Happy Black History Month, northwest Ohio! Here at the Toledo Chamber, we love to celebrate our region's Black-owned and -led businesses not just in February, but all year round. To celebrate the month and to acquaint (or reacquaint) you with some of our friends and members from around the community, we're highlighting a few of our region's Black business owners. First up is Ambrea Mikolajczyk, owner of ARK Restoration. Enjoy!
Ambrea Mikolajczyk, owner
ARK Restoration & Construction
Number of Employees:
Brief description of your business or organization:
ARK Restoration & Construction exists to change the narrative of neighborhoods through development, construction and management in urban communities. We provide quality construction services for residential, commercial and industrial clientele looking to improve their home, office or business. We are serious about restoring and building communities, our mission is to deliver quality, innovative solutions to improve the areas in which we work, live and play.
Where you born/raised in the Toledo Region? If so, where? If not, where and why/when did you move to the area?
Born and raised on the West Side of Toledo, I grew up on Macomber between Monroe and Bancroft down from The University of Toledo and The Toledo Hospital area. I graduated from Start High School and earned my bachelor’s degree from The University of Toledo.
When did you launch your first business, and how did you get to where you are today?
We started our first business in 2015, Torrey Hill Apartments when we were renovating our first abandoned multi-family building. Kevin and I purchased our first properties to restore in 2007, we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. However, after completing those projects we discovered our passion was in restoring old architecture and making the ugly or forgotten about beautiful again. Kevin resigned from his career in corporate finance in 2011 to grow our portfolio and manage our properties, I resigned from pharmaceutical sales in 2017 to launch the construction company to improve housing in our hometown and eradicate blight in communities that lack investment.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is a very important and intentional time to remember and honor the sacrifices and contributions made by Black people throughout our history. Acknowledging the hard work, dedication, bravery and perseverance they displayed so we may experience the freedoms we have today. Although we have a long way to go to reach equality, Black History Month is a time to be proud of how far we have come and be reminded of the duty we all have to carry their legacy forward to make it better for the next generations.
What do you like most about your job?
I have the best job in the world! I make a difference each and every day, by improving the quality of homes, eradicating blight, increasing property values primarily in communities of color, I provide jobs and contribute to economic development. I am fortunate enough to have a great team of people who bring their skills every day and help Kevin and I build beautiful, quality, affordable places for people to call home. I also have the pleasure of helping forward the mission and vision of many local organizations by volunteering on several boards and serving as a mentor to many young women. I am one blessed woman!
What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?
Reading, traveling, shopping, listening to podcasts, public speaking, watching people compete – it does not matter the sport, I love competition. Every Friday night I am usually at a ball game. I also greatly enjoy spending time with my four children, teaching them about life and business has been my greatest joy. Kevin and I also spend our free time brainstorming how to improve our business.
Have you had any special mentors or supporters that have helped guide your career or business?
It takes a village to raise an entrepreneur. I take advantage of every business support resource in NWO and beyond including The Lucas County Land Bank, Lucas County Port Authority, LISC, Premier Bank, Jumpstart, Ivy Development, Small Business Development Center and The Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce. In 2019, I was accepted into Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program in which I learned a ton of valuable knowledge and made connections that helped the growth of the business. I am a Black woman in real estate and construction I definitely fight a lot of unnecessary battles, but I have great mentors I rely on heavily. We also have amazing clients who have become friends, they hire us repeatedly and their support of us has contributed to our continued success, again we are blessed.
Major accomplishment(s) that make(s) you proud?
Transforming vacant neglected or otherwise forgotten buildings and making them vibrant anchors of the neighborhood. The completion of the former Wonder Bread Factory. The entire process entailed four years of work, countless meetings with potential lenders, tirelessly attempting to find a tax credit investor, multiple legal firms, too many “NOs” to count. It took a miracle, but we never gave up and the result will have positive lasting effects in Historic Vistula for many years to come.
In 2019, I was awarded the prestigious 20 Under 40 Leadership Award, it was very special to be honored and to stand next to some amazing individuals making the world a better place. I also received the Shot Caller Award from The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at their Founder’s Day celebration, the recognition from the longstanding organization was an amazing honor. To be given any award will always come as a shock, as I am simply doing what I love to do.
What are the benefits and struggles of owning a business in the Toledo Region?
Lack of capital; it limits our ability to have maximum impact. Kevin and I started our construction company with $2,000, faith and hard work. We’ve been able to grow with limited financial resources, however, it definitely continues to be a struggle. Old systems and antiquated policies also limit our ability to be effective. We hear, “This is the way we’ve always done it,” quite a bit. It’s been challenging trying to convince others there are different ways of doing things. Despite the challenges, we are thankful we have support. When we have an issue, we can make a phone call and get it resolved fairly quickly. Toledo is a close-knit city and everyone looks out for one another in the business community.
What other Black-owned businesses should northwest Ohioans know about?
I personally support a number of black owned businesses every single day. It's an intentional part of my life. In choosing one to highlight, Legendary Carpet Cleaning owned by Quintin and Latoya Riley. They are a husband and wife team like Kevin and I. They work hard, provide quality cleaning services, and they're always professional. I use them for construction and property management quite often. They juggle owning a business and raising their three children beautifully. I'm proud to call them friends and colleagues.