Twelve years ago, Bill was working for an accessibility product manufacturer as their Vice President of Sales and Marketing. One of their distributors named Silver Cross approached him and asked him to consider opening a franchise location of Silver Cross in Kansas City. Bill and his wife, Maria had previously considered starting their own business but couldn’t quite put their finger on what type of business would suit them as well as fill a void in the community. Having had dealt with their own family members mobility challenges, they knew firsthand what a blessing accessibility products could be. In addition, they both knew that they could impact the lives of many local citizens by offering affordable accessibility solutions that would help them stay in their homes and maintain their independence. Bill’s knowledge and expertise in the field of accessibility lift products along with his previous business background at General Electric Appliances prepared them to enter the market. Maria’s willingness to help and be a partner in the business sealed the deal for a Silver Cross Franchise store in the Kansas City area.
In January of 2007 Silver Cross, Kansas City opened its doors, working from a small shared office suite and leasing a storage unit for inventory. The Koch’s were trained with the knowledge that often, a consumer’s existing lift would still be in good condition when it was no longer needed. The result was Silver Cross-KC would offer to re-purchase lifts back from the customer, and then recycle them for lower costs to other users. The medical community was delighted when they learned of this unique service. This approach was initially applied to stairway lifts and ramps and provided lower prices for recycled products to those who could not or did not want to pay for new equipment. Since some needs for accessibility equipment are short term, recycling items units opened the prospect of offering rental options for the same items. As part of our marketing, we also offer to help connect the consumers that are on fixed incomes with specific funding sources that might be able to assist them with financing.
Quite often the customers are not aware of the differences in lift products or even what features are available. We pride ourselves in educating the consumer on the products during a complimentary home visit and helping them think through how the product will be used. Eventually, we also found ourselves providing lifts to meet ADA (American Disabilities Act ) legislation in churches, schools, and other commercial applications.
As time went on, we were able to move into a building that had space to showcase the various products and give people an opportunity to come and try the lifts for themselves. We put on display six working stairway lifts, an overhead ceiling lift for those that are not ambulatory and are cared for by a parent or caregiver, and a wheelchair lift. The live demonstration showroom is another key aspect of our business that sets us apart from other companies in our field.
As the economy improved and the housing market started to pick up, we saw an increase in the number of inquiries for home elevators. In 2015 we invested in a fully functioning two-story elevator in our showroom for the convenience of the builders, consumers, and architects. The Aging in Place concept is increasingly popular, and many people are building their “forever homes” to include a home elevator. The elevators provide accessibility of course, but many people today chose to install an elevator simply for the level of convenience and security of knowing they can “age in place” without having to move or remodel.
Elevators are generally installed in new construction. However, we are seeing an increase in the number of remodeling projects in existing homes where the owner wants to add an elevator. New products are constantly being brought to market, including elevators that can retrofit more easily without significant construction. The Stiltz elevator is one example of those options for an innovative self-supported elevator that can be installed in a couple of days with much less remodeling.
In 2017, after being in business for 10 years, we decided not to renew our franchise agreement and rebrand as an independent company. Since we are a local company, we wanted to reflect that in our name as well as be crystal clear about what we provide. Thus KC Lift & Elevator was born, and we’ve been blessed that our clients and referral partners have received it very well. The biggest reward in this business is when our clients come back to thank us for restoring their quality of life. That means we’ve done more than just install a lift.
Running a small business can be extremely challenging and a daily learning experience. Aligning ourselves with experts such as the Douglas L Freeman CPA team of professionals has been a true blessing. We have benefitted significantly with strategic advice on corporate structure and taxes as well as them assisting in our finance & banking relationships. They are an essential part of our success and growth.
Bill and Maria Koch