Signs point to success in safety business for UC communication grad

 Local entrepreneur grows business in a unique field

By Rebecca Schweitzer 

Although many view orange traffic cones as a signal to slow down for what lies ahead, University of Cincinnati alumna Kelly Hollatz saw a green light for a business opportunity.  

When Hollatz graduated from UC's College of Arts and Sciences in 2006 as a communication major, she expected that she would begin working with Procter & Gamble Co. or perhaps a local pharmaceutical company. 

Now, 15 years later, Hollatz serves as president and founder of First Star Safety, LLC in Lockland, Ohio. The company provides safety signs, markers and rentals, as well as professional flaggers to the Tristate area for construction projects, festivals and fairs, and other events such as the Flying Pig Marathon which require safety services. 

The idea behind this unique business sparked while Hollatz was working as a corporate event planner at the age of 25. Hollatz spoke to a local construction company owner who mentioned that the safety industry around Cincinnati seemed ripe for competition. Additionally, specific licensing wasn’t needed at the time for the area of safety equipment supply.

A&S Communication major Kelly Hollatz founded a successful safety business.

A&S Communication major Kelly Hollatz founded a successful safety business.

Intrigued, Hollatz researched safety businesses and build a business plan to start her own venture. Hollatz saw the safety business as a unique opportunity but felt that she was young enough to bounce back if the business didn’t take off. 

“Opportunity arose,” said Hollatz, “I was young enough and I still had time to give it a whirl.”

Hollatz, a self-made businesswoman who had paid her own way through college, took her business plan to 12 different banks in the area in search of funding. Ultimately, to fund her grassroots effort, Hollatz took out a second mortgage on a house she owned at the time to kickstart the business. 

Hollatz found that her background in communication along with the public relations and marketing courses she took during her time at UC helped her build her brand when starting the business.

“I had to communicate to the world — to the construction companies, to banks — my full business plan,” said Hollatz. “Being a small business, you have to wear a lot of hats.” 

I had to communicate to the world — to the construction companies, to the banks — my full business plan.

Kelly Hollatz, Founder, First Star Safety

And wear a lot of hats she did. Hollatz worked as her own brand manager and marketer, pursuing clients and getting her business out into the public eye. This self-branding allowed Hollatz to succeed in the business without having to hire any external marketing company. 

Since the start of her solo business, Hollatz has grown the company to 25 team members. 

Hollatz’s analytical mind helped her to approach her market by focusing on her communication background. 

According to Hollatz, business is all about the communication between individuals, companies and clients. Hollatz’s own public speaking ability helped her to tie persuasive speech and marketing into a “pretty package” to deliver to the potential market. 

The topic of safety is a sensitive one for many. Hollatz wants to be sure that she is always approaching new clientele with this in mind, offering them equipment and service for all safety needs.

Featured image at top: First Star Safety equipment ready for the next project.