He who finds diamonds must grapple in mud and mire, because diamonds are not found in polished stones. They are made.
Henry B. Wilson
With his family by his side, James Schmidt has an air of contentment. As well he should, for his story is that of success. Success cut in glass.
In 1973, James Schmidt, a veteran of the Vietnam war, was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Impassioned with the idea to manufacture glass, Schmidt didnt want to spend the rest of his life working for someone else. Armed only with his drive and ability, he set out to start his own business.
Confident he would succeed, he sold his home and used the proceeds to buy equipment and supplies to start the business. Then he went to the U.S. Small Business Administration for help.
The SBAs Pittsburgh district office had faith in us and guaranteed a loan originated by PNC Bank for operating expenses, says Schmidt.
Thus was born Electro-Glass, a family-owned small business in Mammoth, Pa. Its growth was so significant that in 1980, the company expanded its operations and moved to a larger facility in Norvelt.
Electro-Glass manufactures glass pre-form products with applications in industries such as electronics, automotive, aerospace and defense. Schmidts production process pre-shapes glass powders, cullets and granules into component parts for semiconductors, transistors, auto sensor chip mounts, night vision equipment, lasers, life support devices and other commercial uses.
The company stands proudly by its motto: Quality from People Who Care.
The business, started on a shoestring budget, succeeded until 1981, when the glass industry came to a standstill. Schmidts dreams of entrepreneurship were almost shattered.
At that time, we had about 27 employees and laid off all but three, he said. It was winter and we shut off the heat and water to save money. We wore winter coats and had one kerosene heater to keep warm.
Despite adversity, Schmidt never gave up his dream. The industry eventually turned around, and his business thrived again with more than 47 full-time employees.
In 1984, SBA recognized Schmidt as Small Business Person of the Year.
Schmidts outstanding success in the European market in 1994 whet his appetite for exporting his products globally. In 1998, he sought help from the Saint Vincent College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Center for Global Competitiveness (CGC) to explore the Asian market.
In October of that year, the Global Center awarded Schmidt a Global Assistance Program (GAP) Grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which enabled him to attend Electronic Asia 98, an annual trade show in Hong Kong.
As a direct result of that show, Electro-Glass has signed manufacturers representatives in South Korea and China and has established relationships with South Korean companies. That has resulted in monthly purchase orders, which have boosted the companies export sales significantly.
Electro-Glass has received product inquiries from Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. To coordinate his Asian operations, Schmidt plans to open an office in the Philippines.
Schmidt attributes his success to the sheer determination to succeed, honesty, dedicated employees and the support of family and friends.
The SBA not only assisted us in the very beginning, but also guaranteed other loans throughout the early years for which our business was able to enjoy a steady growth, Schmidt says.
With initiatives such as SBA Loan Programs and the Electronic Asia Trade Show, Electro-Glass has grown its export sales by more than 200 percent since 1996.
Electronic Asia was one of the more instantly successful trade shows we have ever attended, and we hope to repeat that effort with the help of the SBDC-Global Center next year, says Schmidt.
Jack Fabean, executive director of the Center for Global Competitiveness at St. Vincent College, adds, We have been very pleased with the results of the GAP grant program and we will continue to work with Electro-Glass and other businesses in the region to help achieve their goals.
Says Al Jones, the SBAs Pittsburgh district director: Electro-Glass is a typical example of what a small businesses can do with drive, determination and a sheer desire to succeed. They overcame adversity and persevered in the end.
I am particularly pleased to recognize Mr. Schmidt, who has successfully utilized SBA financing, counseling and loan servicing programs to grow and expand his business internationally. When a company is successful, a community is successful. This article was written by the staff of the SBA, Pittsburgh district office.