“The One Thing I Didn’t Want To Do”

PCK Manufacturing Company is a custom fabrication shop owned and operated by Travis Pickerell. Travis has been working in custom fabrications for nearly 25 years. His company manufactures various products from metals (steel, aluminum, stainless). Products are primarily for the auto industry, but can vary across a number of industries, including food, construction, and even projects for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Travis’ entrepreneurial journey began in trade school, where he learned computer-aided drafting. He began his career with a small family-owned custom fabrication company. As he learned the ins and outs of the trade, Travis began to set his sights on a greater goal – ownership. He soon took a job with another company, with the hopes of a potential acquisition. After working for several years to increase sales for the company, his hopes of acquisition were dashed when the previous owner ultimately decided not to sell. “At this point, I was left with a couple of options – I could go somewhere else and work…or I could do the one thing I didn’t want to do – which was to start my own business.” Since he had already done most of the background work to start a company, in preparation for an acquisition, Travis ultimately decided to follow through with ownership plans.

Thanks to the groundwork that had been laid, Travis was able to get his business up and running. He found a building after the previous business owner had sold his business and all his equipment, and was looking for someone to lease the space. The building was the right size for Travis’ vision, and everything else fell into place. However, his first year of operation would not be so smooth. “The first year was extremely tough. Part of my reason for pursuing an acquisition was that I didn’t want to start from scratch with no equipment, no tools, and no money besides what I had in my pocket. But that’s exactly what I had to do. There was a lot of subcontracting out the first year. We would subcontract the work, and then ship the product to the buyer. Often I would rent a truck and ship the products to customers myself. The first year went by quick because we were very busy, but we weren’t making a lot of money.” But as time passed, Travis found ways to grow and expand, while finally generating much-needed revenue. “I took money out of my 401K, bought some equipment, and as every sales order went through – we started buying tools – welders, saws, etc. This equipment would allow us to do more jobs inside the shop, so that we could do less subcontracting, and make more money ourselves.”

With the business up and running and generating revenue, Travis would soon face another decision. “The building we were in – I had discussed buying the building from the owner. By January 2020, we were ready to buy. The only hiccup was figuring out how to handle the down payment. Being a new company, one of the pitfalls is cash flow, and we didn’t have any extra cash to use as a downpayment.” Travis talked to his bank lender, Republic Bank who told him about a loan product that might work for him – the SBA 504 Loan. The 504 Loan would allow Travis to qualify for a loan based on a 50-40-10 structure in which he would only need to come up with 10% to cover his downpayment. Republic Bank connected him with the U.S. SBA office in Louisville, and the SBA soon introduced him to Community Ventures to help him through the process.

“There was a lot of paperwork . . . It was easy to do but there were a lot of steps. Lynn Littrell was the first to talk to me from Community Ventures. Having not done this before, I didn’t know a whole lot, but CV was responsive to every question I had.”

Travis was fortunate to be far enough along in his loan process before the pandemic hit that he was still able to close the loan in April. But around mid-March, businesses started closing. When the state of Michigan began temporarily closing automotive plants, as did many other manufacturers, each of Travis’ clients began shutting down. “We had a couple of small jobs we were able to do, and we had some non-automotive clients that still had orders, but it was very slow, and that continued for a while. We did not start receiving regular orders like we used to until August.”

Today, Travis remains confident and optimistic about his company’s future. “As long as companies and businesses stay open, the ones we help support, we hope to grow – not only to buy more equipment but to hire more people. I currently do multiple jobs. I am the salesperson, the estimator, the designer, the detailer, the purchaser, the accounts receivable, and the onsite person that goes to evaluate the job.”

Travis’ advice to others thinking about starting their business? “The first thing you need is some kind of disposable funds that you can spend. In the very beginning, if you want equipment, or a piece of land, getting a loan from a bank in your first two years is going to be almost impossible. You need to have some cash to get started. Even though you’re starting a company, you’re going to go through cash like sand in an hourglass. Starting at ground zero is super hard.” Travis continues to demonstrate the importance of that hard work, and today, he runs a successful manufacturing company. Thanks to the SBA 504 Loan, he was able to purchase the building he’s in, which will make it much easier for him to continue to grow, to create much-needed jobs, and generate revenue to keep his business going for years to come.

To contact Travis at PCK Manufacturing:

– Email travis.pickerell@pckmfg.com for inquiries

– Visit their website at pckmfg.com

– Call them at (502) 409-7723

To learn more about the SBA 504 Loan, please contact Lynn Littrell, Senior Vice President for Commercial Lending at llittrell@cvky.org.

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