“Your finances are not my problem”- How I opened Keystone


After giving away 11 years of my youth working for a company that sold building materials supplies, I decided it was time for me to move on. This company was what lead me to open my own 5 months later. In the 11 years, I worked for this company I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. I was passionate about giving my clients great customer service, unfortunately, due to the nature of the way the company was built, this made it extremely difficult for me to help my clients. I was only but another employee and could not make any final decisions. During the economic recession of 2008, my employer went through bankruptcy and just like many Americans lost his home and we as a company lost the building were worked out of. My employer was resilient and together he and I moved into another building immediately! I helped him import cabinets from china and granite from brazil by the container. I had convinced him to sell to contractors and really market to them since they were the ones buying from us. The economy was down and homeowners were losing their homes to the banks. The only ones who were purchasing from us where contractors and flippers. -I then decided to focus on them. I helped my employer open 2 other stores in various cities, 3 in total with the one I was working out of. Things seemed to be running smoothly by now. All until I started to notice that no matter what I did or how much I would go out of my way to get the business off and running, I was not being appreciated. At this point, I had helped the company create millions, but I was not being paid for my hard work and efforts. My employer would leave months at a time to china and brazil, leaving me to handle the business on my own. Which I could have been fine with other than the fact that I would not get paid until he returned from his trips, which were weeks or months at a time. I was tired, burned out, frustrated and broke! I thought to myself, “how can I been working for this company for over 11 years and show nothing for it!”. One day I decided to build enough courage to ask my employer to pay me for the months of work I was owed. I began to explain to him that I have been living off my savings and I needed to get paid because my savings were depleting and I longer had enough to cover my expenses. He then said the unexpected, something that stuck and resonated with me to this day- “Your finances are not my problem” . —– I quit the next day. 

I took the week off since I had never had any vacation time going to school and working full time. When I returned, I started to work for a big construction company, my new employer had the heart of gold. He took me in once I told him that I was looking for work and gave me my own working space. They purchased a new computer, cell phone and asked to let them know if I needed anything else. His wife purchased new furniture and decorations for my space and restroom. I finally had a nice and clean restroom and an employer who cared! – Something I didn’t have before.  This new employer showed me what it was to treat their customers and employees as if they were part of something. I noticed how humble he was and how he treated everyone the same, -with respect. After 3 short months, I was let go.  The company had hired a full-time financial advisor and she decided that I was an unnecessary expense to the company. My employer met with me and regrettably had to let me go. He let me keep my new cell phone and leather satchel the company purchased for me. They also paid me two weeks’ severance pay and the commission from my remodels. I was saddened to leave this job, but I quickly started applying for work anywhere I could.  

Within a week I got hired by a large nation-wide window covering company. I was being flown to Arizona every weekend for training. This was a 4-week paid training followed by being paid full commission after the training. The first day I started the training, the lady who was training me made a very racist remark to me about being born in Mexico. I immediately felt very uncomfortable about her comment towards me and my ethnicity and hoped this would not compromise my job. -I was right because it did. She told my sales manager that I was not capable of doing my job. She told him that I did not know how to read a measuring tape and could not measure for a window. I replied to my sales manager that I have been involved in many building projects, track homes, custom homes and hundreds of kitchen and bathroom remodels and could not understand how she would say I was incapable of measuring for a window. I was overqualified for this job but in need, I had to take what I could, unfortunately, due to her comments towards me, I could no longer keep this job. I then had to recruit a local job placement agency. I was placed at an accounting firm and worked there for exactly 3 days. The agency was moving to a new building and I was told they “would call me back”- they did not.  

Again, I was tired, burned out, frustrated and broke. Depression started to hit at this point, and I was contemplating of begging my previous employer for my job back. I felt alone, hopeless and even worse I lost the ability to do what I loved most, the ability to work in the design and renovation industry. I felt as though I had made a big mistake by quitting my job, the job that I loved. I just could not get myself to go back to those working conditions and not get paid again.  I began my prayers to the God that has been by my side this entire time. By the strength of God, I picked myself up and with the little money I had, I invested in myself and my future.   

I began selling costume jewelry out of my apartment and advertised on Facebook. I was also selling Mexican mango flavored shaved ice- mangonadas. I opened a seller permit and an amazon seller account. I had made great connections with my vendors and once I told them I opened my own business; they grandfather me in on pricing. I was selling big name brands such as Kohler, Amba towel warmers, Hafele amongst other high-end building supply brands. Within a few months, I sold over $10,000 dollars’ worth of materials monthly. Amazon gave me a business loan for another $10,000 dollars which helped me to move into an office. Ironically enough I moved into the same building the job agency place me at and had worked for 3 days. It’s funny how God works and how He holds our futures in His hands.  

in June of 2014 opened Keystone LLC with a DBA of Keystone Kitchen and Bath. This DBA offers custom cabinets and material supplies to clients of all budgets. We latter hired professional contractors to do all the installations. The people we hire are asked a serious of questions. – Number 1 is “if money didn’t exist, would you still do what you do?” – If the answer is “yes, absolutely!”, they are hired. It’s important for me to hire the right people who are not only here for a paycheck. I am looking for those who are passionate about what they do, this will reflect in their everyday work. It is also important that all employees are happy and paid on time for their work. I believe a good employee is a reflection of me. I also believe that if my employees are happy so will my clients. Reason why I have been voted best Interior Designer in Fresno and top cabinet shop, 3 years in a row. Kitchen and Bathroom remodels are my passion but so is keeping my clients happy, and in turn keeping this company run that way.  

This is not only a remodeling company; we also give back to the community. I volunteer in various non-profits and donate 10% of our profits to these. Especially to Kulungu For Congo, a non-profit that is building a school in Congo Africa. As a teen in high school, -and I know as crazy as this sounds; I have been wanting to build a school in Africa. I had made a promise to God, that if one day I opened a successful business, I would build a school. A dream and a prayer that has now become reality, thanks to our wonderful clients and the God that has not left me.  

Your Designer, 

Vivian Sojo