Joanne Murell Griffin
Aero Electronics Systems
by Carl Kotala
The company motto at Aero Electronics Systems in Titusville is fitting once you get to know owner Joanne Murell Griffin: “Relationships Matter.”
It’s the relationships she built in the community that helped her through 29 years of running the United National Travel Agency along with her brothers. When she was ready for a new challenge, it was her relationships with local banks and people throughout the community that helped get Aero Electronics Systems off the ground in 2004.
The company specializes in manufacturing cable assemblies as well as braided and molded cables for use in military applications, where their products are used on torpedoes, missiles and aircraft.
Relationships Work at All Levels
Aero Electronics recently received the prestigious Mentor-Protégé Award sponsored by the Missile Defense Agency for the company’s work with Raytheon. The mandate of the program is for a large company to help a small business grow and compete in a larger arena by offering tech support, labor … anything needed to help the business grow.
Aero Electronics is hoping to triple not only its business, but its staff in the next five years. The company had revenue of $11 million in 2011 and currently employs about 100 people – 70 percent of which are women – with very little turnover.
Murell Griffin’s husband, Daniel, serves as the company’s vice president and is the one with the manufacturing background in the field. In an industry where excellence is critical, that experience has been vital. Getting established in Titusville, however, was where Murell Griffin’s contacts came in handy. “I had been in Titusville for so long I had relationships with most of the local banks and businesses, and I had a relationship with some of the people who had worked in this industry along with (Daniel),” she said. “Together we were able to form a new company.”
Getting in the Zone
Aero Electronics is a Hubzone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) certified business, which helps it gain access to federal procurement opportunities. One of the requirements is that the business’ workers must be hired from within that zone.
Murell Griffin said she is working with Congresswoman Sandy Adams and Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to have that zone expanded from a small section of Titusville to incorporate all of Brevard County. If that goes through, it would be a boon to not only Aero Electronics Systems, but also for a number of businesses and workers throughout the county.
Though the company is running smoothly and trending upward today, Murell Griffin admitted there were a few times when having a woman-owned business could be a challenge. “It’s not necessarily an industry where you see women,” she said. “So when I was calling vendors to set up accounts and to establish lines of credit, I can say I wasn’t really taken seriously. But you just persevere, and we did. I guess if you work at it hard enough, it actually does happen. That’s what we found. And now they take us very seriously.”
Take My Word for It
If Murell Griffin had any advice for a woman starting up her own business it would sound a little bit like the same kind of path she took when first dealing with skeptical vendors. “You have to have belief in yourself, have faith in your abilities and just keep plugging away,” she said. “It’s a matter of hanging in there and never giving up.”
Though her travel business days are long behind her, there will always be a part of it that will live with her forever. Not only did she get to see the world by the time she was 25, she also had the chance to work with her mother, Mary Murell, who served as a receptionist and bookkeeper until last September. She was 95 … and her daughter’s role model. “She was amazing,” Joanne said. “She loved working and being there; it was a huge part of her life.”
When she first arrived in Titusville as a 17-year-old, Murell Griffin thought she would just work in the travel business for a few years and move on. Well, a few years turned into nearly three decades, but now she has a new challenge, and it’s going like gangbusters.
“It seemed like that was probably where I was going to end up,” said Murell Griffin of the travel company now run by her brother, John. “Then, this opportunity came up and everything sort of snowballed over the last eight years; it’s just been amazing . . . it’s the American dream, is what it is.”
Aero Electronics Systems
CEO: Joanne Murell Griffin
Location: Titusville, FL
Year Founded: 2004
2011 revenue: $11 million
No. of Employees: Roughly 100 (70 percent women)