By Jennifer Erb
2016-10-072016-10-07https://wvuieleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/[email protected]WVU IE200px200px
Ken Codeluppi knew he wanted to be an engineer in high school, but realized that his personality was also suited for sales. He chose Industrial Engineering because it would give him both a technical and business-oriented education. While Ken was from southwestern Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, WVU was less expensive to attend than the University of Pittsburgh or Penn State. Also, Ken liked the campus when driving through Morgantown to visit relatives living in Bridgeport, WV.
During the summers of his college years, Ken worked in a steel mill. It turned out that this work experience was critical to his early career. While Ken was in school, ROTC was mandatory during the first two years for all male students. Ken realized that he was likely to be drafted to fight in Vietnam, so he decided to stay in ROTC for his final two years in college. When Ken graduated, he was commissioned into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Transportation Corp and was assigned to an R&D position at Natick, MA since he had an engineering degree.
After his two years of military duty had ended, Ken went to work for International Mill Service (IMS), a company that recycled slag and reclaimed steel at various steel mill locations throughout the world. He spent four years working in Brazil and traveling throughout South America and Mexico. He helped IMS grow its account base from $33 Million to $380 Million over his 9 years with the company. While living in Brazil, Ken developed a working proficiency in both Spanish and Portuguese languages.
In 1980, Ken returned to IMS’ corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. He started classes toward an MBA at Temple while living in Philadelphia and commuting to the Far East with objectives to develop new business accounts in Indonesia, S.Korea and Japan. Due to the dominance and expertise of Japanese steelmakers during the 1980s, Ken realized that an American company would have not be awarded service contracts in that region. As a result, Ken decided to leave IMS and attend Temple University full time over a 6 month period to complete his MBA.
As fate would have it, one of Ken’s cousins was the attorney for a company called Wall Firma who started in 1949. Wall Firma manufactured masonry waterproofing to beautify and seal basement walls as well as concrete repair products. Using money he had saved while in Brazil, Ken managed a leveraged-buyout of Wall Firma from its original founder who was forced to sell the business due to health problems.
Using skills he learned as an IE graduate as well as relationships developed at WVU and his “innate moxie”, Ken invested in capital equipment to greatly improve production efficiencies (and to become “low cost producer”) and in modernized packaging designs to reinforce the corporate image and to simplify the retail consumer’s purchasing selection process. As a result, Ken was able to grow Wall Firma’s business eight-fold. In 2001, Ken also bought the assets and Damtite brand from a competitor waterproofing manufacturer founder, located in Atlanta, and founded in 1953. The two businesses that Ken owns have been combined manufacturing history of 120+ years.
“The business environment today has changed,” Ken says. “In the past, we were able to build brand loyalty through relationships with the buyers of the companies we served. That’s tougher to do in today’s business world with the large retail chains. They rotate the buyers into different departments often.”
Ken loves the independence of being his own boss, but “you are never away from the business,” he says.
Ken Codeluppi is a dynamic energetic entrepreneur who has built his business from personal relationships he develops with his customers. In his present position, he is the owner operator of two water proofing companies: Wall Firma and Damtite. He began his entrepreneurial career in 1983 after a successful career with International Mill Service (IMS). At IMS, Ken built the client base throughout South America.
Ken graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from West Virginia University in 1971. He received an MBA from Temple University in 1981. Ken has working proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese.