Dynamic Duo

Mother-daughter kitchen-and-bath team thinks big, and outside the box

When Debbie Ferguson and her daughter, Kristy Ferguson, decided to start a cabinet company in 2013, it was, not surprisingly, a family thing.

Millennium Construction, run by Debbie’s son, Rob, was in the middle of a big residential project when the cabinet shop they were working with went out of business. They needed another partner fast. As Debbie tells it, Rob approached her.

“He came to me and said, ‘Mom, how would you like to design kitchens?’” Debbie was receptive to the idea, but only to a certain point.

“I’d rather just be on the design end, and I didn’t really want to run a business,” Debbie says. “I wanted somebody who’s young and vivacious and has got a full future in front of them.”

So, she turned to Kristy, who had been working and “traveling the world,” including stints in Nicaragua and Thailand, and was then in Denver. Although Kristy was a little skeptical at first, not having run a business before and thinking maybe Billings already had plenty of cabinet companies, she soon signed on.

With Kristy as the co-owner and CEO and Debbie as the co-owner and designer, their company, Beyond the Box, launched in 2014 and grew rapidly. It now has nine employees, and it was voted the best home remodeling company in the Billings Gazette’s Readers’ Choice Awards in 2021, ’22 and ’23.

“We’ve been blessed,” Kristy says, “so we must be doing something right.”

It helps that both women are hard workers and quick learners. Kristy said her mother had done some design work for her father’s and then her husband’s construction businesses, but mostly in choosing colors, placement of appliances and overall layout, not necessarily in designing kitchens and cabinets.

“She excelled at creating beauty wherever she goes,” Kristy says, and her mother taught herself how to use 2020 Design Live software, the main tool for kitchen and cabinet designers, and then two other design programs. Such was her progress that

Debbie was chosen — as one of just 20 members of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) — to tour some of the leading kitchen and bath businesses in Germany.

Kristy, for her part, was named Businessperson of the Year in 2023 by the SEN Design Group, an educational and buying organization made up of more than 200 design firms around the country. As you might expect, mother and daughter think highly of each other.

“I’m truly amazed and impressed when I watch her and how she deals with some of the complicated business stuff and some of the complicated customer-service issues, some of the complicated employee issues,” Debbie says. “She always keeps a very positive attitude.”

And Kristy says of her mother: “One of our core values is facing challenges with optimism, and that comes from her. I think that’s something I inherently grew up with, which is why I have the outlook I have. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re supported.”

They do admit to occasional rough spots. How do they deal with them? “We text and say we love each other,” Kristy says, before adding with a laugh, “And then we avoid each other for a few days.”

Debbie and Kristy are also proud of their apprenticeship program, which was certified through the state of Montana. At one point, all of their designers were certified through the NKBA, and their first apprentice, Megan Reed, went on to be selected for the 30 Under 30 award by the NKBA. Megan later was also chosen for an industry tour in Germany.

Kristy deflects when asked about her own accomplishments and awards. “At the end of the day, we’ve had a lot of help,” she says, from customers, contractors, family, employees and the wider community. “I’m always just amazed at how much help we’ve gotten,” she says.

They hope their customers are amazed at the level of service they offer, especially since their recent merger with a custom closet business. They work closely and in depth with their customers, from the initial meeting in the showroom to home visits for measuring and creation of a 3-D model, followed by revisions and installation.

Beyond the Box likes to use their own installers, and they recently hired a shop person who does six- and 12-month door and drawer adjustments.

From the start, Beyond the Box has been located in a onetime warehouse at 724 First Ave. N., tucked in behind the Northern Ag Network building where First Avenue meets Main Street in front of MetraPark. The building was originally a part of the Yale Oil Company Refinery and later used as a warehouse by an office-supply business.

With 30,000 square feet on two stories and a basement, the building has proved to be perfect for Beyond the Box. It has 5,000 square feet of showroom, filled with closets, garage organization, hundreds of sample tiles, cabinets, countertops and other accessories, and even a working kitchen. Earlier this spring, they made use of the kitchen when they hosted a social for the Home Builders Association of Billings.

The building is also home to Millennium, which provides construction, transportation and electrical services, and where, in addition to Debbie’s husband and son, another daughter and three grandchildren work. (Still another grandchild works for Beyond the Box.) The sense of being in one big family, where everyone helps everyone else, holds true throughout the building.

“Sometimes you’re going to be the one who works the hardest,” Kristy says. “Then sometimes, guess what, you’re going to be the one who’s doing more life, and somebody else is picking up the ball and carrying it to the next leg of the race.”

Asked about their plans for the future, Kristy says, “Where don’t we want to go?” In essence, she says, they just want to continue growing and to keep making their customers as satisfied as possible.

There is, though, one more specific thing Kristy would like to do: open a speakeasy in the cellar of their building, with a patio on the roof. “It’s such a cool old building,” she says, and the cellar would be perfect for a speakeasy-like taproom or lounge. As for the patio, Kristy takes a visitor to a balcony on the southwest side of the building. From there you can see the Yellowstone River and the soaring Rims above it, as well as the train tracks, the interstate highway, the downtown area, MetraPark and airplanes arriving at and departing from the airport. Billings in a nutshell, or at a glance.

“It’s a long-term dream,” Kristy says of the speakeasy and patio. “This is sort of the blighted area of the heart of Billings, and being that we’re coming in right off the interstate, we do think we could be a foothold for growth and beautification.”

“Billings has gotten a bad rap in Montana and I hate that, because I love Billings,” she continues. “I think Billings has a ton to offer, and we just need to do more with it.”


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