Kelly Victor-Burke, CEO of Burke Architectural Millwork (BAM), may be relatively new to woodworking, but his impact on the industry will be felt for years to come.
Since founding the Michigan-based architectural woodworking company in 2016 with her husband Barry, an experienced craftsman, Victor-Burke has led a team of business owners, educational partners and industry organizations in the creation and approval of the first Department of Labor Registered Cabinetmaking Apprenticeship: Cabinetmaking Specialist. She also drafted the framework to address the employment gap in the wood products industry through cross-training and development of new and existing employees in CAD, mechatronics, wood processing, coatings, estimating and project management. .
“When we made the decision to start our own company, I was mostly interested in mentorship and education – bringing a new generation into the industry,” said Victor-Burke, whose resume includes a professor emeritus (30) at Eastern Michigan. University.
Along with his work to advance woodworking as a career and grow the industry’s workforce, Victor-Burke cites BAM’s early purchase of a CNC router as one of their smarter decisions. “It has really transformed our business and our business approach which, although we are bespoke, is about integrating the latest technology.”
Another transformation will take place next year with the launch of Bespoke Closets and Organized Spaces, a line of custom closets with “panache”. Although Bespoke Closets is an internal division of BAM, “it’s like we’re literally starting a whole different business,” she said. “Our challenge will be to put in place custom closets and to continue to develop our projects on the side of architectural carpentry.” BAM, which is WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) certified, recently expanded its footprint to 13,000 square feet to accommodate the additional production.
To go further, BAM also makes its conference room available to the community and local designers, and participates in Manufacturing Day. “We want to have that relationship with the community, and it’s also a way to grow our talent pool.”
Additionally, Victor-Burke sits on numerous boards, including the Mechatronics Advisory Board of the Advanced Technology Academy in Dearborn, and has been named a “Notable Women in Manufacturing” by Crain’s Detroit Business. Outside of work, she is an avid reader, enjoys spending time with her family and, perhaps surprisingly, mowing the lawn, for “the sense of accomplishment it brings”.
- Education: Multiple degrees from Eastern Michigan University
- Number of years in the company: 6
- Number of years in the industry: 6
- One word that best describes you: Tenacious
- Business Mantra: For me personally, it’s about taking care of things immediately because no one is coming behind you to clean everything up. At work, we always tell employees that they have to be
- curious/ask questions, be passionate about their work and work hard, but also be kind.
- Best advice: bet on yourself (attributed to Henry Ford).
- Who have you tried to emulate: At a DC summit, Warren Buffett said he hoped we all had someone we wouldn’t want to let down; in business or just in life, you should always try to make someone proud. It was a huge thing for me.
About the market leaders in the wood industry: This marks the 14th year that Woodworking Network has honored exceptional men and women who have made an impact, not only in their businesses, but within the various wood products industries. Since 2009, more than 90 industry professionals have shared their influencers, ideas and strategies. Learn more about the 2022 Market Leaders and past winners at WoodworkingNetwork.com/Market-Leaders.