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10/17/2004

Aiming to mold her business into winner

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

Growing your business doesn’t always correspond to growing in size. Sometimes, smaller is better.

“We have lost bids to foreign companies, but we’ve never lost a customer once they start with us,” said Jacqueline Jones, president of Aim Processing Inc., a plastics injection-molding company based in the Vista Commercial Center east of town.

Aim celebrated its 11th anniversary at the beginning of this month. The company was just a two-person operation when it started — Jones and vice president Fred Stone. A silent partner also remains with the company, which now employs 17 people.

“Now we’re at $11/2 million in sales,” said Jones. “My background is plastics and injection molding, and I had worked in the injection-molding field for about 10 years.”

The launch of her company came about when the company she had been working for merged with another, and that company closed the facility here to consolidate in Denver. Putting it succinctly, she said, “I didn’t want to go to Denver.”

Instead, she decided to take the knowledge and the extensive relationships she had developed with her clients and start her own company with Stone.

“All of Aim’s early customers came out of former customers I had worked with who were unhappy with the big conglomeration,” Jones said.

Even in that first year, Stone said, the company was able to do several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of business. Jones estimates that about 30 percent of Aim’s current customer base has been with the company since that first year.

Aim started in a small facility on South Bowen Street and moved to its 10,000-square-foot facility in 1998.

“The main reason for dealing with them is the quality of the work that comes out of their facility,” said Anne Potter, purchasing manager for Louisville’s Inovonics Corp. “I never viewed them as your ordinary molders. They’re probably more customer-service oriented.”

Inovonics, which makes wireless communication products for the high-end security industry, has been working with Aim for about eight years, Potter said, contracting with them to make the plastic parts that go into their products, which also include headsets used in the fast-food industry.

“I think they’re one of the favorites of our housing suppliers, and the favorite of our design engineer,” Potter said.

Other products Aim makes include the cap and valve for Polar-brand insulated water bottles, the composite components that go into the Tracker avalanche beacon, and all the plastic components that go into a brand of hummingbird feeder. High- or low-tech, only the size of the product determines whether Aim can make it or not.

“The No. 1 reason for our growth has been customer service,” Jones said. “Being available, working through challenges, being able to meet deadlines. Our customers actually get to talk to someone when they call in.”

While her company’s client base is national, even international, Jones said 70 percent of Aim’s customers are in Colorado. She said the ability of her people to work with clients’ engineers — starting with the design phase — is what makes a difference to her customers.

“On paper it looks like this, but if you really want to be able to produce the part you have to make these changes,” said Jones. “So we get involved right up front.”

Color matching and being able to maintain tight tolerances are the things that keep winning contracts for Aim — and keep those customers coming back.

Jones said the company was hit hard recently by the downturn but will definitely end up with a solid 2004.

“In 2003 we had already come back to our levels of 2000,” she said. “We began hiring and putting people back on full-time.

“And this year has been very busy. We’ve already surpassed all of our previous sales levels.”

The owner of a successful business in what used to be a male-dominated industry, Jones said she’s encouraged by the progress women have made in business, and would recommend any woman who has thought about it — especially empty-nesters, like her — consider pursuing their passions and jumping into the business world.

“I’d really encourage women who are in that situation to seek out business opportunities,” Jones said. “Even a small, home-run business could help fulfill some of those needs that a person might have not having a child around the house.

“I use all those ‘mom’ skills every day.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at
tkindelspire@times-call.com.