Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms weekly Meet a Mom spotlight where we feature one local mama, what they’re up to both personally and professionally. But first we’d like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Law Firm. Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities!
This week’s Meet a Mom feature is the lovely Deerfield mom of three, Kelly Kustusch, Marketing and Operations Director and Co-owner of MKA Architectural Design Group. Kelly’s career took a sharp turn last spring when Covid forced both her and her husband Matt out of work. Nearly homeless from having just sold their home days before everything shut down, Kelly and Matt did what their super supportive friends and family would have expected from them – they rallied! Read our interview with Kelly and learn how this family picked up the pieces, her touching gratitude for her friends and family and, just for fun, a few stellar restaurant recs.
Hi Kelly! Please introduce yourself. Where you from, where do you live now and kiddos?
Hi! My name is Kelly Kustusch. I have three kids: Connor is 17, Tyler is 15 and Maggie is 13. I met my husband Matt when I was 15 years old while hanging out with some of my high school friends one night. Matt and his friends were in college at the time so we thought they were so fun. After four plus years of being good friends we started dating and we will be celebrating our 20 year anniversary this August. I grew up in Deerfield with my parents and three younger brothers. After attending University of Iowa and National Louis University I became an elementary education teacher. After Matt and I had our first child we decided to move to Deerfield to raise our family. At that time, I also decided to take a break from teaching to raise our children.
Congratulations on 20 years! What makes Deerfield special for you and your family?
I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Deerfield. I have life long friends and only the best memories. I wanted my children to live close to their grandparents and extended family which also includes my framily (friends who are family). I love people and being together. I love going to stores in town where I know familiar faces. I love being able to walk and ride bikes everywhere and that there is a park around every corner. Deerfield has a small town feel to it and that is something I really love about it.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I am an open book who says it how it is and wear my feelings on my sleeve. There is not much to assume after meeting me. What you see is what you get but maybe we should ask some friends – haha!
What are a few of your go-to restaurants around town?
Our go-to restaurants are Carson’s in Deerfield, Authentico in Lake Forest, Nite N Gales in Highwood, Taco Vida in Deerfield, Blufish in Glenview and Disotto in Highwood. We love to eat. We love to go out and try new places as well!
You’re a workin’ mama. Please introduce your architectural firm, MKA Architectural Design Group.
MKA Architectural Design Group started in 2013 essentially as a side job. My husband Matt graduated from Miami of Ohio with a degree in architecture. Matt had been working as an architect in a residential architecture firm and then moved on to a development firm. We started MKA because Matt liked having a few projects on the side that he could call entirely his own and be there from start to finish. He loves having his own clients.
Fast forward to 2020… I was in marketing for an inspection company and Matt was at his development firm and handling his few MKA clients. Then in April and May we were both let go of our positions due to Covid. So, here we are in quarantine locked down with our three children. And to make matters even more complicated we had just sold our home at the beginning of March with the hopes of finding a new home after Spring Break with a typical booming Spring market. Jobless, now possibly homeless and yes, still in lockdown.
Needless to say, things were stressful, uncertain, scary. We were able to get out of the sale of our home and begin unpacking. It was an interesting time to say the least. So, now thankfully we still have a home but no jobs.
Matt and I decide MKA is going to be our future and we both put all our efforts into building MKA. I took over creating social media platforms, networking, and learning as much as I could about the business side of a business. Matt just kept designing and producing his amazing creations and made my job easy.
What is the most rewarding about the architecture and design field?
The most rewarding part of this endeavor is that Matt and I did this together.
We created this company with love, passion, creativity and lots and lots of hard work. I think we both have amazed ourselves with how fast we are growing, not to jinx anything. We both are genuinely happy working and raising our family together.
We love our clients and new additions to our MKA family. We just hope we continue growing. Matt and I have grown up together so it’s no surprise we will continue to follow that same path side by side. We have been learning as we go since the beginning and that’s what we are going to continue to do. We believe in each other and just keep moving forward.
What is the hardest aspect of this field?
The hardest aspect of this field is that people don’t realize that design takes time. Clients want a design and finished product very quickly but it takes time to design your dream home. There are so many details and factors even for a small addition. Everyone is racing through life and just wanting to get everything done as fast as they can. Have patience and confidence that you hired the right people to get the job done right. Fast is not always better.
Who would you like to thank for your success today?
I am very lucky to have my life filled with so much love. I have only known unconditional love and support my entire life. My parent’s have been my constant. Any decision I make they support me. Having Matt and my kids and my huge amazing family and the best friends anyone could ask for really complete my life and have definitely shaped me into the confident woman I am today. I am who I am today because of all the people that I have been a part of my life. I have always felt supported, loved and encouraged. I love all my people fiercely and I know I am loved just as much. I think when you feel special and loved it makes it easier to believe in yourself.
What advice can you give other mamas out there who are looking to start a new business in the current climate?
It is very scary to have your own business. If you have anything you are passionate about then your business has every reason to succeed. Sometimes you may need a push to fulfill your dreams. I had no idea how fulfilling taking MKA to another level would be. I am surprising myself everyday with what I am capable of. Since we began this journey, I have met some of the most inspiring people and really have seen so much good and positivity in the world. Thanks to everyone who continues to believe in us. Thanks for all the feedback and good positive vibes. We feel it. We love it. We are inspired by it. Believe in yourself and your dreams and ideals.
What’s on the horizon for MKA?
I hope MKA continues to grow and thrive. We can’t wait to meet more amazing people on this journey. The best part of our jobs and MKA is for sure the people. 2021 has been my smartest year yet…excited to see where it takes us!