by Ashley Blanchard
“If you can draw it on a piece of paper, we can make it,” said CEO Ann Miner of GEM Industries in Cocoa. Of course, the design would have to be made of steel since her business specializes in steel fabrication.
In 2004, Miner and her husband Garret took ownership of Quality Maintenance of Brevard and changed the name to GEM Industries, an acronym using the initials of their children. He led the production and fabrication operations and she took on the administrative and finance roles. The Miners were both from large families in Brevard County and their business successfully grew by word of mouth.
After Miner’s husband passed away in 2009 following a battle with esophageal cancer, she assumed sole leadership. Miner reflects, “I was married 21 years to my husband and my mentor and we fed off of each other so much. We were a great team.”
Meeting Multiple Challenges
That year, business also proved challenging as the economy slipped and revenue has ebbed and flowed since then. GEM reduced their number of employees in response to the decreased intake of orders. Some of last year’s projects allowed for as many as 50 workers, but generally they maintain between 32-40 people. The company has been sustainable by implementing checks and balances as well as continuously evaluating their purchasing and operation decisions.
In 2010, GEM relocated to a larger facility on five acres with 17,000 square feet for production space. They continue to fabricate new structures, as well as doing repair work. Interestingly, GEM is also the sole manufacturer for Spineboard Decontamination Corporation (sducorp.com), a patented spineboard cleaning unit patented by Jeff Gillard and used by hospitals and rescue services nationwide.
Recognized as a women-owned business, GEM boasted sales over $3.5 million in 2011. “Being in the steel business and being a woman in a man’s industry, I have to prove myself every day,” said Miner. Brevard County comprises 25 percent of GEM’s business with the rest extending to the southeast, primarily in the state of Florida as well as Alabama and South Carolina. Innovative clients include Walt Disney World, Sea Ray Boats and Patrick Air Force Base.
Miner attributes much of her success to her employees. She values everyone’s contribution to the business as well as to the overall work environment. She adds, “It is important to take pride in your job and create a trusting environment.”
Managing work and family can prove challenging. However, Miner attests that she is able to keep up with her three children ages 16, 13 and 7, with her Blackberry and laptop and a communicative management team. She is also involved with her church and children’s schools, regularly sponsoring high school football, youth sports teams and golf tournaments.
“The longer I am in business the more solid my reputation has become and the easier it gets,” comments Miner. Her advice to other entrepreneurs is to “make thoughtful decisions so you get it right the first time. However, you also have to learn from your mistakes, pick yourself up and keep moving forward.”
Meeting the Competition
In her industry, Miner has also learned that she must be more competitive and continue to refine GEM’s bidding procedures, which can be stressful. Miner explains, “Right now, we don’t have as much work as we would like and there are too many competitors bidding on the same projects. The larger companies are going after the smaller projects so it is more challenging and in our market. They have more technologically advanced equipment to do jobs cheaper so we have to keep reinventing our process.”
However, Minor is positive about the future growth of her company and sees an upswing in the commercial industry through 2013. With more hiring activity in local architectural and engineering firms, she expects the number of local bidding opportunities to increase. She is also looking to buy another facility next year.
Miner is passionate about her business but she never loses site of the people she employs. “I offer a great benefits package for our employees because I really care about them. I enjoy celebrating with all of the GEM families at our annual picnic in July and our Christmas party in December. I want to give out bonuses every year.”
With her husband having been one of six boys and Miner one of four children, you can tell the importance of relationships. She shares, “I truly feel blessed for what I have in my life, my family and friends and the people I work with.”
GEM Industries, Inc.
CEO: Ann-Jeanette Miner
Location: Cocoa, FL
Year Founded: 2004
2011 Annual Revenue: $3.2 million
No. of Employees: 40