Fred Karl, designer of the Viking range and owner of that company said, "I was a weird kid—I began designing towns when I was 12." We all know that "weird" can be good, if we don't judge others through our lens ... Being weird increases creativity if we allow it to flourish. Fred Karl, founder of Viking Range, let his weirdness flourish abundantly.
Karl's headquarters for Viking is located in his home town of Greenwood, Mississippi. Karl has restored old buildings to house his operations, so not only does his product, the Viking range, generate income for the small Mississippi town, Karl is revitalizing the town through his restoration work. He remembered a bustling place in the '60s that had "gone way downhill" by the time he returned there after a tour of duty in Vietnam. The little town of Greenwood, previously sustained by the cotton industry, wasn't ever going to be the same. But Fred Karl saw the possibilities and brought all his talents to bear to create a new Greenwood.
Fred Karl designed the first Viking range for his wife and hoped that he would sell 1,000 a year; now he sells that many in a week. Just like most startups today, he had little money. Fred Karl bartered his building design skills to obtain office space to work in. The local people called the new range Fred was designing his "Stove Project." What kept his spirit going was the encouragement from the town—support he knew he wouldn't get if he moved to a big city. That little "Stove Project" eventually became the big business of Viking Range.
Feeling a little weird lately? Take time to see where your passion and entrepreneurial spirit is calling you. Even in corporate America, the entrepreneurial spirit must remain alive. That spirit can solve the toughest of corporate problems, if only we let it.
See the article in INC about the entrepreneurial spirit of Fred Karl.