Bank mergers made title opportunity
Brian J. O'Connor / The Detroit News
It took Paula Kozey all of one second to become a multimillionaire.
Yes, it was 18 months before the 42-year-old Harrison Township woman drew a single dime out of her business. Yes, she worked out of her mother's basement for years. And yes, she wanted to ditch the whole idea more than once.
But it was in one second that Paula Kozey went from bank clerk to businesswoman.
Over 13 years, Kozey moved up as the bank changed hands, eventually acquiring the title "asset remarketing manager."
"It was job security. You were comfortable in your position, so why move?" Kozey says. "I think everybody gets stuck in a rut, but I'm glad I stayed and I'm glad they merged. If they hadn't I wouldn't be the business owner I am today."
Now her work was being transferred to some sun-drenched suburb in Arizona, which seemed to pose a problem.
"We had to talk to the people in Arizona on a daily basis," Kozey says. "I couldn't imagine how somebody in Arizona was going to be able to order a title and sell a car in Michigan so I asked, 'How are you going to do my job in Michigan?' "
"She said, 'We use title agencies all over the country,' " Kozey recalls, "so I said, 'I'm a title company. I can do that.' "
The voice on the other end of the phone agreed. "She said, send us your tax ID number and we'll be your first client."
Looking back on it, Kozey says, "Her reply was what made me a multimillionaire. I firmly believe if I had not asked that question I would have never known what was going to happen."
"It was literally just finding a tax ID number," Kozey says. "I lived with my mom so I didn't have rent, I didn't have any bills and I had my severance pay coming in. So it was pretty easy."
Kozey married a year later, and her firefighter husband, Todd Wysocki, had time to learn the business on his days off. Once her severance pay ended, his paycheck kept them going, she says.
After Wysocki was injured on the job, he joined the business. They started expanding, and like a lot of small business, ran into a lack of capital when they needed to front the money for DMV fees. Every dollar that came in went right back into the business.
"I would tell my husband, 'I'm going to go out and get a real job,' but he kept telling me, 'It's working, don't give up.' "
"I don't know how they found us," Kozey says. "They called and we were just ecstatic. When we met with them they told us, we're going to make you guys millionaires one day. It was a joke, but they're our biggest client and we're their only title company."
One issue she struggled with was finding good employees. Now Kozey is very happy with her staff of 17, though it took awhile.
"Every business owner says the same thing -- good help is hard to find -- and it's true," she says.
For anyone else striking out on their own, Kozey advises having some other source of income, as she did when her husband was still fighting fires.
"To both jump in to the business, that would have probably been suicidal," she says.
An even bigger help was her husband's encouragement.
"I owe a lot to my husband for keeping me level-headed," Kozey says. "Having someone there who can keep you grounded and looking up is a big help."
Ultimately, though, Kozey says the fact that it's your own business is a big motivator.
"I think it's everybody's dream, the American dream, to have your own business," Kozey says.
"I would look up when I was a little girl at everybody's signs and think how neat it would be to have my own business."
You can reach Brian O'Connor at (313) 222-2145 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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