Entrepreneur seizes opportunities to expand $2.6M flooring business
Andrea Couture has big plans for a unique flooring and concrete company she acquired three years ago.
| 5:00 a.m. January 18, 2024
| 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Andrea Couture didn’t plan on a career in flooring.
Growing up in a French Canadian entrepreneurial family in Quebec, with a father and brother who started their own businesses, Couture knew from an early age business would be her path. But flooring? How interesting could that be? Fashion made more sense, she thought.
It never crossed her mind to explore flooring until Couture took a business class in her early 20s that opened her eyes to the breadth of opportunities in the flooring and construction industries.
“It wasn’t something I would have thought about at all,” says Couture, 47, who is now CEO of Sarasota-based Intra-State Terrazzo & Concrete. “But you could be creative with it. There are a lot of products out there and there is a lot of room for creativity.”
After completing her business course, Couture went to work for a Quebec hardwood lumber company in 1997, selling pressure treated lumber used to make custom staircases. She focused on the purchasing side of the business, but was eager to learn all she could about the industry with an eye on someday owning a company of her own.
“I was thinking if I do a good job maybe they’d promote me to do other things and that is exactly what happened,” she says.
Week after week her boss would give her new things to try and learn, she says. “He gave me a great opportunity to learn throughout the production, sales and purchasing sides of the business, so he really opened my eyes on what could be done.”
Couture first came to Florida for a weekend in 2009 while she was working as the sales and development director for International Beams, which sells engineered wood products. Her boss invited her to Sarasota, hoping she’d help him open a satellite office there. The 2009 weekend turned into months then years. She eventually spent 12 years with the company, working across all aspects of operations.
“I knew when I moved to Sarasota that he was going to retire at some point,” she says. “The plan was to help him grow his business and ultimately sell it and that’s what happened.”
She came across Intra-State Terrazzo & Concrete after seeing its work during an earlier visit to Florida. She specifically remembered its “shellcrete” product, a decorative mix of shells and concrete predominantly used in driveways, patios and pool decks as well as indoors. “I thought, ‘who is doing that?’ And I wanted to find it,” she says.
Years later, she did.
As she was looking for a new career opportunity, Couture was introduced to Intra-State by a business broker. Couture bought Intra-State in March 2021. She declined to disclose financial terms of the acquisition.
Intra-State, with eight employees, has doubled its sales over the last three years, to $2.6 million, according to the company. Couture is now working on developing relationships with luxury builders, architects and others in the construction community to help them understand Intra-State’s products and services, which include new installations and resurfacing, too.
Couture was skeptical at first about the appeal of terrazzo – a flooring made of marble or granite chips set in concrete which is then polished smooth. She had associated terrazzo with the old, dull and drab-colored floors throughout her school growing up.
She was surprised to learn how distinctive and beautiful terrazzo can be. “Who buys terrazzo now? It’s been around for so many years. Why would I be interested in that?” she thought at the time.
But today, the color and design potential for terrazzo — which dates back to at least 8,000 BCE, according to The National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association – is endless, with an array of colors, designs and finishes.
Terrazzo flooring was first created in the Middle East, in what is now Turkey, and later found at Pompeii and Herculaneum when they were unearthed in the 18th century, according to the association, which represents terrazzo contractors nationwide.
Terrazzo came to the United States in 1879 and several decades later took off as a popular flooring choice, especially in public buildings and apartments built in the 1920s.
Today, terrazzo is making a comeback and is an especially practical choice in Florida because of its longevity, durability and water resistance. Because it is less porous than other floors, it won’t be damaged by flooding, Couture says.
“It withstands the cycle of time. You don’t scratch a terrazzo floor. You can have dogs, you can have kids playing on the floor and it will look the same,” Couture says. “There are a lot of finishes that are available with terrazzo, you can have a smooth surface and you can have a satin-like appearance, or a brushed finish.”
Intra-State Terrazzo was founded by Wolf Weinhold and his wife Marjorie, after the couple moved to Florida from Milwaukee. After working as a fisherman, Weinhold decided to try terrazzo, believing the durable floors would be a good business, recalls his son, Kip Weinhold, who still works for the company.
Intra-State was one of the first companies in the Sarasota region to pioneer terrazzo in commercial and residential buildings when it was founded in 1954, Weinhold says.
Kip Weinhold has been working at Intrastate since 1973 and says Couture’s leadership has been good for the business. “She has a vision. She wants the business to grow and prosper and the guys to grow and prosper and she has been very willing to listen and support and help,” he says.
Intra-State has worked to adapt to changing technology and styles of the day, expanding its offerings over the years. In the 1970s, as terrazzo’s popularity waned and carpet became king, Intra-State offered a river gravel flooring in concrete, then a pebble chip flooring sealed with epoxy before developing its signature “shellcrete” flooring. Shellcrete involves embedding shells into concrete for a distinctive, beach-like look.
“Shellcrete gives you the beach at your house and you don't get sand between your toes and don't get cut in the shells,” says Weinhold.
“People think about paving their driveway, they're thinking about asphalt and regular concrete,” says Couture. “What we do is really decorative concrete; it has nothing to do with regular concrete.”
Couture aims to promote shellcrete as a creative and durable interior and exterior option, along with terrazzo. Both products are installed during the building process, with terrazzo being poured directly into the foundation of a building. “I would love to see our signature product, which is the shellcrete, grow because it is something very unique to our area,” Couture says.
Jonathan Parks, a Sarasota based architect, hired Intrastate in 2019 to restore the original terrazzo flooring in a mid-century modern home in the Southgate area of Sarasota. The Intrastate team made it look like new, Parks says.
“Our experience with Intra-State was excellent. They were professional and friendly with our client and met all deadlines,” he says. “The quality of their repair work has held up years later.”
Now, Couture is working to invest in new, more efficient installation tools and aims to expand the business further into Naples and Miami this year.
Ultimately, she says, once designers and builders learn about shellcrete and terrazzo, they keep coming back because of all the benefits — the same ones that attracted her to the company, too.
“It is fun to see something built up,” she says. “When you see the final product and you’re like ‘wow, that is what we can do.’ That is nice.”