But when a grant she wrote for Jacksonville-based Carmin Industries won a national contest, she got her chance.
“I held that check and I was just shaking,” she said.
Carmin Industries, a manufacturer specializing in precision waterjet cutting of metal and other materials, was among 12 small businesses chosen from among more than 70,000 applicants in the Mission: Small Business grant program sponsored by Chase and Living Social and supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“The goal of the program was both to celebrate small businesses and entrepreneurs who are out there taking risks and creating jobs, and to give a helping hand to several deserving small businesses,” said David Chavern, chief operating officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
“We are very grateful,” said Carolyn Minerich, owner of the company and Catherine’s mother. Her company’s work is varied, with contracts with both the Department of Defense and Disney, crafting pieces to be used in military armored vehicles as well as the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. And they do it all just down the road in Jacksonville.
The operation at Carmin Industries is high-tech. Staff create all project designs in AutoCAD software, which can be read by a computer controlling a high-powered water jet stream. The machine then produces a continuous spray of water mixed with particles of industrial-grade ruby and garnet, which produce the abrasive that cuts through a variety of materials, ranging from dense tungsten to granite to gilfab, the material that forms the seal on airplane windows.
“This award will help us expand,” Carolyn Minerch said. “There’s a lot of business coming to Alabama, and we are ready. This is going to make us really ready.”
The business, which has been in operation for 16 years, currently employs 10 people, half of whom are veterans. Carolyn Minerich said she is herself a service-disabled Marine.
Minerich said she was the first female officer assigned to a Marine aviation unit.
“It was good training for owning your own business,” she said.
She said the money will go to replace an aging forklift and purchase some higher-grade welding equipment for the shop. A better machine means better welding, which will ultimately result in better contracts for the company, she said.
Chavern said the judging panel looked at two broad criteria when they evaluated the applications: “Was it a good business with a lot of growth opportunities, and were they committed to the community and helping their community?”
What stood out about Carmin Industries, said Chavern, was their “commitment to keeping and expanding manufacturing capacity in the United States.”
He said they also showed a history of success in a competitive field that showed they could keep growing if they had access to some capital.
Carolyn Minerich said she believes in manufacturing and in teaching students about manufacturing and inspiring them with what her company does. Each year, she hires one co-op student to work for the company, and she tries to inspire as many as possible by opening up her shop to students for tours.
Carmin Industries’ recent windfall may create more opportunities for those students its staff works so hard to inspire.
“With this grant we’ll be able to create jobs, which is very exciting in this economy,” Catherine Minerich said. The $250,000 the company received, she said, creates the potential to hire new welders, a new machine operator, and student workers for research and writing projects.