SBA Names Minnesota
Small Business Person of the Year
PERHAM – Darrin Swanson, owner of Kit Masters, Inc. and Swan Machine, Inc. based in Perham, Minn., has been named the Minnesota Small Business Persons of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Small Business Person of the year is selected annually based on growth in sales or unit volume, increase in the number of employees, financial strength, innovativeness of product or service and evidence of contributions to community-oriented projects. Cathy Lindquist (Regional Director), Forest “Skip” Carpenter (Business Consultant), and Amanda Nygaard (Program Coordinator) of the West Central Minnesota Small Business Development Center nominated Swanson for this award.
Darrin Swanson (with his father, Keith Swanson) founded Kit Masters, Inc. and Swan Machine, Inc. Darrin is currently CEO and chairman of each board of directors. He has 20 years of experience in the heavy-duty fan clutch industry, servicing the independent aftermarket in North America. His prior work includes being an independent manufacturer’s representative and serving the five-state region for several leading manufacturers in the heavy-duty market.
Kit Masters, Inc. manufactures heavy-duty aftermarket components – specializing in remanufactured fan clutches, rebuild kits and accessories. Darrin and his father were guided from these principles:
- Manufacture the highest quality products possible. Never sacrifice quality for the sake of cost or speed. They understood the market was accustomed to generally good components, and they also witnessed other aftermarket companies struggle to provide lesser quality products solely on the basis of price. Keith and Darrin were determined to provide a “better than OEM quality replacement for OEM.” They achieved this by focusing on the individual components. “If attention, research, and testing are applied to each individual component, and each individual component is produced with better quality, then the finished product will be produced with better quality."
- Be the technical experts. In an industry where aftermarket fan-clutch products were often being provided as but one small part of a company’s larger offering, It Masters endeavored to become experts in both their products and their market.
- Be easy to do business with. Commonly stated but rarely practiced. Kit Masters sought the advice of distributor colleagues. They structure their policies to support customers. Same day shipping, 99% fill rate, low freight prepaid policy, easy core policy, easy warranty policy, and a user friendly catalog are only a few examples. Their natural reaction is to say “yes” to customers. They’ve added regional warehouses across the country to further assist customer make great profits and excellent inventory rotation.
They have come a tremendous distance in 16 years. The addition of sons Craig (Quality Control & Engineering), Brian (sales Manager), and Trent (Customer Service & Marketing), and a dozen more highly valued employees have paved their way to success. In 2003, Kit Masters constructed a 16,000 square foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Perham, Minn. (15,600 square feet bigger than their original facility). In 2004, with their business model proving successful, they doubled the size of the plant. They sell to over 600 customers, representing over 1,200 ship-to locations worldwide.
Today, Kit Masters manufactures and/or markets the industry’s highest quality completely remanufactured fan clutches, fan clutch rebuild kits, thermo switches, solenoid valves and fan blades for heavy-duty and medium-duty markets.
Swan Machine, Inc. utilizes cutting-edge technology, state-of-the-art equipment, and precision instrumentation to bring high-volume or one-of-a-kind components. They offer a full range of capabilities to take parts from concept to completion. They are passionate, cost-sensitive, and centered on customer service. Their services include engineering, parts reconditions, retail packaging and documentation, and drop-ship programs.
Darrin is also the current president of the Perham Area Foundation and the past president of both St. Henry’s Area School and the Perham Chamber of Commerce. Darrin, his wife Jill, and their three sons (Randy, Paul, and Mark) have been heavily involved in the Perham area by donating their time and talents to several area causes. Darrin says, “I enjoy giving back to such a great community that has given so much to me and my family,” He feels that the best years are yet to come and he and his family look forward to the next chapters in what has been the Great American Dream.
He was born and raised in Blaine, Minnesota, graduated from Blaine High School in 1988, and currently reside in Perham. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys fishing, hunting, and riding his ATV. In 2011, Darrin also passed his Private Pilot Certificate and enjoys the challenge and thrill of flight.
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