By Danny Monahan
SBA Vermont Public Information Officer
A small business in Waterbury, Vt. was recently named the 2014 Vermont Exporter of the Year.
Super Thin Saws produces and exports thin circular sawblades. The thinner blades reduce waste when cutting raw materials over that of traditional thicker saw blades, which saves companies money and resources over time.
“Being named Exporter of the Year is absolutely terrific,” said John Schultz, Super Thin Saws president. “It is of course, a very nice image to portray to prospects, but perhaps more importantly, it also serves as a confirmation to us that we are on the right track with our business plan.”
The Small Business Exporter of the Year Award is presented annually by the Small Business Administration to an individual or individuals who own and operate a Vermont small business engaged in exporting. Nominations are primarily evaluated based on increased sales, profits and growth of employment because of exporting, as well as the company’s overseas marketing strategies.
“Super Thins Saws is selling its product all over the world and these exports are responsible for a large percentage of its profits,” said Darcy Carter, SBA Vermont District Office Director. “Due to its unique innovation in saw blade technology, it’s able to have a global reach.”
After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Schultz started Schultz Tool Sharpening in 1975 and began studying the vibration patterns of thin saw blades, which led him to change the emphasis of the company from sharpening to niche manufacturing. Today STS is co-owned by John Schultz, Dave Strom and Rob Bisbee, who started working at the company in 1978.
Super Thin Saws exporting spans the globe selling its products to companies in Europe, South America, Australia and Asia.
“We have a narrowly focused, niche market product. Our saw blades are very important to certain small sectors within the secondary woodworking industry,” said Schultz. “The companies that operate in these sectors are spread all around the globe, so exporting feels completely natural to us. In fact, Quebec, and even Ontario, are more geographically convenient for us than much of the U.S. Western Canada is almost as convenient, and Western Europe works out rather well for us too.”
Although exporting has proved profitable, STS has faced difficult times recently. When Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont in August 2011, Waterbury was struck particularly hard. STS experienced severe flooding, destroying much of the building and equipment. To get back on their feet, STS obtained an SBA Disaster Assistance Loan, which is low-interest loan provided to business to repair or replace property, equipment and inventory damaged in a declared disaster.
“Rob and Dave shouldered the burden, and the entire staff stepped up and did an outstanding job of getting us back on our feet,” said Schultz. “Within 30 days we were operating at almost 50 percent and within 90 days we were about 90 percent. Since then it's been a nice slow, steady growth. Our volume and our profit are as high as they have ever been.”
STS employs 18 people, with 8 of them being with the company for 20 years or more, and plans to hire more.
“Ultimately, it’s all about the staff here,” said Schultz. “We are able to sell in these markets because our product is truly superior for the niches we focus on. It is better because our product-designers and our production-floor staff take endless extra care with all the details, and our customer support people really care about the customers.”