Otto’s: From the Ground Up.
Have you ever sat and talked with someone and you were so intrigued by what they were saying that you never wanted them to stop? If not, you should sit down and talk with Ken Otto, the former owner and co-founder of Otto’s Parking Marking.
In the early 1970’s Ken Otto was the athletic director at an Indiana high school and his wife Myra was a substitute teacher. When Ken was ready for a change in his career he decided he’d call an old friend. Unbeknownst to Ken this old friend had just recently started Mark 7 Striping as a side business. Mark asked Ken if he’d like to work for him completing jobs on the South Side of Indianapolis. They would set them up with an old van and the materials to stripe and seal coat any job that they could land on their own. That year they did $35,000 in work.
In 1978, sitting in their kitchen, Ken and Myra decided to branch out on their own creating Otto’s Parking Marking Company. Ken told me, “Myra was the brains behind it. She put in more than anyone knows. I didn’t do it, we did it.” For two years it was just the two of them seal coating and striping parking lots by day, and handling the books and 4 kids at home at night. After those two years they brought on the first crew which allowed Myra quit striping and focus on the office work.
Ten years after starting Otto’s, Ken had hired his first crew leader which allowed him the ability to get out from behind the striping machine. He had gained promising partnerships with subcontractors allowing him to focus on doing the parts of the job he enjoyed and was finally able to stop working 24/7. The freedom of owning their own business allowed Ken and Myra to work very closely together, which is something that Ken was always fond of. It wasn’t always easy street however. The difficulties of maintaining a diligent and hard-working crew was something Ken said was a tough component. As he says though, “We made it. We stayed married, and the business was able to survive. All while giving quite a few people the opportunity to make a living.”
In 2011 Ken and Myra Otto retired and sold the company to Matt Otto, Steve Sawa, and Tim Donica. Three guys who Ken says are, “successful far past what I ever could’ve been”. Now, the Otto’s spend their free time at their country club and Ken especially enjoys playing racquetball. They also have 11 grandchildren between 4 of their 5 kids, and are involved with their homeowners association. Ken says he isn’t good at being retired. I imagine that is what it takes to have built a successful business, having something inside of you that never wants to quit.
“Life kind of drags you along and then you look back and think, how’d I do that? I guess it all depends on your definition of success. For all these years we made it and had food to eat. Is that successful? I just think that it’s really neat to see how it’s evolved. It’s phenomenal.” – Ken Otto
Do you want to know more? Visit our “About” page to view our current story and meet some of the Otto’s staff.
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