After 25 years of working for Berry Plastics, John Gilmour, co-owner of Delaney Manufacturing, was ready for something different. Structural changes at the company and a desire to do something new was enough for Gilmour, who worked at the time as Plant Manager, to leave a steady job with great pay and full benefits to pursue small business ownership. Gilmour's first venture into entrepreneurship was a land clearing business. He'd cleared some land, a few years back on property he bought east of Sarasota, and really enjoyed the experience. He did that for about five years until 2007, when his brother-in-law asked if he wanted to get back into plastics.
"John Smelser, my brother-in-law, was doing real estate at the time," Gilmour said. "He owned the building of a company that was doing injection molding, something I had 25 years experience with. They went out of business and left behind a building full of equipment. He said, 'Let's go into business together'."
In June of 2007, Gilmour and Smelser, along with Smelser's wife Debbie, founded Delaney Manufacturing, named after Smelser's daughter, Delaney Smelser. The new team would face their first major obstacle when, after less than a year in business, the company they were producing the largest percentage of products for no longer needed their services. Gilmour and Smelser regrouped and made the decision to start offering their services to individual inventors and those looking to manufacture in smaller quantities. Gilmour explained this decision and what followed.
"A lot, if not most, small manufacturers turn away individual business," he said. "They prefer more business to business type work. The margins are better and it's easier dealing with a company versus an individual and having to walk them through the entire process. However, at the time, we needed any business we could get. With the decision in place to offer our manufacturing services to individuals, we also decided to offer CAD design work and 3D printing. I was up until 3am many nights learning how to use the program. Word got out and that part of our business really took off. Today, the work we do for individuals probably accounts for 50% of our business."
What makes Delaney Manufacturing unique is the fact that inventors, innovators and creatives can find all the services needed, under one roof, to bring their products from idea to creation and eventually into the hands of consumers. They even offer assembly, packaging, wrapping and direct shipping services. It's a true one-stop-shop for inventors looking for convenience, a wide range of materials, expertise and a quick way to get their products to market. One particular customer, that lives in Maryland, contracts with Delaney to produce 10,000 to 15,000 pieces per month. He's selling his products to ACE Hardware and is working on a deal with Home Depot. Gilmour has never met the guy in person. He sends Delaney a Purchase Oder, along with a check, and Gilmour and his team go to work. Once the products are made, they're shipped directly to the customer. It's that easy.
As Gilmour explained, there are many things about working with inventors and entrepreneurs that he thoroughly enjoys. "I like meeting new people and working with the customer from start to finish," he said. "Working on the design, the 3D CAD models and turning the design into a finished product is a lot of fun. I always wonder if their product will be the next big thing. Nevertheless, we do spend a lot of time trying to talk people out of manufacturing. It's not cheap and there are other ways to do it. For those that insist, we just encourage them to know their numbers. The molds are expensive and, if you want to produce in large quantities, they're required."
Looking ahead, Gilmour is focused on continued growth. He would like to increase the ratio of B2B type business. That, according to Gilmour, is the real bread and butter of manufacturing. They'll still continue to offer their services to individual entrepreneurs, but an expansion of their B2B business will help to diversity their revenue streams.
What advice does Gilmour have for entrepreneurs thinking about leaving their day job and pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavor? "I did the exact same thing," he said. "I gave up a great paycheck to do what I wanted to do. Do I regret it? No, but it also wasn't the smartest thing I ever did. If you're going to jump ship, do your homework and have a nest egg if possible. It's not easy, but at the end of the day, a lot of people hesitate to make the jump and they miss an opportunity and regret it for a long time."