A Woman's Resilience: Amy Kohl's Personal Story

by Amy Kohl

In the spirit of International Women's Day, I've decided to take a moment to share my story—a journey through major loss, triumph, and all the meaningful stuff that lies between.

Social media does a great job of sharing the highlights, so I am going to share the lowlights of the last decade of my life in this blog. I am Amy Kohl, a woman deeply rooted in resilience, a trait that has shaped the very fabric of my existence as a woman, and the Founder & CEO of AK Operations.

The Genesis: My Roots 

I have Midwest roots - surrounded by the comfort of family, school, sports, church, and chores. I was raised by an extraordinary woman, my mother, who epitomized selflessness and dedication. Losing her parents at a young age, she made sure my sisters and I were always her top priority. Her resilience and strength were my first lessons in facing life's challenges head-on.

She was an incredibly smart woman with a finance degree who has a solid career before having three daughters. I believe that once she stayed home with us and my Dad continued to provide for the family, there was (at first) a small shift in her.  Perhaps if she was doing it all over again today, she’d be a working-mom flying high both at home and in the office. I think this is what motivated her to raise us three girls a little differently so our fulfillment was in our hands.

She instilled in me from day one the belief that I am smart, strong, beautiful, loved and worthy, and because Jesus protects me I can do anything. These affirmations became the bedrock of my resilience. I knew I could do anything – because my Mom told me so.

I wanted this same belief instilled in my three kids – Grace, Mila and Dominic (2020ish)


A Can-Do Attitude 

Soccer was my sanctuary, a place where I discovered my strengths and weaknesses. It taught me the importance of teamwork, effort, selflessness, and collaboration. These lessons were invaluable as I navigated through school and into adulthood, facing challenges with a steadfast spirit and knowing I could do anything I set my mind to (remember, my Mom told me so).

As an OG Soccer Mom, she knew she could teach me major lessons from sports that would apply in the classroom. I hated school. I loved soccer.  I wasn’t the best player or leader in points, but I knew I was important and my team needed me.  So I showed up every day, worked hard and played to win. She was right, because then I did the same thing in school.

Fast forward to today, my three kids will always be on a team – working hard, learning lessons, and showing up even when they don’t feel like it. After all, there’s nothing like 15 teammates and a solid coach behind you when you’re young. “Team” is the defining word of my life and I am proud of the can-do attitude my kids have adopted.

Adversity Strikes Hard in 2014

Life has a way of testing us in the most brutal ways. For me, the challenge came in the form of my mother's battle with breast cancer—a battle she bravely fought alongside our family for seven years before she passed away. Her death left a void not only in my heart but also in the foundation of my support system. This loss coincided with the birth of my first child, Grace, marking a poignant moment of profound joy and heartbreaking loss.

Following my mother's death, my father's soon-after departure from our lives compounded the sense of loss. However, these experiences, as painful as they were, taught me about the strength that lies in vulnerability, asking for help, and the importance of your family’s team. Many of these people are professional mentors, core friends, in-laws, aunts and uncles, and of course, my sisters who were suffering the same as I was. Fast forward to today - 7 grandkids know no different. They are happy thanks to our family’s team.

I’ve learned a lot about my Mom since she died. Almost like clues to her real life as a woman – a former businesswoman turned housewife, a former athlete turned cancer patient, a woman who held her family together even more than even her kids understood. I think she had a lot more heartache, and suppressed feelings and goals like many women of her time. We weren’t talking about empowering women then like we are now. I am motivated by this to change it for myself, for my girls and the women around me. I may not be the loudest about women empowerment but that is by choice – I want my example to speak for itself. 

My Pursuit & Building Resilience

Knowing I had several people in my life to care for as the oldest daughter, my hustle into my career was unconventional at the time. As a three-time wingwomen to founders of start-ups, I fell in love with the scrappiness and mission of building effective teams and processes. The race to land-grab as fast as possible for sales traction is a sheer addiction of mine. 

After leaving the final start-up after serving one of the country's greatest founders for five years, I started my own company.  I knew I had a super unique skill set and I was good at it. Like really good at it. Initially, my goal was to be compensated for my impact, not my time – as a young mother to three little babies at that time, I needed more control of my days without losing my professional intensity. I started AK Operations on September 12th, 2018 (It's actually September 11th - but that isn't the best date to commemorate for anything other than 9/11).

From a solopreneur facing an income deficit as a family of 5 to leading a company with 15 full-time employees with a stellar reputation in the Rev Ops space, my path has been one of intense growth, constant learning, and pursuit to sustainability.

AK Operations stands today as a testament to resilience, ranked #731 on the Inc. 5000 and recognized as the 28th fastest-growing company in the Midwest.

My Leadership & (Still) Building Resilience

The core of my leadership lies in the mantra I’ve adopted from my Mom… "People first. Things don't matter." Sometimes this could be considered foolish in business decisions – and looking back several people could disagree with major decisions I’ve made. But the “people first” belief has guided me through the toughest times, allowing me to focus on what truly matters - the well-being and growth of those around me, both clients and employees.

I truly never prioritze the numbers of growth (revenue or headcount) over the pulse of my clients and teammates. When they are good, the numbers more than work themselves out. Always. 

Adversity Strikes Hard Again in 2021

My Uncle Danny, my father's brother-in-law, was everything to my family. He stepped in when we were fractured most. The day after spending Thanksgiving with my family (left), he tragically fell down the stairs and died. I knew he was gone when the ambulance went from 100 mph to 70... my Aunt Debbie crying in the passenger seat next to me - hoping she didn't notice the change of speed.

My heart flipped upside down again. My biggest cheerleader gone again. Explaining to my three-year-old that the man who stepped in like a grandpa, the man holding him the day before while they played in the backyard, was now in heaven too.

That conversation with my kids was a moment I hated most from my life. Their reactions, their tears, their questions... It makes me hurt even typing this. Another major loss of mine, but this time includes immense pain and confusion for my kids too. 

The passing of my Uncle Danny added to the heavy loss and learning in my life. He left me with valuable outlooks that continue to guide me.

Mantras That Fuel Me

Today, I am a survivor of life's harsh trials but as a woman who has learned to live and lead with resilience.  There are a million recipes for success, but my story includes these mantras thanks to these wonderful people I have lost. 

  • “People first. Things don’t matter.” – Mom
  •  “Show up…” for everyone. Even if you don’t think they need it, they do. – Uncle Danny
  • “You go, girl!” – Encourage always. Even if you don’t think they need it, they do.  – Uncle Danny
  • “Don’t let too much time pass without a campfire night with the people you love most.”  – Uncle Danny

Then there are these mantra's I've subscribed to myself. I live by these. AK Ops exists because of these. And my kids hear these over-and-over as their Mom and Coach.

Teamwork Really Does Make the Dream Work 

My latest endeavor, Cottleville City Fields, is a dream come true, aimed at de-complicating youth soccer and making quality facilities accessible to everyone. We broke ground in January 2024 and opened just last week – and I look forward to watching thousands of young athletes develop into incredible adults over the next several decades on our fields. 

My journey is a testament to the fact that while our experiences may shape us, we are defined by how we rise through them. I've lived through loss, celebrated triumphs, and embraced life with all its complexities. I have made mistakes and am far from perfect. But through it all, I've learned that with resilience, a supportive team, and a relentless spirit, we are all truly unstoppable.