This Q+A is sponsored by Owen Homes.
Tell us a little bit about how your business got its start.
Throughout the years of working in residential construction as a framing carpenter on his father’s construction crew, Luke Owen developed a passion for home design and construction. He began tailoring his education to support his dream of entrepreneurship and followed the real estate industry closely. In 2004, shortly after receiving his bachelor’s degree in business from William Jewell, he founded Owen Homes. In his first year, Luke and his wife Emily managed all aspects of the company but business expanded quickly as Owen Homes’ reputation was recognized throughout the Smithville and Kansas City North community. So, they began hiring team members and developed a strong foundation of core values that our company stands by to this day.
What has the journey to become the business that you are now looked like?
After the initial years went well, the recession of 2008 caused Owen Homes to adjust to remodeling, room additions, storm damage repairs, and a variety of projects to not only survive the slowdown, but expand operations. The network of suppliers and subcontractors that Owen Homes utilizes on new homes also stepped into these other projects and we realized the power of collaboration with our core suppliers. We continued to create new designs, new floor plans, and develop our range of construction techniques over the past several years. With new ownership partners, Charielle Sowers and Matt Owen, we have enhanced our client experience to help each project become a partnership to create an amazing space that the client can enjoy for years to come.
What do you consider your first great success? What about your greatest accomplishment?
The first great success for our team was completing and selling the first spec home in 2005, which resulted in a build job for clients who are still friends to this day! It was a success to complete that first home, but also resulted in the first of many successful projects with homeowners who understand our passion for quality and durability. The relationships we’ve built over the past 16 years have continually referred family and friends to us.
Our greatest accomplishment has been the completion of over 100 homes on properties around the Kansas City area. We have taken these homes from a blank canvas to a generational home that our clients and their families will enjoy for many years. Each plan, created from ideas, conversations, inspirational photos, and personal experiences, are combined with detailed construction and durable materials to create a space we all long for when we think of the word “home.”
What are some highlights of the past few years?
The Urban North subdivision was an opportunity to build 24 unique homes without any repeating elevations. Owen Homes was the exclusive builder for these contemporary, Energystar certified homes.
We completed a 10,000 SF custom rustic home that featured reclaimed lumber, unique materials sourced from all across the world and upgraded amenities throughout.
Our company has gradually transformed from one that self-performed several trades onsite to a full-service design + build firm that leverages our unique understanding of materials, current design developments, and collaborations with our suppliers to design our projects. This emphasis on design and planning allows our clients to make adjustments to their plans in real time and allows us to shorten the project timelines with organized planning.
What sets you apart from others in your industry?
Our ability to create and complete a complex project that begins only with a conversation about ideas on what our clients are looking for. We simultaneously consider the custom layouts and finishes, the overall site layout, and the comfortable budget when developing each project. Our team enjoys the challenge of working within the specific parameters for each project to create custom living spaces that truly fit our clients and their families.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome, and how did you do it?
The biggest obstacle we’ve faced was building a business with a young business owner. A recently graduated college student is hardly the stereotypical builder profile. In the early years, we had to prove our expertise over and over to clients, vendors, lenders, and inspectors. We quickly established a rapport with these individuals, who appreciated our drive to do things right and outwork our competition.
What is your business philosophy and what do you hold as a standard for your brand?
Home is the center of our world and the back drop to our life. We approach each project as if it were our own because we know how important your home is to you and your family. We want our business to be based on integrity and provide our homeowners with a reliable, trustworthy business that will safeguard the financial investment they are putting into their home.
Our team works closely with our suppliers to ensure a fresh perspective for design possibilities and improvements to construction standards. We know that it’s all about the little details. With our standards for efficiency and sustainability, you’ll find durable construction materials, higher-quality finishes and fixtures throughout.
What’s next for your business?
