ROSELLE - After growing up spending every summer working at her family’s business, Erica Wiegel took a bold step this past July when she bought Aro Metal Stamping Company, Inc. in Roselle, Illinois.
The 35-year-old could be the poster child of the Millennial Generation. She exudes the typical Millennial’s core values of confidence, competition, optimism, realism and street smarts.
Wiegel says she took her time to find the company that would fit with her business experience, manufacturing knowledge and educational background.
“I searched on the Internet for companies I thought I could buy and run. I would know their products, what they’re doing - like-minded companies,” she said. She then hired Goldberg Heinze Business Advisors to reach out to the companies she placed on her list. “One of the companies we approached was Aro, but the owner, Tony Dupasquier, was absolutely not interested in selling the company at first,” she said.
Dupasquier’s father had started the $5 million business in 1959, and he was intensely protective of Aro’s 29 employees. While knowing the company would be a perfect fit for her, Wiegel stepped away and began to search elsewhere.
Several months later, Goldberg Heinze received an unsolicited call from Dupasquier. He was ready to talk.
Before long, Wiegel became the sole owner of Aro Metal Stamping, its assets and stock. Dupasquier agreed to stay involved during the leadership transition.
Wiegel says she’s delighted with the big step she took in July. She’s “driven,” she says, to double the company’s business in five years. She’s actively pursuing new work for the company – and is open to expanding the jobs the Aro team can take on.
“I don’t turn work down,” she said. “So if a job moves into areas like 3D that we don’t have capabilities for, or if customers want us to run projects that we don’t have equipment for, I’m going to buy it. I intend on putting all the money this company makes back into the business, and just keep on building.”
Her goal is to reach the level of Wiegel Tool, the family business where she learned most of what she knows about manufacturing.
“I want to be the top notch, I want to be the best out there, like Wiegel Tool,” she said. “And the way to do that is to keep funneling the money back in and improving things. I don’t see an end to where things can stop.”
Erica says she remembers as a child working with her family at Wiegel Tool – a business her grandfather started. The time she spent at Wiegel before attending Northern University in DeKalb cultivated her interest in manufacturing.
“I actually worked the machines at Wiegel after I turned 18. I did work in the engineering room. I cleaned, updated records and drove the delivery truck. I was a press operator. I worked in quality for a while,” Wiegel said. “I did all the buys and sells for insurance and took care of some of the HR needs because we didn’t have an HR department.”
And while that seems like a lot for a youngster, she was involved in much more.
“I was in a lot of customer meetings and ran the pro-tech department for a while at Wiegel,” she said. “I was able to standardize a lot of equipment I created and built, and was able to improve processes and their products by knowing and understanding what it was for and what it was going into.”
Even with all that hands-on, mechanical experience, Erica says she, her older brother Aaron and her younger brother Ryan learned early on the business of running Wiegel Tool.
“My dad got us involved in financial meetings, and never hid numbers from us,” she said. “We knew how much a job would be, and I learned to quote for Wiegel.”
In 2004, Erica’s father turned Wiegel Tool Works over to her and her brothers. Together at the helm, the three grew the company’s revenues from $10 million to $35 million – a well respected, top-notch tooling company.
“Wiegel has the best technology packages, tools and team,” she said. “It has great technology and a great managing system. With all that in place, I needed a challenge. My family was very supportive and excited for me to take over Aro Metal.”
The timing for her to move out couldn’t have been better. Wiegel says she gained a lot of valuable knowledge during the brutal 2008-2009 recession.
“I learned how to cut expenses, and get down to bare bones to survive,” she said. “I learned that cash is king and extremely important. I learned that the people that had cash to invest in their companies at that time were the ones that survived. If they didn’t have the cash to survive, they’re gone now.”
Wiegel is tapping her wisdom and experience to obtain certification as a woman-owned business. She is also launching a new marketing campaign for Aro Metal’s next chapter.
“I’m focused on keeping manufacturing in the United States, doing it well, paying my people better than they were, giving them more opportunity and benefits,” she said. “I’m more looking out for the interests of my extended family, my company and for the United States. I’m a very proud U.S. stamper.”
Aro Metal Stamping is located at 78 Congress Circle in Roselle Illinois, and on the web at www.arometal.com.
First published by Technology & Manufacturing Association - October 2015. Used by permission.