We recently had the pleasure of talking with Tom Welch, owner of Mainely Handrails LLC. in Fairfield, ME. Tom told us how he grew a part-time business into a full-time enterprise that now employs twenty people.
Please tell us about the history of your company.
When I started about sixteen years ago, I was just a one-man shop. I worked a full time job and at night I would weld handrails. I made rails for my house and people would say, “Wow, those came out nice! You should make these things.” I thought maybe there was something to what they were saying. So, for about ten years, I worked full time and did railings at night. I would take my stuff to get coated by another company. That company got way over capacity and my turn-around was getting longer and longer. I told my wife one day, “If I don’t do my own powder coating, I’ll never grow my business.”
So, I started looking on the internet for ovens and found Reliant. Little did I know how much my business would grow by getting into the powder coating. The company I used to do business with ending up closing their doors. In the state of Maine, there are a lot of rural areas. Word travelled pretty quickly that we were one of the only job shops in the area with a full-sized oven, so we took on a lot of customers.
What started out as just me doing handrails has grown into a business with twenty employees, and maybe by end of summer we’ll be at twenty-five.
What challenges have you faced since you started your business?
Obviously, the big one for me is the fact that I built this business by myself. I had a lot of people who had faith in me and supported my decision to grow my own business. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I grew up in a large family. I was poor by some people’s standards. My biggest struggle was trying to finance this stuff and get it going. I didn’t have a big pocket full of money, so it was an issue trying to financially bring this whole thing together and make it all happen. Business education, in its many forms, can be very expensive.
Once you purchased the equipment how quickly did you see your business grow?
Getting our name out there hasn’t been a problem. If everything had happened overnight, I would have failed miserably because of the speed that everything would have come at me. Luckily, word of mouth spread just fast enough that we could keep pace. We also got a boost when our shop was featured on television after we were up and running good.
How would you say your Reliant equipment has affected your business?
I think that if we had the room, I would have gone with a larger oven. Owning the Reliant oven I have has doubled my business. It significantly changed and grew my business. It’s been a big impact and obviously that’s why we’re looking at increasing the size of our equipment. We’ve got people asking us about bigger pieces now. I was lucky on the timing of getting the system in. Even without the outside contracts we have now, it’d still be great for us. But, to me, what made things really grow was all the extra work we get now. Even if we were just powder coating, and not building rails, we’d be fine. We’re a full fab shop. Having those capabilities has brought us contracts from companies that want us to fully manufacture, blast, and powder coat. We never had those contracts before our Reliant equipment. We have a lot larger companies that see we can make products from start to finish, in-house, and it makes us much more appealing to work with.
What are your plans for the future?
The plan for the future is definitely to get more ovens. I’m too optimistic at times, so my glass is always half-full. Maybe that’s been good for me. I’m the kind of guy who would sign a deal for five million for a building and fill it with ovens. My vision for the future of my company is more building with more of these ovens. I don’t ever want to get out of fabrication. More bang for my buck, in my mind, means more of what I’m doing right now. Each piece of equipment I’ve bought for my business has taken us to another level. And this Reliant equipment has done that more than any other of piece of equipment I’ve bought.
Thanks again for your business and for taking time to talk with us, Tom. We’re extremely happy that you’re getting great results from your Reliant powder coating equipment and look forward to hearing about your continued success!
If you need high-quality custom fabrication and powder coating services in the Fairfield, ME. area, or just want see see some beautiful examples of custom metal fabrication, please visit Mainely Handrails LLC. at www.mainelyhandrailsllc.com/ to learn what they can do for you. You can also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Mainely-Handrails-LLC-199395655108/ and Instagram at www.instagram.com/mainelyhandrailsllc/.