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2015 Woman Business Owner of the Year: Katie Roth


Whenever someone tells Katie Roth, “Gee, I’d love to own my own business,” Roth thinks, “You want to own it, but you don’t want to run it.” 

In other words, running your own small business is never easy. 

“Being a small-business owner, you live with your own mistakes,” Roth said. “I think I’ve made them all. I never appreciated all the challenges until I became one. But there’s just the satisfaction of doing something successfully every day.” 

Roth launched Portico Staffing in April 2005, moving forward with the business despite the untimely death of her first husband, Luke. At the time, two of her children were still in grade school and the oldest was just starting high school.

“At a time when it would have been easy to let up or fall away, Katie dug in and started her business,” wrote the Rev. Frank Bognanno, her pastor at Christ the King Catholic Church, in a nomination letter. “Above all, Katie is a caring and kind individual who isn’t afraid to get down to business.” 

Roth, who studied journalism at the University of Iowa, said she’s always been outgoing and friendly. “I think I was attracted to (journalism) because I’m naturally curious,” she said. “I think that’s helped me in my sales career. And in this world it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” 

Another credo that Roth lives by is to make steady progress, every day, similar to how a race to the South Pole can be won by traveling 20 miles every day. 

“I call it the 20-mile march,” she said. “I’d rather have long-term consistent growth rather than the ups and downs that many staffing agencies have. I’d rather have a steady line than a lot of peaks and valleys.”  

Roth enjoys selling and the personal relationships that extend from it. 

“Katie is constantly ‘out in the market’ meeting with and super-serving clients and prospective recruits as well,” wrote Steve Lacy, chairman and CEO of Meredith Corp., another of Roth’s fans. “She has strong and long-term relationships with her corporate clients and provides recruits with clear and honest feedback that always has their best interest at heart.” 

“I enjoy making that connection,” Roth said. “It’s very rewarding when someone gets a job through us. When I go home at the end of the day, I feel pretty good about things.” 

At the same time, “there’s got to be a great deal of urgency in our industry; time kills all deals, even great ones,” Roth said. “It’s a constant. You build that sand castle on the shore, and the tide takes it away by the next morning. Some people can’t handle that.”

Three areas of influence

Successful business owner for 10 years in a challenging industry; she also mentors women in business and has presented on numerous panels about doing business successfully.  

She always takes the time to meet, talk with and help others, particularly young college graduates seeking guidance about getting their first jobs. 

She has served for 20 years on Sen. Chuck Grassley’s executive committee. 

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