April 16th, 2019
Business Alabama magazine interview series spotlights Kappler CEO Laura Kappler-Roberts.
Photographer and documentarian Eric Dusenbery recently hit the road for Business Alabama magazine for a series based on the many facets of working in rural areas of the state. Following are comments from Kappler CEO Laura Kappler-Roberts, and you can read the entire series at the magazine website here.
“We manufacture all our garments out of Kappler proprietary fabrics. I think that sets us apart from most of the industry. There are only half a dozen to a dozen people that do what we do in the world. For us, not only making the protective clothing, but also developing the fabrics, is unique — there’s not many that do that.
“I can’t think of anything better than to serve firefighters, law-enforcement, military personnel. It’s such a fulfilling thing to know that we are protecting them.
“I was two years old when my dad started this company. We were a small, little factory downtown. He would take me into the factory, and I just loved being around. I loved being around the Coke machines, the sewing machines — I loved the old calculators and typewriters. I loved everything about it."
“The culture of the factory is like a family. That’s where I wanted to be. Right out of college, I wanted to work here. My father tried to talk me out of that. He really wanted me to work elsewhere."
“Finally, he gave in and allowed me to come here after college. I spent the first two or three years working in every department for a couple of months. I built relationships with people, and I learned the operations of the company. That was his choice. Looking back, that was one of the greatest things he could’ve done for me and my development. Because, a lot of the people I knew and had relationships with prior to becoming an employee — well, it was very important to me that I was treated no different. I needed to earn their respect. I had a great sense of what my father had built. It was not mine. I had to earn the ability to stay and work here."
“The whole manufacturing process is where my passion is. The sound of the machines running, the operators — I have such fond memories of them taking me under their wing. To maintain manufacturing here in our country and, in particular, in a small town community, is getting harder and harder. But, it is just a passion of mine. I will go to my grave trying to maintain manufacturing."
“I am motivated to continue the manufacturing here in the small town of Guntersville. It’s the people. It goes back to those memories and stories. When I think of the company, I don’t see the financial statements; I don’t see bricks and mortar; I see faces. It’s the people I see at this company. And they have allowed me to transition from a little girl to their leader. That’s what motivates and challenges me."