Spotlight: Partner Takes the Reins in Inspiration

Read time: 10 minutes

Throughout the city of Buffalo, many organizations and groups take the initiative to award professional men and women for being awesome people to work with, in one way or another. Recently, nominations were collected for the Women of Influence and we were honored to highlight one of our first female partners at CTBK: Karen Antonelli.

Because she’s so incredible, we want to share how inspirational and influential she’s been to our firm and the community, with or without an award.

Karen Antonelli Makes Her Mark at CTBK

Karen is part of the roots at the firm, beginning her career as an accountant just two years into the establishment of CTBK in 1996. Today, Karen is an attest partner with overall responsibility for the Firm’s attest services to a variety of clients. Karen’s hard work and leadership navigated the Firm through many challenges to become a top five accounting firm in Western New York. Because of her success within the Firm and community, Karen became one of CTBK’s first female partners in 2015. Although partner is the highest level in our firm, Karen has not stopped setting new goals for herself and the firm. She paved a path that became the road into our firm for many women to come throughout the following years. Not only does Karen have a balanced knowledge of accounting, auditing and tax, but she is also a Certified Construction Industry Financial Professional (CCIFP) and specializes in the construction industry as the Firm’s construction team leader. 

Karen is actively involved in a number of the Firm’s initiatives, including recruiting of professional staff, mentoring, and business development. Karen’s vast knowledge of these different realms has given her a large playing field when it comes to her daily responsibilities. She’s a founding member of what was once our internal Career Path Group, and currently serves as a mentor for many on the CTBK team. 

While an active mentor and volunteer in the community, Karen continues to progress CTBK’s involvement in the construction industry by collaborating to bring in new work from local construction companies and branching out beyond the Western New York borders.

Karen continues to lead the firm through the many changes faced by this specific industry and is a champion for work-life balance and creation of an enriching career experience at CTBK.

How Karen Goes Above & Beyond

Change is what attracts a spotlight, provokes conversation and makes a mark in history. CTBK encourages its team to #MakeYourMark, but Karen was doing just that long before it became a hashtag. She has certainly changed CTBK for the better over the years, especially for women, as well as the Firm’s overall role in the industry.

Courage is an understatement. Twenty-four years ago when she began her career at CTBK, she paid no mind to the fact that she was often the only woman in the room. She is one of the founding members of the Career Path Group and for some time was the only female in that group. Karen’s stride on this unmarked path paved the way for women to follow for years to come.

Her focus in the construction niche is another way Karen has made her mark at CTBK and in the entire industry. As a male-dominated niche, Karen pushed through obstacles to get to where she is today: a Partner dedicated to the construction industry. Karen put on her hard hat and inched her way onto boards and committees of multiple construction organizations, such as the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) and the Construction Exchange of Buffalo and WNY. Karen doesn’t back down to a challenge; she faces it head on and continues down her path.

Karen is an inspiration to all. Not only has she become a partner at Chiampou Travis Besaw & Kershner LLP and the team leader of its construction industry group, but she also is raising her two sons beside her husband, Vinnie. She finds time to devote to her community and she puts forth significant efforts to promote the interests of women professionals, the accounting profession, as well as the construction industry in Western New York. Karen’s spark for change in the industry has led to continued employee satisfaction and empowerment within the workplace, especially among the younger women in the firm, providing them with clarity, guidance, and inspiration for the potential in their very own career paths.

Prioritizing the Human Connection

Karen is President of the Construction Financial Management Association, Niagara Frontier Chapter; she just finished her maximum term as Treasurer of Kids Escaping Drugs (KED), and she is past-Chair of RISE UP (formerly Women in Construction). Karen is a member of the Canisius College Council of Accountancy, the Women of Canisius Council and has been a panelist for Buffalo Business First’s Bizwomen Mentoring Monday, which provides guidance for women in the corporate world.

Karen continues to contribute to the firm’s planning and vision by participating as an active mentor and role model for CTBK’s L.E.A.D. Summit, designed for college students aspiring to set their career path in the financial and accounting industries. Additionally, Karen has been on the panel multiple times for Buffalo Business First’s Bizwomen Mentoring Monday, geared toward guiding women in the local corporate world.

Her involvement in the community and select organization and boards takes Karen’s participation even further. Karen has been a board member of CFMA since 2012 and its President since 2015. CFMA is a national organization, with a local chapter in Buffalo, whose mission is to bring together individuals from various professions serving the construction industry. Monthly member meetings are held and provide a networking opportunity as well as an educational component. As the Board president, Karen’s goal is to collaborate with her fellow Board Members to plan sessions that cover topics that are relevant and informative regarding issues affecting the member’s professional roles as they serve the construction industry.

In 2014, Karen became a Founding Member of RISE UP — a women-built group designed to empower all individuals and stand with diversity to build an inclusive culture through leadership and collaboration. RISE UP is seeking to achieve mutual success by promoting education, networking, support and communication to those in the construction industry.

Since 2016, Karen has been a member of the Canisius College Council of Accountancy. The Council’s role is to assist in the preparation of a new generation of accountants. It works closely with the accounting department to address the ever-changing needs of the profession and plays a crucial role in the recruiting, placement and profession development of the students. As a group of approximately 50 professionals, the Council has historically had a strong male population. Currently, Karen is one of approximately 10 women to take an active role where Karen shares her knowledge and experience with students as they progress through their academic and professional careers.

Karen’s commitment as a board member and Treasurer of the Kids Escaping Drugs Foundation (KED) for 10 years has resulted in a decade filled with passion, dedication, and hard work that no one could have put forth quite the way Karen has. Her dedication to the only residential treatment facility for adolescents has provided guidance and added fight for adolescents in dire need. 

Karen’s role was to provide support to the Executive Director and to assist in fundraising efforts, which support the programs administered by KED. KED also provided indirect support to its sister organization, Renaissance Addiction Services, Inc. (RASI), which provides adolescent stabilization, rehabilitation and reintegration services to adolescents struggling with the disease of addiction. In 2014, Karen was a key member of a transition team that segregated the adolescent operations of another related operating agency, which resulted in the creation of RASI. While she just completed her maximum term on the KED Board, she is not finished just yet.  She is slated to join the RASI Board in the Fall of 2020.


Just a bit more about how awesome Karen is…

Karen has found the balance, which eludes so many, in terms of her family, her business, her profession and her community. While successfully achieving her own balance, she has been instrumental in driving several of CTBK’s work-life balance initiatives in an effort for staff to achieve the balance they desire. These initiatives have led to a more enriching work experience for our staff and to better retention and efficiency for CTBK. She is more than a participant; she is a true leader. Her example is an inspiration to many.