Kayla Keenan, technical sales director-Midwest region for Stone Panels LLC, presented 42 CEU classes and educated 401 attendees in 2021 – earning her the title of 2021 CEU Educator of the Year by the Natural Stone Institute. “In these unprecedented times, you have to be creative and continue to reach as many people as possible,” said Keenan. “CEUs have given us the opportunity to gain connections and tell our story.”
Stone World had the opportunity to talk with Kayla to learn her story and why she strives to educate others, as well as what other reasons why she enjoys working in the stone industry.
SW: Tell us a little about yourself.
KK: I am a small town Minnesota girl who survives most days on way too much coffee. I am a wife to my husband, Mitch, and mama to Kyla Jo. I have spent the last 13 years in the stone industry. In my spare time I founded and run a nonprofit, INDY Foundation dedicated to providing support to Minnesota’s cancer warriors. This foundation is near to me as I lost my first husband to cancer at the age of 34.
SW: How did you get your start in the stone industry?
KK: After graduating college, shortly after the market crashed in 2008, my career path quickly changed. I found myself designing stone at Coldspring. My career path evolved over the years into different roles from sales to project management. Much of my career has been spent on projects across the East Coast. I quickly fell in love with the stone world and all of the unique opportunities it has brought to me.
SW: How long have you been with Stone Panels International (SPI)?
KK: I have been with SPI for three years, but a part of the Coldspring portfolio for 14 years.
SW: What led you to the education side and being a speaker for CEU webinars?
KK: SPI has a unique position in the marketplace. They have been around since the 1980’s, but previously didn’t spend a lot of time educating architects on the benefits and advantages to the product. My expertise in the stone industry has allowed me to connect with previous relationships as well as new.
SW: It is amazing how SPI has almost doubled its number of attendees for the webinars in one year. What was your involvement in helping these grow?
KK: I joined SPI a year before the COVID-19 Pandemic. We got our first course accredited six months before the world completely shut down. The majority of us in the design community were figuring out the “new norm,” and how to work virtually. For me, it provided an opportunity to reach more firms and individuals a lot easier than it would be with boots on the ground. In 2020, I provided 42 CEUs, and in 2021, I provided close to the same amount. While I would like to say I have a trick to doubling the amount of attendees, the reality is that is just how it worked out. Some of that was CEUs for larger firms and having more people back in office.
SW: What do you enjoy most about being an educator for the stone industry?
KK: Honestly, I enjoy the relationships that are formed, but my favorite part is the opportunities to work on new projects. Obviously, you don’t win all projects you work on, however, I enjoy being a part of them even if they don’t go our direction. Any education and information I can provide to advance a project and help the design process is a success to me.
SW: When you aren’t working, how do you like to spend your time?
KK: I love to travel and see new places. It truly fills my soul. Also, the real reason I live in Minnesota is for June, July and August – the best time to spend time at the cabin and on the lake. Beyond that there is nothing better than spending time with friends and family.
Women Spotlight: Read more about the leading women in the stone industry.