Vivian Sojo of Keystone Kitchen and Bath is looking to give a needy family a kitchen remodel this Christmas in an effort to give back to the community. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
For Vivian Sojo, owner of Fresno company Keystone Kitchen and Bath, an interest in the construction trades sparked her passion for interior design.
Keystone specializes in cabinetry lines, plumbing lines, countertops, tile and flooring, and light fixtures.
Starting her career at just 20 years old, Sojo has been learning the trade as she has been working in it for the last 16 years.
Her father was a construction worker and had hoped for Sojo to go into architecture, and though she did take some drafting classes in high school, she started taking medical classes in college.
It was when she took an art appreciation class that she started to consider a career in interior design. Sojo soon started to work for companies that would sell cabinets and granite, and even though she said she didn’t know what she was doing, she was already designing.
“My boss would leave to China, or Brazil, for months at a time, and he would just leave me. I had to learn it on my own and figure out the design programs on my own,” Sojo said. “I started that close to when I was 20 years and learned little by little. School doesn’t really teach you the trade — it teaches you how to color coordinate and put things together, but it doesn’t really show you how to deal with contractors and customers.”
Sojo even helped a major granite and kitchen cabinet company open a location in Fresno, but she left the company where she worked for more than 10 years after some payment disputes. She bounced around to some other interior design companies, and even started selling jewelry and foods.
She kept in contact with vendors that she worked with during her time in the industry and became a seller on Amazon, and was bringing in $10,000 to $20,000 in cabinetry, tile and fixture sales a month.
She applied for a $10,000 loan from Amazon and opened Keystone Kitchen and Bath in the summer of 2014.
Sojo began contacting old contractors she used to work with and began selling them cabinets, and they in turn would bring in more clients. Old clients from when she first started in the industry would reach out to her for work on their properties.
Though it was hard to get the name out of the company in the beginning, word of mouth about Keystone Kitchen and Bath began to spread, and she said each year has been better than the last.
Sojo takes inspiration from many sources, including a youth pastor and Oprah. Shortly after she opened Keystone, she met Doug Kulungu, who is now a representative for the Congolese Parliament. He wanted to build a school in the Congo, which she helped design. Now, five years later, the school has been built.
This Christmas, Sojo wants to continue giving back to the community by finding a family in need of a free kitchen remodel. She has posted on the company’s Facebook page, but people are asking for the kitchen remodel for themselves, instead of nominating a needy family.
She is still trying to figure out ways to get the word out there and find a deserving family that could really be helped by some remodeling. The remodeling will be valued anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 and will include the design, materials and labor.
“I’m hoping to do this once a year if everything goes well,” Sojo said. “I just want to find a family but the hard part is knowing who wants one and who needs it.”