Most remodeling prospects hardly expect to see a husband and wife team show up at their door to explain the project and work up an estimate. But that’s what clients of Knutson Brothers II get: Cindy Knutson-Lycholat and her husband, Gerry Lycholat. Prospects, Cindy says, “don’t have a prayer.”

She has staked out the lake homes south of Milwaukee as a profitable niche market. Two-thirds of her company’s business comes from there, some by word-of-mouth, more by skilled marketing. Knutson Brothers II takes on a dozen jobs a year, subbing out everything but the planning. Many involve winterizing lakefront vacation homes. “We’re busier in the winter than we are in the summer,” she says. “Because people want to use their houses in the summer.”

Knutson-Lycholat started working for her father and uncle—the original Knutson brothers—as first a designer, then a remodeler, back in the ’70s. Following a family tradition, she’s highly active in builder and remodeler organizations, both in Wisconsin and on a national level.