Colorado Springs, Colorado
Industry: Built Environment
Products: Covers for retail displays and fitness and technology equipment
President Scott Mullens is seeking a bigger market share for his nimble cut-and-sew company's products.
When Mullens returned to Colorado in 1999, he was at a career crossroads. "I was trying to figure out if I wanted to stay in advertising or do something different," he recalls. While pondering the possibilities, however, opportunity in manufacturing struck. "My dad, who was an attorney in town, had a client who passed away. I had just moved back, and was able to step in and figure out what to do with his cut and sew business."
After a company name change and relocation of the shop from Monument to Colorado Springs, Mullens' next task was finding the right niche. "We were really searching at first," he says. "The products the previous company had been making weren't making money. Then we made a custom cover for Chapel Hills Mall. It seemed like a niche with a great deal of opportunity, so I went to a trade show and met with as many mall owner developers as I could before we moved in that direction."
Today, 18 years later and Equip Inc. has grown into a thriving company with a 2,000-square-foot facility, producing American-made custom covers, retail display covers, and fitness and technology equipment covers, as well as reselling commercial furniture to shopping malls and restaurants.
"Covers are 90 percent of our business," says Mullens. In 2016, his team manufactured approximately 4,500 of them. Equip's revenues average between $1 million and $1.5 million each year.
Most of their products are sold to shopping mall owners and developers, along with retail cart and fixture display fabricators, museums, airports, and technology companies. They also have a line of products for the home consumer market -- comprised of covers for a variety of fitness equipment, backyard fire pits, and kitchen islands -- that they sell on Amazon.
Mullens is expecting stability in sales of Equip's products the first half of 2017. "We expect stability in our cover sales overall with the potential for increases as we continue to fine tune and expand our marketing efforts," he explains. "We expect to see an uptick in our commercial furniture sales as we become more known to that side of the market and have more opportunities to submit quotes for jobs."
With a new Equip website slated to launch later in the year, Mullens says, "We expect to see more growth come in the second half of 2017 and beyond."
Challenges: "Our present challenge is figuring out how to compete with the current suppliers of commercial furniture," Mullens says. "We need to create more company and brand recognition so we get invited to participate in more RFQs. That's going to take the right internal people resources as well as utilization of the right technologies and tools, not a major cash infusion. I think we're moving in the right direction."
Opportunities: Mullens identifies expanding Equip's sale of commercial furniture within its existing core market of retail shopping centers nationwide as a significant growth opportunity. In addition, "We also have opportunity with our custom cover fabrication business if we establish more awareness of our capabilities both within the state and nationwide," he says. "Utilizing available marketing technologies to optimize and streamline our efforts presents our fastest growth opportunity, and that's where we're going."
Needs: Equip is planning to hire two additional team members in the near future. "We'd like to hire either a marketing manager or director," Mullens states. "We could really use someone with a background in marketing technology who can help us optimize both the new website we're rolling out and SEO our entire online presence. We don't rely on local business and don't really have walk-in customers. We're really a B2B company offering niche products."
"We also need an entry level intern to help with all the random projects and tasks that come up throughout the week," he adds. "We're going to UCCS's career fair and will have some staff there to meet with candidates. Ideally, we'd like to hire local graduates."