In 1985, Karen Zaborac wanted to find work in rural Osage Beach, MO, so she could help care for her ailing father. But there were no job opportunities at the same level or even similar to Karen's corporate St. Louis employment. But little did Karen know a world of opportunities would open up for her when a friend mentioned the hot summer sun's reflection off the lake, security film and the lack of quality local workmanship.
I’m proud of what we’ve built and of what the SCORE team has done to help us.” says Karen Zaborac.
Karen started researching the demand for security film, which is similar to sun tinting film used on car windows, but is break-resistant. She quickly learned most of the homes in the area are vacation homes, and believed that security film, which protects carpet and furniture from sun fading, would have a market in the area.
In January 1986, American Sun Control, specializing in break-resistant, sun-blocking security film opened its doors. Karen and her team worked hard at developing a good reputation; she trained workers to be prompt, courteous and polite. Business began slowly, but soon Karen started getting jobs and opportunities to place bids at FBI buildings and police departments. Then calls came in from all over the country requesting security film for retail windows. Karen even had the chance to bid for the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters Building in Washington, D.C. "Though American Sun Control wasn't offered the job, it was an honor to just be one of the five firms invited to bid," she recalls.
Karen has grown the business to 15 employees, who she respectively treats like family. "Much of our success is due to the hard-working contractors that are out in the field face-to-face with the client," she says. "I want my employees happy, so my clients are happy. Bottom line, you have to remember who pays your check—your clients."
With the new challenge to expand, Karen contacted SCORE for help and began working with SCORE mentor Richard Bunk, who had owned a building products business and sold awnings in the Lake of the Ozarks area. "I met Karen at a point in her business when she was looking to expand, to offer her customers a greater line of products." Together they read the market and identified the growing need for custom awnings. After testing the market, Karen expanded to offer custom window and boat dock coverings.
Rich brought in fellow SCORE mentor George Ottman, who is experienced in manufacturing equipment costs, to provide Karen with insight for product pricing, labor costs and overhead. "These two gentlemen are invaluable. I don't know if I could ever afford this type of consulting," Karen says.