Kaci King’s inspiring journey began as a delivery driver for West Ohio Tools Co., a family-owned company that her parents founded 33 years ago. Her father, one of the original four chosen to start the Honda engine plant, decided to start his own business after a decade of growing disillusioned with the corporate mindset. With humble beginnings in a small garage, Kaci’s parents embarked on their entrepreneurial adventure, offering regrind services such as sharpening scissors and chainsaws.
Seeking growth, they converted an old building on their property into a workshop, venturing into re-tipping and regrading saw blades for local Amish woodworking shops and companies like Airstream. Attending a woodworking show ignited Kaci’s father’s vision for the future, prompting the family to expand further into industrial work. This required more space and equipment, leading to the construction of a new building on their property.
Kaci played a supportive role in the family business from a young age, preparing meals and delivering goods to Amish clients during her summer breaks. After earning an accounting degree in college, she pursued real-world experience, as her parents believed in practical learning before joining the family venture. Kaci took on various roles, working at Wendy’s corporate and a local medical equipment business, ultimately gaining the knowledge and expertise that would later propel her to the position of CEO.
When Kaci became pregnant with her first child, she approached her parents, offering to assist with payroll and taxes in their ever-growing business. Though they weren’t quite prepared for her involvement at that time, Kaci eventually joined the company and embraced a variety of roles, such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, and shipping and receiving.
As the business flourished and shifted towards manufacturing, Kaci assumed the position of CFO. Tragically, her father suffered a stroke in 2019, leading Kaci and her husband to shoulder more responsibilities in the family enterprise to allow her father time to recuperate. Following her father’s passing in 2020, Kaci stepped up to honor his legacy, embracing her new role as CEO.
Kaci envisions her company doubling, and eventually tripling, its size. Currently occupying only half of their 20,000-square-foot facility, the potential for growth within the existing space is immense. The business has historically been heavily dependent on the automotive industry, but the significant downturns in 2008-2009 and during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Kaci to diversify their client base.
To safeguard their skilled workforce and ensure the company’s long-term stability, Kaci ventured into various industries such as aerospace, industrial, recreational, and marine engines. At a networking event, she discovered the opportunity to collaborate with the Department of Defense on government contracts, which promised enduring stability and a secure future for the company.
Since then, West Ohio Tools Co. has secured its first order from Northrop Grumman, a stealth bomber manufacturer, and participated in the Shot Show, a defense industry event centered on firearms manufacturing for the military and police. This involvement has generated numerous quote requests and new orders in a brief period, making Kaci’s ambitious vision for growth seem more attainable.
Kaci fondly recalls her father’s advice to seize every opportunity, as one never knows who they might encounter that could significantly impact their business. Embracing this mindset, Kaci’s company is now working towards certification as a small, women-owned business. This designation has unlocked new connections and potential clients, further bolstering her company’s bright future.
Amidst the male-dominated landscape of the manufacturing industry, Kaci’s journey as a woman in a leadership role has been distinctive. While the automotive sector has seen increased female participation, the cutting tool industry remains predominantly male-centric. Fortunately, Kaci’s long-standing presence in her family’s business granted her an edge, as people were already acquainted with her before she assumed leadership.
Initially, the transition to the helm was daunting, but Kaci found solace and support in various women’s networks and groups. Engaging in dialogue with other leaders, she gleaned invaluable insights and advice to help her grow and steer her new responsibilities. Problem-solving and celebrating accomplishments became integral components of her leadership style.
Kaci’s advocacy for her children’s medical needs prompted her to pen a book about her experiences. Light Will Emerge chronicles the journey of Kaci King’s family as they navigate the challenges of their children’s medical conditions: craniosynostosis and Chiari malformation. The book recounts their struggles in seeking help and their eventual encounter with Dr. Ben Carson, who provided life-saving treatment.
Kaci remembers a time when finding support and information online was not as simple as it is now. Back then, forums were the primary means of connecting with others grappling with similar challenges of multiple medical diagnoses for their children. Kaci longed to read a story like hers, seeking reassurance that everything would eventually turn out alright. Yet, she struggled to find that solace.
When Dr. Carson proposed that she write a book, Kaci recognized an opportunity to offer that support to other parents and chronicle her family’s journey for her children. The title, Light Will Emerge, was inspired by a speech Dr. Carson delivered at Youngstown University in Ohio. During a question-and-answer session, a mother with a child facing a different yet challenging condition sought Dr. Carson’s advice. His response was that once everything is figured out, light will emerge.
At that point, Kaci’s family had only undergone a few of the 27 surgeries they would eventually face. That phrase became her wellspring of strength and motivation, even when it seemed as though they had reached the end of their journey, only to find there was still a long road ahead.
Kaci’s daughter has successfully stepped into the accounting responsibilities within the family business. At just 25 years old, she adeptly manages payroll, payroll taxes, and is acquiring knowledge about depreciation. Although Kaci oversees her work, her daughter’s performance is outstanding, earning her a spot on the leadership team. The unique perspective she brings as a third-generation family member and young adult is invaluable to the company.
Despite facing challenges due to frontal lobe damage, Kaci’s son contributes to the family business as a part-time “load and go” guy, helping wherever needed. He performs tasks such as sorting scrap, dismantling old machines, running parts, and even assists at home. While math may be a difficult subject for him, he is dedicated to contributing to the success of the company and supporting his family.
In the face of adversity, both of Kaci’s children have made remarkable strides. She is deeply grateful for their progress and involvement in the family business, especially given the uncertainties they confronted in the past.
Kaci’s wisdom for women encourages them to offer themselves grace, understand their worth beyond societal expectations, and acknowledge their unique value. In 2014, Kaci participated in a transformative personal development course in Belize, centered on surmounting feelings of inadequacy. This eye-opening experience taught her to alter the perspective through which she perceived the world. Kaci discovered solace in yoga and the power of releasing negative narratives.
She stresses the significance of concentrating on what sparks joy and achieving harmony between career and family life. It is essential to recognize when one is overextending themselves in an effort to prove one’s worth. Kaci maintains that a robust support network, particularly one composed of other women, is invaluable. The impact of surrounding oneself with non-judgmental and encouraging individuals can be profound.
Kaci advocates for a willingness to release those who do not belong in one’s inner circle and seeking out those capable of providing genuine support. Attaining inner peace calls for daily, deliberate choices, donning blinders when needed, and centering on one’s strengths and passions.
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