Stuff Made in Maine 2018

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3 4 S T U F F M A D E I N M A I N E \ F A L L 2 0 1 8 women in Manufacturing The numbers are different at Sterling Rope, where President and co-founder Carolyn Brodsky says about half of her employees are female — the result of a "conscious decision" to hire an equal balance of men and women. Brodsky says the female staff bring a "diversity of thought" to the company's work. "It's critical. Women think differ- ently, we solve problems differently than most guys do," Brodsky says. Brodsky's confidence in the women she employs is contagious. "[Brodsky] pushed me to open my horizons," Trunzo says. "When I didn't have the confidence to do something new, she challenged me to try it." A different strength A willingness to try has also led to success for Kathie Leonard, presi- dent and CEO of Auburn Manufactur- ing Inc., which makes heat-resistant fabrics for welding, insulation and other industrial applications. Leonard and a business partner launched the company in 1979, when she was 27. Her only prior industry experience had been a few years as an executive secretary with W.S. Libbey, which used to be a textile manufacturer in Lewiston. Leonard had studied technical writ- ing in college, and had "a natural curiosity about how products work and meet customer needs," she says. "And I love customer service." In its first year, Auburn Manufac- turing had revenue of $50,000. The next year, sales grew to $300,000. The private company doesn't dis- close financial figures today, but its yearly output exceeds 2 million yards of fabric, supplying hundreds of product lines for customers in more than 30 countries. Leonard, who was a 2018 Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year in the small-business cat- egory, credits at least some of Auburn Manufacturing's success to nontraditional skills. "I think I brought a softer side to manufacturing," she says. "I can't run our equipment, but I'm good at listening to customers, under- standing them and communicating what they want." "A lot of women can do that, even if we sometimes think we can't," she adds. "As sexist as it may sound, we're service providers by nature." With facilities in Auburn and Mechanic Falls, Auburn Manufac- turing employs nearly 50 workers and is a certified Women's Business Enterprise. Jennifer Merrill, a purchasing specialist at Auburn Manufacturing, joined the company two years ago. Previously, she had served as a bookkeeper for a tire retreading business. She says her new job required her to quickly learn new » CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE Women often fear asking for help, often don't want to speak up. But my suggestion [for those entering manufactur- ing] is just do it. Even if you don't know how, do it. Put your hand up, and ask for help if you need it, especially if you can find a mentor … Ultimately, what I need is people who know how to ask questions. — Carolyn Brodsky President, Sterling Rope Co. F I L E P H O T O / T I M G R E E N W A Y Carolyn Brodsky, president and co-founder of Sterling Rope Co., has created opportunities for women in manufacturing.

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