How a determined woman built a $25 million company that started in her basement
Gina M. Labuz was home raising five children between the ages of 2 and 12 when she and her husband decided to operate a business from the basement of their home.
Labuz admitted she didn't know much about the company, Mid-States Glass and Metal, when her husband, Jim, brought home the books filled with the company finances. But she was determined to learn.
"I learned the business by rolling up my sleeves and jumping in," said Gina, who then had her sixth child and joined industry associations. "When I started I was very excited and nervous," she said of the company that started with small projects such as installing glass doors or front windows at strip malls.
Gina, now president of the company, and her husband grew the business over the years and recorded $25 million in revenue in 2018. "We're expecting a record year this year," Gina said. "It has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears."
Perseverance and determination are reasons why the company was one of 23 local companies and business organizations honored during the 29th Annual Awards for Business Excellence, presented by the Daily Herald Business Ledger and its sponsoring partners.
Mid-States is a commercial glazing contractor that furnishes and installs the building envelope -- the skin of the building -- using Architectural and Ornamental Local 63 Ironworkers. For example, Gina said they install curtain walls, window walls, entrances and skylights. They focus on solutions for health care, institutional, residential, hospitality and specialty building projects. High profile projects include the Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. building in Rolling Meadows, Central DuPage Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center and Renaissance O'Hare.
When Gina, who attended Robert Morris University, first started in the basement of their home in 1995, she worked in a part-time administrative capacity. Jim knew the industry, as he had worked for a similar company prior to buying into Mid-States Glass and Metal, which originally started in 1986.
The company's initial project resume encompassed labor-only jobs, including skylights, revolving doors and small storefront and interior build out contracts. Gina started taking on more and more responsibilities at the company. She said her mother, a single mom who raised three daughters, taught her about work ethic.
"My mom waitressed and was a real estate broker," Gina said. "My mom taught me about hard work."
The company continued to grow and positioned itself to be part of the condo boom from 2003 to 2007. The owners hired a project manager and leased warehouse space in 2004. About five years ago as the company continued to expand; the Labuz's bought an 18,000-square-foot building in Niles at 7430 N. Croname Road. They now employ 12 people and about 35 union iron workers.
The company tackles between 50 and 60 jobs a year, Gina said. Over the years, the projects have grown in complexity. For example, in 2000, Mid-States was hired for a project at St. Patrick High School in Chicago, a $350,000 job.
"That put us on the map," she said.
Then three years later, they were hired for Renaissance O'Hare, a 15-story building. "That bumped us up again," she said.
And then a more complex job came along in re-building Gallagher's headquarters in Rolling Meadows.
"Gallagher gave us an opportunity to show the complexity of work we can handle," Jim said.
"This was a four-story existing building and was a different type of job for us," Gina said. She added that they used state-of-the art technology to complete the job.
Gina, 57, said they primarily work for large general contractors, including Pepper Construction, Power Construction and Leopardo. "It's important to us that we order our supplies from the U.S. and Canada," Gina said.
She said they have done many large projects in Chicago. "We have the glamorous or sexy side of the project," Gina said, adding that everyone can see their work, unlike the interior parts of the building such as electrical or plumbing.
"I like the fact that our work has dotted the Chicagoland area," she said.
As the business continues to thrive, Gina said it's important to surround themselves with "great people and family." Gina served as chief financial officer until 2015 when she was named president. Husband Jim is the director of business development and their son Mark is senior project manager. Over the years, the children have all helped at some point -- sweeping the floors of the warehouse and other jobs.
Gina says the most difficult challenge in running the business over the years is making sure that growth has been controlled. She said it's also important not to take the business home at night. She added that managing project schedules and cash flow are important aspects in her role.
"I pride myself in cash flow," said Gina, who describes herself as "determined." She added that she is the type of person who does not take "no" for an answer. "If someone tells me I can't do something, I will find a way to get it done," she says.
Gina, who also enjoys golf and spending time with her 8 grandchildren, said her goal this year is to become certified as a women-owned business. She admits that she is a conservative business owner and is proud of the company and what it has become.
"Others in the industry now look at us with respect," she said.
Mid-States Glass & Metal Inc.7430 N. Croname Road, NilesMid-StatesGlassAndMetal.comPresident/CEO: Gina Labuz
Number of Employees: 12 full time, 35 Local 63 Ironworkers
Revenue 2018: $25 million