Successful businesses are more often than not built on strong partnerships. In the case of Colorado Tech Shop, it’s the cooperative collaboration between Hedrick and her husband, Iain Ramsay, the company’s president, forming that foundation.
“I have been an entrepreneur since I was 20,” Hedrick explains. “And Iain has over a decade of experience in operations management and manufacturing. Together, we have the perfect melding of skills. While I excel at the big picture and have been great at steering the ship towards our long-range goals, he is the perfect first mate and excels at all the day-to-day minutiae that makes a company run smoothly.”
And Colorado Tech Shop is certainly running smoothly. Since the company’s founding in 2015, Hedrick and her team have tripled their staff, doubled their factory and office space, and moved from Boulder to Longmont.
“The rent is vastly cheaper here than in Boulder,” Hedrick says of their 4,800-square-foot facility on the south side of Longmont. “Plus, it has really become a hotbed for manufacturing and innovation. We now feel that we’re right in the middle of the action.”
As an all-inclusive shop offering engineering and design work, board layout, prototyping, and full assembly as well as fulfillment, warranty, inspection, and shipping, there’s plenty of action to be found. Hedrick estimates that manufacturing makes up more than 50 percent of the company’s business, but the specific services requested by each customer depends on the maturity of their organization. “If the customer’s business is more mature, we do more manufacturing work,” she explains. “If the business is a lot younger, we might be doing more design work, prototyping and things like that.”
The healthcare industry is currently Colorado Tech Shop’s biggest source of customers. However, they’re also making a splash within the cannabis industry — they manufacture ExtractCraft’s extraction machine — and the entertainment industry. “We have a client that makes a product for the 10-pin bowling industry,” says Hedrick, noting that she hopes to do more work with companies within the wearable technology industry this year.
“We’re starting to specialize in it and want to make wearable technology a much bigger part of our business,” she says. “I think it’s a huge, up-and-coming industry that will become really popular. Right now, we’re in the process of working with a company that makes smart clothing. The circuitry is built right into the fabric.”
She expects Colorado Tech Shop’s sales to exceed $1 million in 2017 and says the market for their services is growing because “The hunger for American-made products is increasing and sourcing local is becoming really important to a lot of people.”
Some of the company’s customers are actually reshoring manufacturing after overseas disappointments. “It’s a whole different ballgame to deal with Chinese manufacturers when you don’t know if they’re subbing out important parts and it takes so long to get the product here,” she explains.
“Then, if something is wrong, it’s a big deal to fix it. When they work with us, it’s so much easier. We talk customers through every step of the process, have an open-door policy and, because of our unique size, we have the ability to change things on the fly, do so quickly, and do so cost-effectively.”
And there’s also appeal based on the bottom line, she adds. “We run a pretty lean operation, which means we don’t have a big overhead and can pass those savings on to the customer. While we can’t compete with China, obviously, we’re not that far off — and you don’t have the headache of manufacturing overseas.”
Challenges: “I’m sure every company says this, but finding the right staff is one of our biggest challenges,” Hedrick says. “And it’s not just finding staff with the particular skills we need, but also people who meld well with the rest of the team.” Colorado Tech Shop tripled the size of its staff in its first eight months of business, and Hedrick expects to add at least three more employees in 2017.
“Our office culture really sets us apart as a company to work for,” she continues. “We make sure employees know that they’re valued and appreciated, and we want to build a strong team that feels like family. Happy employees are going to be loyal and do their best for you. Our current team is amazing in that way. They’ll stay extra or come in early at the drop of a hat. They’re really dedicated.”
Opportunities: Hedrick and her team are currently working to form a business partnership that will enable them to develop their own product for sale. “It’s going to be an electronic sports target that uses ultrasonic and laser technology to actually pinpoint the location where the bullet passes through,” she explains. “We see it as new technology that can be used for training law enforcement and even in sports-shooting competitions and at shooting ranges.”
Additionally, Colorado Tech Shop is beginning to put infrastructure in place to create their own business accelerator. “This will involve creating a framework and network of people so that we can bring new inventors and entrepreneurs on board and offer them everything from legal counseling and marketing to manufacturing,” Hedrick explains. She’s already forging connections with accelerators and incubators in Longmont and the surrounding area. “It’s going to be a great opportunity because we’ll get to help people starting from the very beginning and moving on to the development, prototyping, and manufacturing of new products.”
Needs: “We know we need to invest in a second pick-and-place machine soon,” Hedrick muses. “Ours is running full-time right now. And we also need another reflow oven. We’ve joked about having a keg and beer tap added to our office. And a fireman’s pole would be really fun!”