Specific skills and savvy are needed to succeed in the manufacturing world, making a manufacturing startup difficult to achieve. Brandon Kane, however, knew he wanted hands-on work that made a difference in the world and began his own shop in the garage with his dad, Mike. Together, they have transformed a dream into reality through hard work, determination, and a willingness to learn. In this episode of the MakingChips podcast, Jim Carr and Nick Goellner explore what makes or breaks startup business endeavors and what we can learn from Brandon’s entrepreneurial spirit.
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Entrepreneurship has many benefits. Most small business owners were inspired to create their own startup from a desire to work for themselves and be their own boss. Others had a passion they wanted to share with the world. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most startups don’t make it past their first couple of years. Jim and Nick share some surprising startup trends from the past few years. Most small business owners, for instance, are 50-59 years old - not young college graduates. The funding to start a business is often taken from the founder’s personal savings account, and family is usually a strong source of continued funding for the initial months of a small business. Learn more about the interesting statistics of startup businesses by listening to the entire episode!
Manufacturing is often seen as an industry that has a hard time inspiring the younger generation to follow in its footsteps and pave the way for the future. Brandon Kane, however, grew up watching his dad work in the manufacturing industry and fell in love with “hands-on” work. He attended a technical high school, learning skills that would help him late on when he decided to begin a manufacturing startup with his dad in their garage.
Brandon’s dad, Mike, settled into his role as the visionary of the business - having seen needs in the industry that weren’t being met by the larger corporations and companies. While time is money, there should always be excellence in production, and Mike felt that smaller orders weren’t being met properly by the larger businesses. Mike helped Brandon begin a small business - Manufacturing Solutions - that saw a need and began filling it.
Brandon’s love of design led him to experiment with CAM software on their first machines, creating a trigger for a firearm they use for hobby target practice. From there, the designs became more complex, and Brandon’s knowledge of software grew to produce prototypes, and he became more comfortable with different tool paths and CNC machines.
Jim and Mike talk about the differences in the ways that they learned manufacturing skills as opposed to how the younger generation - such as Brandon - have picked up the skills needed to succeed. While it used to be popular to learn through hands-on experience with the machines themselves - learning to feel and listen to the tone of a machine and metal to determine whether or not the design would come out - Brandon learned through CAD-CAM software first. He and Mike purchased a video series on how to work the tools with the software, but much of the learning was done through experimentation and from mistakes made along the way.
Mike explains that in a startup, you learn a lot through failure. He talks about the edge that modern technology can give a manufacturing startup by providing new software that can optimize a CNC machine to produce quality parts every time with a well-built design. Probing systems have also taken much of the guesswork out of machining, allowing for a more consistent product.
While there are many differences in the ways Mike and Brandon have learned the industry, they are united through the passion to produce quality products to fulfill a need and to inspire a positive atmosphere among manufacturing leaders. Much of their business's marketing has been done through word-of-mouth and through maintaining a strong social media presence on Instagram. Brandon loves sharing his day-to-day life with others, hoping that his business will inspire others to launch into their dreams with determination and hard work.
Realistic benchmarks are important to any business, and Mike and Brandon have built theirs around practical goals. They both know that they would prefer not to compete with large, corporate companies and have tried to maintain steady growth without growing too big too fast. Mike wants to hire another employee with the same passion for learning and sharing the manufacturing industry. Brandon wants to become a bigger influence on social media and hopefully begin coaching others while also building the business he and his father have built. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for the rest of the inspiring story of a manufacturing startup done right.