On-the-job learning

Electrician Karen Breitner wishes she had a grounding in business before striking out on her own

It’s been 20 years since Karen Breitner founded her electrical business and she wishes that she had the business lessons while in college that she’s had to learn through trial and error.

“It’s been an on-the-job process of learning all of that for me,” says Breitner, owner of Lumination FX in Dundas.

She is a master electrician and lighting designer and her company is a full-service, licensed electrical contractor specializing in residential and commercial electrical services.

Breitner supports Mohawk College’s growing focus on entrepreneurship geared to programs of study and specific trades. She chose to study electrical over millwright just so that she could open her own business down the road.

But while she was well-prepared for the technical side, she didn’t have a strong business grounding. “It was about five years before I was profitable. I made mistakes in undervaluing myself and I’m still prone to that at times.”

Breitner made sure to observe the practices of owners she worked for over the first 14 years of her career. And once she launched her business, she asked lots of questions of contractors she knew to get their outlook and/or to seek advice about a problem she was facing.

Owning a business is a round-the-clock undertaking but Breitner says she loves the ability to schedule her work around her life. When her children were young, she could see them off to school or join a field trip and now she can make time for grandkids.

She’s also scaled back from more employees to three — including her daughter Sarah, who is also a Mohawk graduate — to suit the pace she desires.

“What I have is manageable for me now. I am very hands-on, so I would rather be out doing the work than back in the office managing employees.”