Marisa Gora, owner of Kemora Landscapes, based in Chicago, Illinois, was first introduced to the landscape industry through a summer job in college. She worked for the Wilmette Park District and found she loved the outdoors and the creative aspect of landscape design. She started her business in 2002 as a one-woman landscape design operation. Since then she has designed and constructed thousands of unique landscapes in the Chicago area and now has a staff of nine employees. Some of her primary goals are to connect people with their outdoor spaces and create spaces that are personal, serene and inviting.
What is your proudest moment in business?
We have just bought a property to move our company into and I am very proud of the opportunity it will provide us to create better systems and have organization and control of our operations. This was a goal we set out to achieve a few years back and we are incredibly proud to have realized this goal.
What motivates you on Monday mornings?
The biggest motivation for me is all the people that rely on the company to support their families. I feel a sense of responsibility to keep the company healthy and stable to ensure that our people have a place they can rely on and find respect and support.
What business worry keeps you up most at night?
What doesn’t keep me up at night?! The biggest worry these days is the safety of my employees in an unknown environment as well as the unpredictable economy.
Who is your business mentor?
Jody Michael is an executive coach who has helped shape me personally as a business owner and helped me grow with the changing stages of the company. As the company has grown the needs of the company and the roles I needed to take on have also grown, and it has been a learning experience every step of the way. She has been essential.
What is your favorite business book?
I have read so many business books I couldn’t pick one. I have loved Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, Upstream by Dan Heath, and Good to Great by Jim Collins.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
To me, it means serving for the highest standards and pushing for the best and right solutions for our clients, even if it’s not the easy solution.
What does it mean to you to be an NALP member?
It means having a resource that I can go to where others have gone through and dealt with the same issues I have been dealing with.
In five years, where do you see your business going?
We are looking to refine and elevate our efficiency and services to take our customer experience to the next level. We are in the process of moving into our new building and we hope five years from now to have tested and improved the operations for each of our departments to where we can isolate out jobs that are good fits for us and be able to focus our energies on more jobs that fit our objectives.
In five years, where will you be as a business owner?
Along with our new building, we are putting a general manager in place that I hope will allow me to focus my time back on my design clients. Currently, I have too much of my day consumed by operational issues and it takes away from what I was doing that initially made this company successful. I know my time is best spent taking care of clients and designing and my goal is to tip the scales back to where more of my day is spent on those kinds of tasks, and less on things that can be handled by others.
This article was published in the January/February issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.