Christopher Karman pushes innovation at Daniel’s Amish Collection
Winner: Manufacturing, Sales Growth
The often-repeated phrase today is “Go big or go home” — and Christopher J. Karman, president of Daniel’s Amish Collection, and his brother decided that would be their route when they bought the company in 2003.
Back then, the company made Amish handcrafted curios, but the Karmans decided they wanted to be more than a small player in a declining industry.
A broader product selection, targeting high quality retailers and taking Daniel’s Amish Collection national has resulted in explosive growth with sales more than tripling from 2009 to 2013.
The line was expanded to include all major furniture segments such as office furniture, kitchen cabinets and bedroom suites. The product line is sold under two brand names — Amish Mills and Daniel’s Amish Collection.
As the company has grown, so has the need for space. Daniel’s Amish now operates two factories. One is a large, 120,000-square-foot building where bedroom furniture is made, and a table and chair manufacturing facility was just opened in Mount Eaton, Ohio.
The company’s management style is to push for innovation on every level. Its sales and marketing department has the flexibility to speak with customers about new designs. Many times, the company ends up designing new product lines with that feedback in mind.
Giving back to the local community also is important. Most raw materials are bought locally, and the Daniel’s Amish Collection is involved in several charitable and fundraising activities, usually centered around Amish or Mennonite causes.
The Swiatkowski’s continue to build on the family’s legacy at Ohio Hickory Harvest
Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc.,
Winner: Manufacturing, Employee Growth
Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc., a family-owned second- and third-generation company, is a wholesale distributor of dried fruits, nuts, candies and snack mixes. Led by the Swiatkowski’s — CEO Darlene, President Joseph and Vice President Michael — the family pledges to lead by example, to preserve the legacy that’s been carried on for more than 40 years.
The workforce has more than doubled from 2009 to 2013, growing from 26 employees in 2009 to 60 in 2013. Also increasing is its physical footprint. In 2009, Ohio Hickory Harvest built a 30,000-square-foot facility on Logan Parkway in Akron, and in October 2013, completed construction on a 17,000-square-foot expansion that added office and warehouse space to the company.
The company has also grown through acquisitions with the purchase of I. M. Good Snacks in 2005 and in 2012 formed a new LLC and became majority owners in the Columbus-based American Confections. That has opened the door to manufacturing chocolate and yogurt pretzels, and the ability to pan has led to the establishment of coated raisins, cranberries and peanuts.
Over the past two years, Ohio Hickory Harvest has added two new form fill and seal packaging machines and another nut roaster, which brings the company up to three nut roasters and six packaging machines.
Ohio Hickory Harvest is a member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and is involved in the community.
Venture Products’ Dallas Steiner and Randy Kitzmiller capture honors as the company expands
Venture Products Inc.
Winner: Manufacturing, Best Story
Venture Products Inc., led by CEO Dallas Steiner and President Randy Kitzmiller, may manufacture Ventrac brand compact tractors in Orrville, Ohio, but its products can be spotted all over the world.
The brand serves a diverse market that includes municipalities, private contractors, sports facilities, churches and airports, and the company exports its tractors to more than 20 countries. It has particularly strong success in Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Canada.
Because of its success on the global stage, Venture Products received two prestigious awards in 2013. The first was the Presidential “E” Award presented to the company for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports. The second was a U.S. Small Business Administration Small Business Exporter of the Year award for the Cleveland District, which the company earned for its outstanding sales, profits and creative export marketing strategies.
Venture Products’ sales have increased 210 percent between 2009 and 2013, and its employee count has gone from 51 to 108 in the same time period. That significant growth through the past several years spurred the company to build a larger manufacturing facility in 2012 for all company operations. The 116,000-square-foot building has given Venture Products the space to expand manufacturing and fill corporate needs to keep up with growing sales. In keeping with the company’s recent track record of honors, the energy efficient building received Efficiency Smart’s Ambassador of Efficiency Award in 2013.