From Here to There: The Akins turn the family business into a passion
Growing up around the business that his father Bruce started, Todd Akins learned the ins and outs of Innovative Surfaces by doing every job the company had to offer.
His vast experience in the fabrication business at a young age surprised those he worked with at a countertop fabricator in Duluth, Minn., when he was 19 years old.
But at that age, Akins didn't dream of some day taking over his father's business back home, he wanted to be a "ski bum" in Colorado, he said.
"I think it's one of those things where you are young and you don't really know what you want to do. So I went to college, and I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do," Akins said.
While at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Akins majored in international studies and geography. He worked full-time while attending school, putting in hours at the fabrication shop and a ski hill. During summer, he came home to work at the family business.
"I came out [of school] and started working here. I didn't really anticipate that it would be a permanent thing. It just kind of became that," Akins said. "All of those things that I learned, and creating stuff with your hands — having some of these commercial projects that we would go into and help create some amazing things. It created a passion in me, so I went for it."
For Akins' wife, Kellie, there was more reluctance to join in on the family business.
After graduating college in Duluth, Kellie worked in international steel trading. She didn't understand the passion that her husband had for his industry.
"Bruce kept telling me I should come. It seemed like a recipe for disaster to me. I was ready for change though. I figured I would give it a try," Kellie said.
Once she was on board at Innovative Surfaces, the passion clicked for her too.
"When you're young, you want to take the world by storm. A little piece that is lost on people today, is the pride in making something with your hands and creating something. Sure we are just creating countertops, but every single countertop that we make here, leaves here, goes someplace, and creates memories and experiences," Kellie added.
A rewarding part of their job, Todd and Kellie agreed, is making people's dreams a reality.
"The kitchen that they have been waiting and saving for — we get to be a part of that," Akins said.
Innovative Surfaces is responsible for more than just countertops, however. The business has been involved in the construction of Culinary North at the Mall of America, making planters and flowerbeds. They have also been a part of projects at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
"It's nearly impossible to not develop a passion for it — the legacy that [Bruce] created. We want to carry that on," Kellie said.
Todd and Kellie are in their fifth year of being the owners of Innovative Surfaces, which has been in business for 35 years.
"It's a great industry," Kellie said. "Every industry has its ups and downs. We've got incredible people here that are like family."
"It's fun more days than not, that's the good part about it," Todd added.