Karla Krueger, Krueger Graphics, Inc.
IB Wisconsin's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet the state's professionals. This week features Karla Krueger, president of Krueger Graphics, Inc.
Address: 2400 Woodruff Blvd., Janesville, WI 53548
Birthplace: Beloit, Wisconsin
Past/Present Board Membership: YWCA (Finance), WWE (President, Past President, Program Director, State and Local Marketing Person, Etc.), BNI (Chapter Founder-President, VP, Secretary/Treasurer, Visitor Host, Membership, Educational Coordinator, International Board of Advisors) Taking Stock Investment Club (Founder, President)
Education: BFA graphic design, and art education K-12, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, School of Hard Knocks
Hi, Karla, and thanks for answering our questions. First, how long ago did you found the company, and how would you describe your present role?
I opened Krueger Graphics 28 years ago. Making Connections By Design is my tagline. My role consists of creating seamless, start-to-finish design and marketing packages to connect quality people with quality businesses. My philosophy also is that it is becoming increasingly important to all of us to buy products manufactured in the USA; whether a special piece of equipment, tool, technology, service, or widget, there is a USA business to deliver it. My goal is to do whatever it takes to make sure that the connection happens.
Who would you say has influenced your career the most, and in what way?
The work ethic of my paternal grandparents, Lawrence and Vivian Krueger, influenced me early in my life. They owned and started Krueger Sport Shop in Beloit, Wis., and operated it together for many, many years. Families from all around the area purchased their first bike, first set of skis, and first fishing pole from my grandparents. My great uncle, Alvin “Butch” Krueger, was also part of the business, as well as my own parents.
My parents also started their own business, Krueger’s Cove, a supper club on the Rock River between Beloit and Janesville. One might say I was born to be an entrepreneur. It was all I ever knew. Grandpa and Grandma gave me the spark and the “can-do” attitude and inspired me to pursue my own dreams and go to college. Without them, Krueger Graphics would not be reaching its 28th year in business in 2012, surpassing the existence of both Krueger Sport Shop and Krueger’s Cove.
To keep your edge in your industry, what do you read or what organizations do you belong to?
I read a lot of finance books from Warren Buffett, Suze Orman, and others, such as Rich Dad Poor Dad and E-Myth. I only read for educational reasons in the areas of finance and investing, business marketing, and money strategies. I want to make good, sound financial decisions for my future. My grandmother Vivian taught me that. At 23, she took me into an investment firm with the first money I had earned, and I purchased Johnson & Johnson stock. She wanted me to have financial freedom as a young woman, so I could have power over my own destiny and decisions – something she did not have at that time.
I also learn every day from key professionals that I surround myself with. I have started and run many different organizations over the years. Through volunteer experiences and serving on boards, I have gained a real-world education from the qualified leaders I have had the opportunity to serve with.
What was a personal high point in your career?
All of us together, working, striving, to build a stronger and better business community that can support families working on [numerous client projects]. Specifically, the “Made in the USA” ad campaign launching as we speak for United Alloy, Inc. of Janesville. I have been working with them for over 10 years. Also, being involved with two plaques – one for Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi and the other for quarterback Bart Starr. Both were installed for the city of Janesville. The best part was meeting Bart and Cherry and enjoying a small, intimate dinner with them.
What is a long-range goal that you’d like to achieve before leaving your company or industry?
Seeing our local business community gain diversity, strength and regain the pride in the statement “Made in the USA.” We were a nation that people admired! I want us to be that again.
Let’s move from business now to the person behind the business. When you were in high school, what were your career aspirations, and did you accomplish them?
Back then, I knew with certainty that I wanted to go to college and major in art. The choice for me was working in the family business or making my own business, and I aspired for the latter to be independent and self-reliant. And ultimately, I did just that. Starting and running a graphic design agency is certainly different in many ways from working in a supper club. However, in some ways my experience has helped. Each customer has unique tastes and I see my role as designer to make sure they enjoy their experience and leave happy and fulfilled.
Remember your first paycheck? How much, from where, and for what?
It seems like my first paycheck was when I was 8 years old, working for my parents at Krueger’s Cove. Part for candy and part went into the bank for school. I think I was paid 50 cents an hour, and I worked with a “whatever-it-takes” attitude. I pumped gas, helped people dock their boats, painted piers, cleaned rental boats, mowed the lawn, stocked beer coolers, cleaned, and cooked.
Have you always lived in Wisconsin?
I am 100% native Wisconsinite. Like many who have grown up in the area, very, very proud of our state, its people and its beauty. I truly believe there is no other place like it.
What do you do “beyond the office” that brings you happiness or relaxation?
In my younger years, it would be waterskiing, snow skiing, camping, fishing, and riding my Honda 50. Now, it is still camping, fishing, sailing, scuba, and riding my Harley Dyna Low Rider. Some girls never change. After all, my dad was trying for a boy for the third time … he got me instead. Basically, anything outside in nature while enjoying the seasonal changes in Wisconsin.
I also have enjoyed starting, leading, and running an investment club for women of all backgrounds and ages, and being part of and leading organizations such as Business Network International, YWCA, and Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs.
For your outdoor recreation, where is your favorite place to travel to and why?
Webster, Wis. It’s peaceful, nature all around, and great fishing. And I do my best to not bring work with me. Or at least I work on it during the five-hour trip up and back in the motor home and not at all once it is parked.
What character in a movie would you most like to be identified with, and why?
My favorite actress, Katharine Hepburn. I loved the movie where she was a great athlete. She was playing Babe Didrikson-Zaharias, the best female athlete in multiple sports. Both Babe and Katharine were women before their time. Yet she found a perfect place in the world and, in the end, the perfect partner to enjoy it with.
Now, the hard question. Care to list three words you think best describe you?
Self-starter, loyal, dedicated, perfectionist. Did you really mean just three?
Anything you’d be willing to share about your personal life or outlook?
When you feel off center, just grab your best friend and go outside and enjoy nature. Your natural balance, creativity, and power will return and even expand.
Our last question is a look beyond our own lives and professions, Karla. Who would you most like to be a mentor to, or have the most influence on – and in what way?
I would like to help a young woman who is in the middle of a domestic violence situation, who has been surrounded by it for generations. She cannot see her way out. I want to help her to believe that she does have a way out, and it is within her! She just needs to believe it and find the strength to do whatever it takes to change her circumstance. Sometimes all any of us needs is a helping hand, a little support.
I also feel very strongly about helping local businesses build a solid foundation so they can become successful for themselves, their family, and their community. I have mentored hundreds of businesses over the past 28 years and I’m still counting.
Thanks for your time and your talents, and for sharing a glimpse of your business with our readership!
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