A worker builds product at Aluminum Cabinet.
Small business owners wear many hats to keep things rolling. Kelly O’Toole is no different. "Designing, selling, billing, answering the phone... I’m doing everything," he said of his Aluminum Cabinet Company.
But what he’s doing works. 2011 was his best year in the seven he’s been in business, almost tripling his sales over the previous year. He credits a stubborn Irish streak, a rebounding economy and assistance from NRRI.
A sheet metal worker by trade, O’Toole began the company in 2005 by making cabinets for a race trailer. He couldn’t find a local powder coating business, so he bought the equipment and taught himself how to do it. Building his aluminum custom cabinetry business kept him busy, so O’Toole leaned on NRRI’s Pam Sarvela to pull together the financing assistance he needed to grow.
"NRRI is one of the puzzle pieces a small growing business like this needs," Sarvela explained. "We were able to pull together funding entities and provide them with the documentation needed to secure the financial resources necessary to keep this company alive and growing. NRRI was the gateway to northeast Minnesota’s network of business support."
In 2007 O’Toole used a Small Business Administration loan to buy fabrication equipment and stock some inventory while his website generated Internet sales.
"The wheels started rolling along and then in 2008 the wheels fell off the bus like it did for everyone," said O’Toole. "We were able to work through [the recession] but it was slow for the longest time."
He went out looking for more orders for his small job shop and approached neighboring business Cirrus Aircraft. The down economy was forcing them to look for new parts suppliers and O’Toole got the certification he needed to make airplane parts. Business started picking up, he added more equipment and moved the business to a larger space.
"We had an order from Greece to build 33 museum cabinets and we were trying to move the shop," said O’Toole. "We had to get set up fast." NRRI’s expert in Lean Manufacturing, Brian Brashaw, did some quick layout work with O’Toole to help configure the production process and he was rolling again. He’s also used NRRI’s rapid prototype lab to design custom toolbox handles for his trailer products.
"It’s great to have NRRI as a resource," said O’Toole. "Pam was a catalyst putting people together while I was trying to keep the business going. And it’s great to have the prototype center right there."
The company has a lot of available capacity, and O’Toole is gearing up for growth. With five full-time employees and one part-time, his work still comes in through word-of-mouth and Internet sales. With some strategic marketing, he plans to hire a shop foreman and get his machines running all day long.
"I’m stubborn as the day is long and I wouldn’t take on an investor, so it took me longer to get where I’m at," said O’Toole. "But I’m probably still here because I’m that five percent that went against the grain."
For more information on what the Aluminum Cabinet Company has to offer, visit www.aluminumcabinetco.com.