What do you do? 

We create and manufacture large 3D forms and shapes. We work with foam to build full size statues, shapes, and production molds. We also create concrete molds and stamps. Our molds are often completed in fiberglass to be used as production molds. We have stayed busy through a poor economy because we diversify. There are many companies that are still creating shapes and forms by hand. We take the hard work and labor out of this process through use of technology such as CAD modeling and SprutCAM software. We can provide an exact geometric shape by scanning a 3D scale model of your part and scaling it up, or by drafting a completely new model in CAD. The model is programmed into our robot which mills out the 3D image.  We have created objects as small as a 1 ft. cube up to 30+ feet. We strive to grow and learn as we take on new challenges.

What inspired you to start your business? 

In 2017, my brother Karl was helping a business that wanted to manufacture large moldings with a milling robot. Since we had the knowledge of the equipment, the idea came up for us to purchase this process as a new business. We still have a business relationship with the previous owner, who now continues to operate Casting Creations in Howard Lake. 

What's special about your business? 

We actually have business relationships with our competitors. We will get referrals from those competitors to complete the parts of the project that they don't have the capacity for or specialized knowledge in. Likewise, we have referred parts of projects out to these competitors for the same reasons. Now that we have our own artist on staff, we can handle more detailed finishing and artistry in-house.

Like many other businesses, there is a huge advantage when we get repeat customers because we know exactly what their needs are, and we typically develop a process specific to that need.

What have been the high and low points of being a business owner? 

Every week there is a new challenge, so we have grown a lot as a company. Sales have doubled every year since 2017. Growing as a business, we've had to figure out ownership structure and responsibilities. We all started as part-time and grew to full-time. Moving from part-time to full-time requires a different level of commitment. Expectations have changed along with the time commitment. The challenge now is figuring out if we are profitable when we go through cycles of being busy and then not. We know we have to be careful about our margins in order to determine whether or not we can bring in more people.

What is your relationship with SCORE? 
SCORE client
What influenced you to seek help from SCORE? 

We were looking for a business mentor and found SCORE through the Small Business Administration (SBA). SCORE really came through for us. Not charging us at this stage was so crucial, so valuable. We started working with SCORE around December 2020. We started working with Darold for our business structure which included defining ourselves and our direction. Darold then brought in two marketing specialists, Ben Weeres and Lisa Lindgren. They really helped in confirming ideas that we were not sure about. Ben and Lisa helped us to put together a marketing campaign which included email along with a brochure to really personalize our message to each customer.

How SCORE helped. 

There are so many things that Darold has helped us work through, but the number one area was the company structure, especially as a family owned and operated business. How do we set this up? What are the basic guidelines around other people joining the business? Who is involved and can each commit to full-time? How do we govern? Each of us has written our own job description to elevate our professionalism and to think as a company. For instance, I am in charge of coating, lean manufacturing, buying equipment, equipment flexibility, and the design layout for our shop. Karl has taken on the role of machining. Eldon is our single sales contact. He does a lot of outreach with emails but he also handles CAD design. If we receive a lot of photos or sketches, we now have Jack for the artistic work.

Related to structure, we also learned the importance of exit strategies, including the unplanned loss of an owner. This is important to the continuation of the business and the livelihood of the other owners.

Darold also helped guide us through the process (and still is) in creating our Mission and Vision statements, and defining our culture and the value that we bring to our customers.

As mentioned previously, SCORE has helped us with marketing and how to accurately portray what our business actually does and how our customers see us. Related to that was sales and understanding industry standards in conversion ratios from leads to sales. SCORE also helped with financing and understanding if we are profitable overall when we are going through periods of high productivity and slower times.

What would you tell a fellow business owner about SCORE? 

SCORE has really helped us in the areas that we needed it. SCORE’s mentors have the breadth of knowledge and experience to guide you through unknown territory and serve as a sounding board for ideas that you have but just aren’t sure about.

 

Pictured below: Karl with a "Bear Cat" core made for one of our clients. This part will be used to make a fiberglass mold, so that replicas can be made in fiberglass.

Second picture: Wes and Eldon with a 14 ft boat shaped foam core which has been hard coated and then sprayed with duratec (or high build primer) to allow for sanding to a final smooth finish. This core will be used to support the manufacturing process as a fixture, or as a core to build a fiberglass mold.