“Can you tell me anywhere else that you can rip someone off for $50K, not have any of the proper licensing, and get away with it? Everyone knows the renovation industry has this black mark on it that says ‘People are going to rip you off’. It’s that kind of stuff that needs to change in the whole industry.” — Keith Riley
Running a granite countertop company, Keith Riley is usually one of the last contractors involved in a renovation. “I used to run into so many people who got ripped off all the time, or just didn’t know who to hire out of fear of being taken advantage of. How do you usually find contractors? Most of the time through word of mouth, right? That recommendation usually turns into what they get ripped off from. So, I thought, there’s got to be a way to change this.” Out of his passion for solving problems through entrepreneurial methods, Keith founded RenovationFind.com as a solution to the lack of regulation in home renovation. “What we’re trying to do is change the way people view renovations. We want to change the industry. We want companies on board with us that are actually going to change the industry.”
Keith came from humble beginnings; he and his two younger siblings were raised by his single mother. Even though times were tough, Keith persevered. “At 16, I remember sitting in the arcade at Southgate, watching how many quarters were going into this Street Fighter video game that just came out,” recounts Keith on one of his early ventures. “While playing some of the cheaper games at the convenience store by my house, everyone would ask ‘Hey, are you going to go over to Southgate to play Street Fighter?!’ And I knew that they wanted to play, but couldn’t get to the mall, so I saw the demand for it and a solution.” He then convinced his Uncle to lend him the money to purchase one of the Street Fighter arcade cabinets for himself, took it over to the local convenience store and negotiated with the the owner to split the revenue from the machine 50/50.
His next entrepreneurial endeavor, while in university, was started between him and his still current business partner, Jody Pfunder, who worked on the oil rigs at the time. During spring break up, they started “Sure Green”, a lawn maintenance company that ran for a couple years and saw moderate success. “I’ve always had this mentality of ‘If someone else is doing it, why can’t I’?” says Keith. Next, to bring his business partner home from the rigs to spend more time with his wife and son, Keith and Jody bought and rebranded a failing tanning salon. “It was a really great business to keep Jody at home, but we didn’t really feel it was as rewarding as we wanted,” remembers Keith. While owning the salon, as a side business, they started renovating and flipping houses. After seeing a demand for their work and finding a love for granite and natural stone, Keith and Jody sold the salon and founded K&J’s Custom Granite in 2006.
The next 8 years went by in what seems like a blur while Keith and Jody built their business. They learned to focus on listening to their customers and keeping them happy, first and foremost, which is a philosophy Keith feels brought them great success. While listening to those customers, Keith noticed there was another massive problem that needed solving— where to find the best renovation companies, and how to protect home owners from the rotten apples. This discovery lead to launching RenovationFind.com, an online rating and monitoring website aiming at taking the guesswork out of hiring the best contractors for home renovations and other home improvement projects. “Every business that I did— from the video game, to the lawn maintenance, to the tanning salon, to the home renovations, to K&J’s Custom Granite, was all leading up to this point. To the point where I could open up RenovationFind and make it successful,” reflects Keith, on the road to starting his newest venture. Over the next five years, Keith is hoping to expand RenovationFind.com to include businesses across all of North America. “We want to be that website that when people are looking for reliable and trustworthy companies in the industry, they come to RenovationFind.com.”
As much as Keith is an entrepreneur, he is a family man first. “To me the most important things are my kids and my family. That’s why I’m doing all of this,” remarks Keith while talking about his wife of 3 years, Vivian, and his sons, Kai and Tayo. “I want to teach my kids that they can actually change the world if they see something wrong with it. It’s not easy, and it’s not about making money all the time—it’s about making a difference.”
When asked about finding time for family, Keith responded, “Two kids—young kids— and two businesses… it’s hard. When you’re at home, engage with your family. You just have to shut [work] off.” Keith tries to spend as much time as possible with his kids, taking them to soccer practice, swimming, taekwondo, soccer games, and skating—and that’s all on a weekly basis.
Keith’s family is very supportive of his work, and Vivian even left her position with a successful firm to come work with RenovationFind because she believes in the business. Keith also employs his mother, and Kai has done some modeling for K&J’s marketing materials, giving both companies a surprisingly family-oriented vibe.
Parting Advice for Entrepreneurs
Keith has 3 areas in which he offers advice to budding entrepreneurs. In regards to starting a business, Keith recalls when he started his granite business: “In the beginning with K&J’s, we worked 7 days a week, 12 hour days, so that at the end of the month we could ask to borrow money. We didn’t make any money for a while. That’s the amount of dedication it takes in the beginning to start a business. If you’re not willing to make that sacrifice and work for free for a while, don’t start a business.”
On work/life balance while running multiple businesses, he says “You’re never caught up. To think that you’ll be caught up [in multiple ventures] is foolish, but you have to prioritize and make sure you’re getting done at least what needs to get done. Prioritize and set those goals and timelines… I always want to get too much done, but you realize in business that it takes time, and you have to just get the most important things done first.”
Finally, Keith remarks on a well-kept secret that’s helped him move forward: “Don’t make excuses, make improvements. Don’t stop learning. There are a lot of excuses you can make when you own a business. A lot of them are probably even valid, to a certain extent, like the economy being down, or business being slow. Things you can’t control. But if you don’t sit there making excuses, and instead make improvements by changing what you’re doing, you’ll have a much better chance of success”
If you would like your company to become part of the movement to change the renovation industry, Keith encourages you to contact RenovationFind via the form on the “Add Your Company” page.