Lisa Kro, co-founder of Mill City Capital in Minneapolis, advises women starting out in private equity to “stay true to who you are.”
“Don’t change for the sake of feeling like you need to be more like your male counterparts, because I think you have a lot of advantages in being female and what that brings to the whole diversity picture,” she says.
Kro didn’t always follow her own advice. “When I was coming up in the financial services industry, there were times that I felt I needed to be more like a guy, rather than being who I am,” she admits. “Sometimes I would read the hockey scores, even though I don’t like hockey, just so I felt like I could ‘fit in,’ if hockey came up in conversation.
Earlier in her career, Kro was a partner at KPMG and led its Midwest consumer and manufacturing group. In 2004, after 17 years at KPMG, she joined the private equity firm of Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison, where she served as managing director and chief financial officer.
In 2009, Kro and three colleagues from Goldner Hawn left to form Mill City, which today manages $200 million in private equity. Kro, who grew up in North Dakota, says one of her firm’s competitive advantages is its network of relationships in the upper Midwest and central and western Canada—the regions that Mill City targets for lower middle market investments.
Kro’s target at Mill City have included Wholesale Produce Supply, Impact Confections and Behrens Manufacturing. She is a member of Impact Confections’ board and the board chair at Wholesale Produce and Behrens. She also serves on the boards of office furniture maker Herman Miller Inc. (NASDAQ: MLHR) and Ecumen, a non-profit provider of housing for seniors.
Kro has an accounting degree from the University of Minnesota – Moorhead.