margins and increased competition have been enough to make many
recyclers wish that they were out of the business. But one
newcomer isnt fazed: hairdresser Michelle Coffino, who
has added a metal shear to her array of tools.
doesnt believe that if you can cut hair you can cut
anything, but she does believe that business is business.
The market is very challenging and changes daily, but
walking out of one business into another, as long as you have
good accounting, is possible, she said.
After spending years
building up a large clientele at her successful salon in
Charlotte, N.C., the mother of triplets had saved up some money
and was ready to try something new.
of her clients was Steve Gilbert, the owner of Gilbert Iron
& Steel, which had closed its doors, and through their
conversations she became interested in the world of metals.
Long story short: Coffino bought the 4.5-acre property, a
shear, baler and two cranes, and opened in July as Queen City
Metal Recycling & Salvage, employing 39 workers and
purchasing scrap from 200 to 400 customers daily.
Learning how to
run a business, build relationships and network has enabled me
to facilitate a different path, Coffino said.
Acknowledging that she is new to the world of scrap, she is
overseeing the financial part of the business and delegating
Coffino has retained
Gilbert, whose thorough knowledge of metals has been invaluable
in yard operations. I realized right away that youd
better know your metals and how to price them, and Steve is
amazing at this. Plus, he is a hands-on guy who can problem
solve issues like repairing equipment, she said. While
Gilbert formerly owned the same yard, he is much more
formidable when working directly with the metals and customers
as opposed to being tucked away in an office.
Hair styling and metal
recycling have some common ground: both require networking
skills and are cash intensive. A lot of people
misconstrue hairdressers as being creative artists, but it is a
cash business and at the end of the day you are counting
money, Coffino said. She also understands balancing a
budget, and made the cuts and changes that were needed to be
Once Coffino decided
to buy the assets, she hired a forensics accountant to do an
analysis and make sure that everything had a clean start. She
then relied on advice from her father, whose career spanned the
manufacturing sector. Compliance is one area he cautioned her
on, but CoffinoÑwho has delegated one employee to
oversee all compliance effortsÑis quick to point out
that the beauty industry and its shops are regulated as well.
With any business there is always compliance. At the
salon we operate lasers and you can blind someone with a
laser, she said.
People skills are
important, too. When someone sat in my chair, I had about
11 seconds to assess them and their expectations. I have hair
customers ranging from (chief executive officers) to
laborers, she said. And never get so big that you
forget to offer personalized service.
Her success at this is
illustrated by the fact she used scissors and people skills to
grow her business and save up enough to buy the scrapyard.
Taking time to listen to customers and always being punctual
can translate into success anywhere, she said.
Years ago, when
Coffino found herself divorced and with triplet toddlers, she
was determined to succeed financially. I didnt come
from money but I have an incredible work ethic, she
Coffino said that she
also is planning ahead. I am obviously looking to grow
the company and I am already spinning on how to achieve this. I
am a tactician playing chess who is always seven moves ahead. I
am assessing other companies that I would like to do business
with and am researching potential industrial sources, she
Coffinos son is
now employed as a laborer at the scrapyard, but he should not
expect his mother to hand the business over to him carte
blanche. You have to work for what you get in life
to appreciate it, and that would not be doing him a
service, she said.
Mother Nature has been
the biggest headache Coffino has faced since opening. The
weather has been the biggest hurdle for us. We were clobbered
with rain just about every day in July and into August,