Recently, our team relocated to a new office in Kansas City that is more centralized to our projects and trade partners. This has allowed us to expand our service area to include more suburbs south of Kansas City. Also, since we are completing the last two homes in the Urban North subdivision, we will be starting construction on a Model Home for the new Eagle Pointe Preserve subdivision. We’re looking forward to engaging with fresh and familiar faces in these new markets!
What can our readers expect in a product from or in an experience with your company?
Our homeowners can expect transparency from the initial conversation. We are grounded in our integrity and we genuinely strive to complete each project with quality and honesty, while making the process enjoyable.
They will meet a lot of talented Kansas Citians who each have a role in completing the project. Our project team will manage all of the details but keep them involved and informed throughout the entire process. It’s important to us that we are all on the same page, same team, working towards a common goal: completing a project that exceeds their expectations.
Upon completion, our team of professionals will deliver a healthy living space for our homeowners that captures their unique style, features a sustainable, functional design and is built with durable construction materials.
What do you love about being part of the community and what impact do you want your business to have?
We are KC born and raised! Over the years, we have met thousands of neighbors that we share our great city with and have seen how talented they are. Homeowners in Kansas City are reasonable, practical, and value hard work. We love being a part of a community with so much history, culture and KC pride.
In Kansas City there are hundreds, if not thousands, of options for custom home builders and renovation companies. We want to be one that embraced and encouraged the desire for unique, modern designs and the need for energy-efficient, healthy and environmentally-friendly homes to the KC area.
Tell us about how you got into this business. At what moment did you decide to become a (your role)?
For founder Luke Owen, construction was always part of his childhood. His father, J.D. Owen, had a successful rough-in framing company that built homes in Kansas City for over 30 years. In high school, Luke knew that he wanted to become a builder, and tailored as many classes, reports, and projects towards entrepreneurship and real estate.
Who do you look up to in your industry?
Over the past 5 years, we have been members of the Kansas City Home Builder’s Association (KCHBA). There are many builders in the KCHBA that have decades of experience and we are privileged to have such a vast network of professional builders in our city. In one of the KCHBA’s committees in which we participate, we’ve had the opportunity to share ideas, collaborate with code officials and help builders provide safe and durable structures. During this time, we have certainly developed a deeper respect for our fellow builders.
Industry professionals such as Matt Risinger, Brad Leavitt, Tim Uhler and the group at Construction Instruction, have helped us increase our knowledge on building science and best practices for complicated installs or layouts.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received and what advice would you offer someone interested in working in your industry?
It’s a simple question, but quite effective. As a teenager, a construction superintendent once asked me, “Is that how you would do that on your own house?” That phrase has been utilized countless times over the years while managing the installation of materials on our projects.
Is there anything you would do differently if you could?
I would change the weather extremes we have! In the Midwest, we have to build houses to withstand a range of -15 to 115-degree temperatures, strong winds, floods and droughts, high humidity, and severe storms. Houses here are tested from every side, every year, and more so than most other areas in the country.
What is your personal philosophy?
Find the balance between budget, quality, and scope. A homeowner knows their budget to work with, and knows the ideas for the scale of the project. But, as a builder, we want to ensure that all areas of the project have a similar level of quality. We look for homeowners who understand this relationship between these three areas. They are all interconnected and finding that balance on each project is the only way it will be a success.
What is your daily motivation/inspiration?
“Wake up and want it” is the notification title for my alarm and is my reminder to start the day by acknowledging all the goals, achievements and reasons behind the “why” I do what I do. I keep a list of these with me at all times. Part of it is about appreciating the journey and where I started because every achievement was once a goal on my list that I wanted. The other part is to help keep me grounded and focused on my purpose.
What are your words to live by?
Everyone and everything has a purpose. Understanding that purpose challenges development, progression, and improving weaknesses. There is always room for improvement, even if it seems incremental.
What does success mean to you and what has it taught you?
Success to me is knowing that we built the house right and over time, our homeowners will continue to know that they had the right builder for their home. There will be tough seasons, but if, after decades of building, our homes last longer, have healthy indoor spaces, and were a place our clients were proud to call home, we will have been successful.