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Penn State Students Engineer Award-Winning Company

DiamondBack Owners head to D.C. to Compete for Small Business of the Year

 

PHILIPSBURG, Pa – Winning an engineering design competition at Penn State University wasn’t enough for class-mates Ethan Wendle and Matt Chverchko. They liked their product so much; they decided to make it the foundation of a full-time enterprise. 

In May of 2003, they launched DiamondBack Covers, makers of load-bearing, aluminum truck bed covers which provide protection from theft and weather. 

Next week, Diamondback’s founder and Chief of Engineering Chverchko and the company’s CFO Ben Eltz travel to Washington, D.C to compete for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year award during the 56th annual celebration of National Small Business Week, May 5-11.

Wendle and Chverchko began their quest at the local level, when they were chosen as the Western Pennsylvania District Office Small Business Persons of the Year. The nomination package, compiled by Ryan Lockhart, vice president, The 504 Company, then was forwarded to the regional SBA office in Philadelphia to compete with the Eastern Pennsylvania winner to represent the state.

The duo, who credits their customers and employees for making DiamondBack an award-winning company, are pleased to represent the state at the national level as well.

 “I’m truly honored the SBA has recognized us for this national award; we’re proud to accept it on behalf of our company,” said Wendle. Chverchko echoed his partner’s sentiments: “We’re honored to have been selected as the Small Business Persons of the Year for Pennsylvania and grateful to live in a nation where organizations like the SBA exist.” 

Not only are Wendle and Chverchko celebrating National Small Business Week with two awards, they’re looking to hire additional employees to compliment the company’s current 69-member team at their new 37,000-square-foot facility. 

“Wendle and Chverchko saw themselves as the solution for pickup truck drivers around the world,” said SBA Western Pennsylvania District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt. “It’s incredible that a classroom project led to a viable company using SBA’s job-creation 504 loan program to help grow rural Philipsburg with quality employment opportunities.”

The SBA’s 504 Loan Program is an economic development program that supports small business growth and helps communities, like Philipsburg, through business expansion and job creation. The program provides long-term, fixed-rate financing, enabling DiamondBack’s owners to expand in 2015 by finally building a custom manufacturing plant, purchase additional equipment and increase employment.

Last year, SBA’s Western Pennsylvania District Office disbursed 38 of these “bricks-and-mortar” loans totaling more than $33 million.

Chverchko’s idea was hatched after a tree stand was stolen from his new truck. During his search for a pickup bed cover, Matt found that his options were limited to painted fiberglass or something no better than a tarp. That’s when he got to work, building his own ultra-durable, ultra-secure, load-bearing cover. He then used his creation for a class presentation. “At the last minute, I threw together a plan, took everybody down to the parking lot and I stood up on my truck bed cover ranting and raving,” Chverchko said. “My presentation was terrible and I failed it; but Ethan recognized that the cover was a good idea.”

The duo soon paired up for another project on the design, dubbing it The DiamondBack Truck Cover. After winning the next class pitch they decided to make the move from students to small business owners. “We started assembling the covers in Matt’s trailer and when he bought a house we used his garage,” Wendle explained.

The Made in The USA covers translated into instant sales enabling DiamondBack to move from garage-to-warehouse. “I was 20, and giant cranes arrived with 40,000-pound machines that I didn’t even know the names of; and I thought there’s no turning back,” Wendle added.

 The move allowed mass production, employment opportunities and market penetration via a distribution company. An expanded product line and world-class customer service created a loyal following, which led to numerous honors and exponential sales and employment growth – from two employees to a team of 59 with more than $10 million in sales both here and abroad.

“We had amazing years, until the recession hit,” Wendle explained. “That’s when we made a pivotal change in distribution, selling directly to consumers.” The move not only secured long-term viability but an opportunity to build a manufacturing plant. “We had a vision to create one of the best manufacturing companies in Pennsylvania that employees like to work for and customers like to buy from and I’m excited to see what the next 10 years looks like.”

Today, the dedicated DiamondBack team allows Wendle and Chverchko to lend their talents to causes in Centre County and around the world. 

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Company Name: 
DiamondBack Automotive Accessories
Location: 
Philipsburg, PA