Since Michael B. Kennedy took over the presidency of KAI at the age of 30 and created The UP Companies in 2011, he has faced many business challenges that pushed him to create innovative solutions in the face of adversity.
When he first took his leadership role at KAI in 2008, the industry was hit with the “chaos” of a recession and it wasn’t long after when KAI was pressured to provide higher minority participation than the industry’s white-owned counterparts.
“They expected me to come in with 100 percent participation,” Kennedy said. “There was a lot of political pressure, and it was a slow economy. That’s when everyone is making the most noise.”
During this time, there was much conversation about how the industry can push the needle forward for minority participation, but most of the conversations from regional leaders were all over the map. In 2012, Kennedy was inspired to create a documentary called “Building a Better St. Louis for the Future”, which took an in-depth view about the condition of St. Louis’ minority participation in the construction industry.
“The video did help move the conversation to a point where we could make more progress faster because we were starting from the same page,” Kennedy said.
After years of developing progressive resolutions, Michael B. Kennedy has managed to grow KAI’s revenue from $8 million in his first year as president to more than $35 million, while The UP Companies’ revenue went from $3.7 million in its first year to more than $40 million. Therefore, it’s no surprise that our KAI CEO and The UP Companies President has been named the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year at Business Salute by The St. Louis American and will be celebrated for his hard work and industry changing efforts at the 20th Annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon on Thursday, November 21.
“You never know what you’re really facing when you’re in the middle of the storm,” he said. “Failure is where innovation was born. Whenever you’re down, you have to ask God, ‘Where do you want me to go with this?’ It turns out He was leading me to my best blessing.”
Story Originally Published in The St. Louis American, Building the future of construction in St. Louis, October 17, 2019