Grant and Katie Klumb had a dream of owning their own business. They decided to take advantage of their combined 25 years of utility construction and came up with a business plan to turn their dream into a reality. Unite Utility was officially opened in January 2019: an underground construction contractor that specializes in the installation of fiber optic mainline. But their fiber optic company sets itself apart from the competition through the pair’s diverse experience.
Leveraging the Experience
Katie and Grant have worked not only in the fiber optic arena, but also in the natural gas and electric sector with clients such as We Energies, Alliant, MG&E, Peoples Gas, Nicor and more. Their wide-ranging experience leads to success with many different types of projects as well as their high safety and quality standards. Elevated expectations from natural gas and electric utilities have molded the couple throughout their years in the industry and they bring that same focus and standard to the fiber optic and communication sector.
But all their success has not come without some challenges as well. The largest obstacle for their operation has been resources. As a small business, they do not have the same amount of equipment or as many members of support staff as the larger players in the industry. Each employee in their company has to wear many hats and make sure they are optimizing efficiency and usage. And their hard work is paying off.
Finding the Right People
The biggest success for Unite Utility is definitely the team. They employ a great group of people whose willingness to be part of a startup has been wonderful. The staff are involved in bringing new ideas to the table to help distinguish their company from others in the industry. Since it is a difficult market in which to recruit employees, Grant and Katie consider themselves very lucky, saying “Our success starts and ends with our team.”
Other success of the business came through the power of partnerships. Katie and Grant were applying for a loan from the Small Business Administration, where they were referred to the Waukesha County Center for Growth, Inc. This entity is Waukesha County’s economic development organization, created in 2016 by the County, the City of Waukesha, Waukesha County Business Alliance, the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and local municipalities.
At the Waukesha County Center for Growth, the couple met SBDC Consultant Lucy Waldhuetter. Grant and Katie were thrilled with the experience, stating “The support the SBDC offers and their vast areas of expertise have been extremely helpful, especially in the startup phase.” Lucy assisted them with preparing financial projections and reviewing their business plan. She also worked with them on market research and business strategy.
Lucy said of working with the Klumbs, “It was a great pleasure to work with Grant and Katie. They were very well prepared and thought through every aspect of their business in much depth. Fiscally conservative, they always thought of the worst case scenario. I will place my bet on Unite Utility as a start up that will have much success.”
Accomplishments with Southeast Wisconsin SBDC:
- Market research
- Business strategy
- Business plan
- Financial projections
Looking to the Future
The couple initially invested some of the financing Lucy helped them obtain in the purchase of new equipment. They continue to grow and expand Unite Utility, recently adding five new jobs to the local economy. Plans for the future include even more market expansion and finding the right people to grow their team.