Award Winner: Maelei Catt, CREATIONS Cabinetry

2016 WomenVenture Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Emerging Business Award

If you drive along I-94 in Woodbury, MN, you can’t miss the word ‘CABINETS’ in big, bold letters on the side of the road—a sight that easily catches the eye of any homeowner or contractor with new construction or renovation in mind. A short jaunt along the frontage road will lead you to CREATIONS Cabinetry, where entrepreneur Maelei Catt is making her lifelong dream of small business ownership a reality. 

Hard working and fiercely independent, Maelei was destined to be an entrepreneur. “From the very beginning, I knew that I didn’t want to keep working for people. I don’t ever want to work that hard again, unless it’s for myself,” says Maelei. Though her initial plan was to open a restaurant, her talent and experience with selling and designing cabinetry, as well as construction project management, led her to open CREATIONS.

CREATIONS Cabinetry is a one-stop shop for custom cabinets and kitchen design, boasting a simple, convenient ordering process and offering products from a wide range of price points. With experience at two different big box home improvement stores, both Maelei and her full-time designer believe in offering their clients a hands-on approach to home improvement—something you won’t find at the larger stores. Providing a high level of service and being able to employ two additional talented and likeminded staff members has not come without its challenges. 

In 2012, Maelei started working as an independent cabinet design and sales contractor. Three years later, she unexpectedly received a very large contract that she was unable to fulfill working out of her home. At her breaking point, she resorted to building cabinets herself on her dining room table when her vendors were at capacity. Though she had planned on bootstrapping the cash to someday open her own storefront, Maelei realized that the only way she could keep up with her demanding workload and continue to grow was to get a loan. 

In late 2015, Maelei came to WomenVenture. Having previously taken the Getting Ready course, she knew WomenVenture was a great resource for women entrepreneurs. “It’s actually kind of crazy awesome that it exists. I’m sure that it’s a lot of work and dedication, but from the view of an entrepreneur, it seems like magic,’ says Maelei. Working with the loan team, she was able to secure the capital she needed to open a combined showroom and warehouse space in Woodbury, purchase a van and forklift, and bring on additional staff. The whole process, says Maelei, “was very easy, kind of like what we do with cabinets.”

As part of her WomenVenture loan, Maelei received technical assistance in accounting, calling the additional help a “tax season lifesaver.” In addition, she was able to take advantage of WomenVenture’s services to learn more about Quickbooks, set up her payroll, and obtain certification as a woman-owned business. “I got a lot of support that I never really expected,” says Maelei. “The shift to having my own store was something I had talked about 12 years ago and now it’s finally a reality.”

Since Maelei opened her showroom, business has been booming. She has already exceeded her original sales projections and she's currently preparing to open a second showroom in Bloomington. Maelei's drive to succeed is just one of the many reasons she is WomenVenture's 2016 Nothng Ventured, Nothing Gained Emerging Business Award winner.