Tara Marling Abraham Featured

9:39am EDT July 22, 2002

If you want a job done right, sometimes you just have to do it yourself.

That old cliché has grown into a multimillion-dollar enterprise for Tara Marling Abraham, president of Worthington-based Accel Inc.

In 1994, Abraham became frustrated when, as an employee in product development at Bath & Body Works, she couldn’t get a product assembled and delivered on time.

“My previous promotion was a disaster,” she says of the gift-with-purchase product. “It didn’t make deadline; it was late getting in the stores. I was looking around to see who could meet my standards.”

Finally, she decided, she should go into the fulfillment business herself.

Her first stop: her mother, Shirley Marling, who is very detail-oriented. She agreed to start the business. Abraham resigned from her job at Bath & Body Works, because it would be the new company’s first customer. She planned to leave her new job at Matrix Essentials and join Accel when it took off.

“My father laughed and said it would be a nice little side business. We laugh about this all the time,” she says of the irony.

Within six months of the company’s official launch in March 1995, Abraham’s mother called her.

“She said, ‘The business is taking off. I can’t run it without you. You’ll have to leave or we’ll have to shut it down,’” Abraham remembers.

Once the business was running for a year, Abraham’s husband and father joined and expanded Accel’s services to shrink wrap from kits in gift bags.

Accel has grown at a rate of nearly 200 percent annually from its meager beginnings in a 1,200-square-foot facility. Now Abraham is readying the $8 million company for its latest expansion, to a consolidation at a 500,000-square-foot facility next spring.

“Right now, having seven facilities, it’s very difficult to manage all the people,” she says.

All employees —180 in the slow season and 350 at peak times — will move to the new building. Abraham is in the process of choosing a location.

“This will decrease our labor costs, because we’re running trucks to run product to each building. In turn, it will help clients as well, because then we can be more cost effective,” she says.

“We were at the right place at the right time,” Abraham surmises. “Bath & Body Works has grown exponentially, and we have grown with them as a client.”

In addition to divisions of The Limited, her clients include Limited, Too and other Fortune 500 companies. Abraham credits the success of the company to its dedication to quality.

“We will never sacrifice quality for cost or for quantity,” she says.

She also strives to meet clients’ deadlines.

“There have been many times we will work weekends, and I’ve never gone back to the client and said, ‘We need compensation,’” she says. “It’s customer service to the nth degree. I think our society unfortunately is losing a lot of that, and I think it’s so important to be very loyal to your client and that you ensure their success.”

Abraham owns a discount clothing company, Accetra Apparel, which she started two years ago. She also dabbles in product development — another passion of hers — and has developed an upscale baby lip balm.

Abraham and her husband, David, are parents of Austin, born in January. She also volunteers for St. Stephen’s Community House, where last year she co-chaired a $100,000 fund-raising event. In her spare time, she loves to snow ski, and is an avid boater and water-skier.

Meanwhile, she continues to plan the future of Accel. She wants the company to gain FDA approval to get business in the pharmaceutical area, and she plans to enter the e-fulfillment realm.

Those are three-year goals.

“In five years, we’ll continue to expand upon all that. We will continue to go out and get clients and fill those needs,” she says.

“I can’t say that’s all it’s ever going to be, because I know me.”

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.