of running a business is the stuff you don’t know. You need to search out the answers and the accepted practices of the business. That can make or break the company.
Do the simple things like opening up a business bank account and having a banking relationship, to not using your personal credit to fund the business after a certain point because it can drag the company down.
MSR: What education is needed to work at your company?
KM: We train technicians in-house and they have high school degrees. On average, it takes a technician five years to learn the ropes of the industry and get the certifications along the way.
MSR: How does your business impact the community?
KM: We look like the community in having a high minority workforce.
MSR: What’s been the most rewarding part of owning your business?
KM: Seeing employees that look like myself transition from having a job into having a career and being able to support their family.
MSR: What’s your vision or goals for your business?
KM: For the folks who started with me to advance into roles of leadership and grow into industries that we’re not in right now.
MSR: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
KM: Have a relationship with a bank that specializes in working with small businesses, and own the building that the business is located in as soon as possible.
KMS Air Duct Cleaning is located at 3648 Snelling Ave. in Minneapolis. MSR readers can receive a 20 percent discount on residential or commercial air duct cleaning services. Offer valid until January 31, 2019. For more information, visit www.kmsclean.com.
— Interview conducted by Jonika Stowes