Viv Helwig, founder of Vested Metals International in St. Augustine, has always wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age. "My mom started her own business and from a young age it had always been instilled in us to work for yourself if you can," he said. "I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, just that I wanted to do something industrious."
Vested Metals International is a specialty metals raw material distributor focusing on sourcing hard to find alloys, grades and sizes for niche applications and markets. "We sell raw material metals to manufacturers," Helwig said. "With our relationships to major steel mills, we can stock certain grades or materials for just in time availability. We can also offer small quantities to help smaller manufacturers avoid the expense of large minimum orders. Finally, from a metallurgical standpoint, we help manufacturers determine their needs, shortfalls, and problems in material performance. We can then suggest solutions such as alternative grades."
About a year after graduating from college, Helwig landed a job at the second largest specialty steel mill in the world. After five years learning the business, he began evaluating the opportunity of operating a metals distribution firm that would purchase from the mill. "I entered into negotiations with a small distribution company to purchase it but the deal fell through," he said. "That was an expensive lesson. I immediately decided I would launch my own company instead."
Launched in 2014, Vested Metals International has experienced strong revenue growth in 2016. It focuses on select verticals because its domain expertise in those fields allows it to better serve its clients. "The markets we serve are aerospace and defense, transportation and energy but our primary market is orthopedic medical device manufacturers," Helwig said. "A lot of the large distributors don't know that specialty markets like we do and as result we are able to have a healthy conversation with our customers because we know their products well."
Helwig advises aspiring entrepreneurs to be conservative with forecasts but to take advantage of any momentum. "Whatever your revenue projections are for first years, cut them by 70-80% and then plan accordingly for cash flow," he said. "It will take a while to establish your brand and gain the trust of suppliers and customers. You have to have the personal and business finances in a place that can sustain that delayed growth. Then when you do gain momentum, you need to throw fuel on that fire to gain a snowball effect."