David Preka’s first job as Advanced Improvements earned him $3,500, and he spread it as far as he could. He bought a truck, picked up tools and made business cards. Then he looked for more work.
He was 19 years old.
Now, at age 29, the owner of Advanced Improvements in downtown Mystic has 11 employees, is licensed in two states and is working 19 jobs, including building two houses.
“When you start in the beginning of a job, you see a profit,” he said. “For other people, half of that goes into their lifestyle, and half goes into their business. With me, everything went into my business.”
Preka was born in Albania, the oldest of three children. His parents were highly educated; his father taught school for 25 years, then served as a dean for 15 years. His mother worked as district manager for a telecom company similar to AT&T.
Preka started high school in Albania, then moved to Italy and finished school there.
A neighbor in Italy taught him construction. Preka went on a job with him laying floor tile at age 15, then did other jobs and built his skills. He discovered he had a passion for building.
“When you’re in construction, you start from scratch, and that is what makes you happy,” he said.
He came to Connecticut in 2001 as a visitor at age 17 and stayed with relatives. He had no plan but to experience another country. He never left.
Instead, he started Advanced Improvements as a one-man operation from the house. A local real estate agent provided his first referral, a job fixing up a couple's home in Norwich. Preka sanded and finished floors, painted trim and installed doorknobs and hinges.
“Shortly after that, I got something small, a few other jobs,” he said. With every job, he invested in his business.
“It grew dramatically from the first day to today,” he said.
Preka has been in Mystic for five years and in his current office at 61 W. Main St. for two. He said customer service is what keeps business thriving; he guarantees work for five and ten years, he said. But he also continues to invest.
“This is not it,” he said. “We’re looking to expand.”