ATLANTIC CITY — Katherine Pouleres learned the construction business in 1970 with her husband, John, after he and his brothers launched the company Acropolis in Atlantic City.
Acropolis was a family business that featured co-owners Theodore, Demetrius and George Pouleres.
At the time, the company did a mix of commercial and residential construction. But they wanted to take advantage of the 1980s surge in government-sponsored redevelopment in the Atlantic City area, especially in renovating facades for businesses. These government contracts give preferential consideration to businesses owned by women or minorities.
“So we demoted the boys and took over,” Katherine Pouleres said.
She and her sister-in-law, Vilma Pouleres, in 1985 launched Kay-Vil Women’s Minority Co., a construction company based in Atlantic City.
Katherine Pouleres and her husband’s families are from Greece. Vilma Pouleres is from Puerto Rico.
Katherine Pouleres’ father was a chef. Her mother was a housewife. She took business classes at Atlantic Community College after graduating from Atlantic City High School.
By 1985, both women were veterans of the construction business and had experience navigating complicated government bids for projects sponsored by agencies such as the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic County Special Improvement District.
“We do everything — new construction, remodeling. We basically focus on renovations, additions, new roofing, new siding. All of that is our specialty,” Katherine Pouleres said.
The United States has 8.3 million women-owned businesses that generate $1.3 trillion in revenues and employ 7.7 million people, according to a March study by American Express OPEN.
The number of women-owned businesses increased at a much faster rate, 54 percent, than all businesses, 37 percent, between 1997 and 2012.
But employment and sales growth among women-owned businesses lag the national average. Women-owned businesses employ just 6 percent of the nation’s work force and are responsible for just 4 percent of business revenues.
New Jersey has 225,200 women-owned businesses that in 2011 employed about 258,300 people and generated $43 billion. The number of women-owned businesses in New Jersey has increased 45 percent from 1997 to 2011, but the number of jobs they provide increased by only 4 percent, suggesting that many of these are owner-operated businesses.
But regardless of her status as a female owner, Pouleres said, working in the construction business is not easy.
“You have to push your way in. If you don’t push your way in, it doesn’t come easy,” she said.
A lifelong resident of Atlantic County, first in Atlantic City and now in Margate, Katherine Pouleres said she enjoys doing projects in her hometown. Her company did work on the 1700 block of the Boardwalk for Siganos Management and renovated stores at the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing.
“It’s gratifying. I was born and raised in Atlantic City,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love my city.”
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