KIE Supply future leader is recipient of first LPG scholarship

Aurora, Ohio —The LPG-Hawkins Endowment Fund was established in 2019 with seed money from David Hawkins of David L. Hawkins Design Group. At #LPG2020, Executive Director Jeff MacDowell announced that the LPG Advisory Committees had selected Amelia Kittson as the recipient of the inaugural scholarship of $500. She is the daughter of Gus Kittson of KIE Supply in Kennewick, Wash. The Luxury Products Group Annual Conference and Expo was held January 29-31 at the Marriott Marquis Marina in San Diego.

“Winning this scholarship is an honor,” Amelia shared. “I’ve been involved with LPG since its beginning, and am extremely humbled and grateful that the leaders of the group recognized and understood my vision and future career goals. It is also exciting to see LPG taking innovative, tangible steps to cultivate industry engagement and interest among younger generations.”

The number of U.S. tradespeople has declined dramatically and is expected to plummet even further in the near term. Meanwhile, recruiting and retaining qualified, motivated employees — and developing future managers and leaders — is a significant concern at all levels of the plumbing supply chain.

“The idea for this scholarship came about because of a desire to do something that would help members prepare for the future and encourage a new generation to become part of the plumbing industry,” said MacDowell. “LPG takes this issue seriously. We appreciate the generosity and investment oversight of David Hawkins, and it is our goal to continue to grow the endowment fund through both new contributions and high-yield investing. Ideally we would like to be able to award full-ride scholarships in the future.”

Amelia grew up in the plumbing wholesale industry. Her grandfather founded KIE Supply in 1955, and her father has been President of the company since 1984. She spent eight years working first part-time and then full-time for KIE, and plans to return to the company upon completion of her MBA.

“I began working for KIE when I was 15 answering the phones and doing standard administrative work, which developed my understanding of basic company functions and also introduced me to many of our larger customers and vendors,” noted Amelia. “During college, I realized how much I enjoyed working in this industry, and decided that I wanted to build my career at KIE. So to better prepare me, they created a rotational work program that enabled me to spend time learning from various departments throughout the company. I wanted to know not just how they do their individual jobs, but also how each person and department fit into the bigger picture — and worked together to make KIE a success.”

After Amelia received her Bachelors degrees in Business–Marketing and Music from Washington State University, she joined KIE full-time. She headed up marketing programs, and led the company through a two-year ERP system transition process from initial inquiry stages through go-live.

As she describes, however, “Much of my time has been spent in close collaboration with my father, as well as the senior management team. We’ve developed a strategic succession plan, with an end-goal of my father being able to one day retire and pass the leadership along to me. We worked hard to find a balance between our diverse ideas and opinions, so that together we could strategically shape the company towards our vision and goals for the future.”

Amelia is now working toward her Master of Business Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in Supply Chain Management.

“I’ve always had a personal goal of someday earning my MBA, and both my father and I felt strongly that it was an important step before someday taking over the business,” she added. “After graduating with my degree in Spring 2021, I plan to return to KIE and continue to work closely with my father. His guidance in leading our company over the last several decades is incredibly valuable, so it is important that I learn all I can from him and his vast experiences.”

Amelia explained that Wisconsin’s MBA program is extremely unique, in that it follows a specialization model. There are 10 diverse specializations across the entire degree, and the Supply Chain Management program consistently ranks in the top 10 nationally. Such diversity brings together students with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

“I really enjoy that aspect, because someone who worked in employee benefits for Reddy Ice or as a trade coordinator for Hasbro Latin America will likely have very different approaches to solving a problem than I would with my own background. This model allows us to all to learn and grow from each other’s collective experiences.”

The LPG-Hawkins Endowment Fund Scholarship is designed to assist students who are pursuing higher education at colleges, universities, or vocational schools, and who are in the immediate household family of members, vendors and their employees. Students must show a proven interest in the decorative bath and kitchen industry, and intend to remain in the industry following completion of their post-secondary education.

Hawkins, whose background is in construction, has built a successful showroom design management firm that is an LPG service provider. He is a firm believer in building a solid foundation for the future of the decorative supply channel. Hawkins also has published a book called Ask the Mailman, which includes a section with solid conservative knowledge about stocks and investments. He will assist in managing the endowment fund.

To learn more about the fund and how to be part of it, contact MacDowell at jeff@luxuryproductsgroup.com.

LPG Executive Director Jeff MacDowell (right) presents Gus Kittson, President of KIE Supply, the inaugural LPG-Hawkins Endowment Fund Scholarship on behalf of his daughter Amelia.

About LPG:
Founded in 2009, Luxury Products Group, a business vertical of IMARK Plumbing, is the industry’s most award-winning decorative buying group and has earned a reputation for developing innovative initiatives that strengthen its members’ and vendors’ businesses.  The 440+ member locations serve independent plumbing, hardware, and lighting showrooms throughout the USA and Canada.  LPG members benefit from business advantages that drive increased profits, professionalism, and access to highly respected vendors in the marketplace.  Idea sharing, retail innovation, best practice sharing, and networking are among the top benefits sited by members and vendors alike. LPG has become the most award-winning decorative buying group in the U.S. and earned a reputation for developing innovative initiatives that strengthen its members’ and vendors’ businesses.